Dec 30, 2011

Arsenal Aren't What They Used to Be

In this month Barça came to Japan and completely beat Santos in the Club World Cup. I watched Cesc work for Messi and Iniesta. I remembered that he played (not worked) free football as the captain of Arsenal. But it's his position now.

A few days ago I watched Nasri and Clichy wearing not red but a blue uniform on TV. Manchester City got many star players and they are contending the top of the Premier League against Manchester United in this season.

I love Arsenal. In a more precise sense, I love what they used to be. Arsenal lost Cesc, Nasri and Clichy and they depend on van Persie's ability to score goals in this season. I think that it's not the style of Arsenal.

Their style was so beautiful and fragile. When they win, they pass a ball each other and get goals gracefully. But I've watched Chelsea crashed Arsenal by their physical power at the end of season. I knew that it was hard for them to win Europe Champion keeping their style, but I supported them eagerly.

Every team has its own time. I love the New York Yankees of the 90's. (see "Goodbye My Good Old Yankees") I couldn't watch such a team forever. My "Arsenal" has gone and exists just in my memory.

Dec 25, 2011

Everyday Life in Shinjuku 2-chome: Gay People Aren't Special at All

Last night I watched a TV program about Shinjuku 2-chome, which is the biggest gay village in Tokyo (of course in Japan) like the Castro in San Francisco.

There are so many gay bars where gay people gather together in order to enjoy drinking and to find partners. They've formed to "2-chome" gay community and culture. Recently straight people, who are interested in "2-chome" culture, come to drink at gay bars, which straight people can get in to. (Of course there are many gay bars, of which only gay people are allowed to enter).

One of my colleagues used to get involved in a gay bar in 2-chome, and sometimes he invited me to the bar. He was a nice looking guy, so when he was at the bar, he got a lot of cheers. He was really popular with the people in that bar. I was (and am now) a straight person, but I envied him a little (at heart very much).

Generally speaking Japanese society is relatively tolerant of gay people, (although there is discrimination against gay people.)

We see popular gay entertainers on TV everyday, such as Ai Haruna (はるな愛 ). At first he (she) did an imitation of Aya Matsuura, who used to be a popular girl singer at that time, but now he is much more popular than she is.

There was a long tradition of sodomy, which was strongly related to Samurai  and Buddhist priests, in Japan. There have been almost no religions that prohibited homosexuality. And now Yaoi (やおい) and BL (boys' love), which deal with homosexuality between boys, are important parts of Otaku culture.

I like Fumi Yoshinaga's comic "What did you eat yesterday?" (きのう何食べた?), which is about the everyday life of a middle aged gay couple.

I also love the novel and film "Kiss of the Spider Woman". This is a tragic love of a gay and a straight man. But nothing special happens in the story of "What did you eat yesterday?" She expressed that gay people also lived just a peaceful life and they aren't special at all.

Dec 23, 2011

"I Talked with Mr. Seiji Ozawa about Music": Haruki Murakami and Seiji Ozawa

I couldn't write a new journal on weekday, because I had too many things to do. Today is the Emperor's birthday, which is a holiday, so I can began to write this journal now. But the topic has no relationship with the Emperor's birthday.

I've read Haruki Murakami's latest book "I Talked with Mr. Seiji Ozawa about Music" 「小澤征爾さんと、音楽について話をする」.

Seiji Ozawa is the most famous Japanese conductor, who had worked as a music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 29 years and used to be a principal conductor of the Vienna State Opera.

He suffered from esophageal cancer and took a break for treatment. But he had unexpected free time and Haruki Murakami was able to interview him for a large portion of it.

Seiji Ozawa and Haruki Murakami are the most respected living Japanese artists in the world now, so this book is quite interesting and worth reading for fans of classical music and literature.

I'd like to quote and translate some passage in this book.

In the preface Haruki Murakami wrote about things in common between them.

I began to think that Mr. Seiji Ozawa and I have something in common between us.

At first, both of us feel very pure pleasure about working. Although our specialities are different, music and literature, we are happiest while we devote to our work. The fact that we concentrate on them gives us the deepest satisfaction.

Secondary, we are as hungry as when we were young. The most important motivation of working and living is our spirits of inquiry that make us go forward. I can feel deeply his greediness in a good sense from his words.

Finally we are stubborn. We are patient, tough, and stubborn. We could do just what we want to do, even if anyone said anything. If it caused hardship or made someone hate us, we would accept responsibility without excuse.





I remembered the Stevie Jobs's words in his speech "Stay hungry, stay foolish." (See my journal "Reading the Air") They really "stay hungry and stay foolish." It might be the reason why they touch the people beyond Japanese boarder.

Seiji Ozawa talked about growing as follows.
Ozawa "I'm changing, even when I became so old. I'm changing through the experience, and it might be the feature of the occupation of conductor. We change at the field. A conductor can do nothing without the real sound of an orchestra. I read a score and make sound in my brain. And then the players of the orchestra and I make the real sound. This process creates many things, for example, the practical human relationship or the musical judge about focusing the part of the music. Sometimes we should check the music in the wide view, and other times we should deeply stick to the short phrase. I have to decide the point of focus. We change ourselves through these experiences."


Although Seiji Ozawa said that this was the feature of conductors, I think that everyone, who works with someone else, must experience the same thing of what Seiji Ozawa said.

I'm one of managers in my company. I always think about how the members of my team help each other and work together. Sometimes I think about it in the long term, and other times I concentrate on the fine detail. With this interaction inside my head, the team, myself included, comes into state of change.

We shouldn't be afraid of changing.

Dec 18, 2011

A Linguistic Laboratory: "le Langue" and "la Parole"

Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist, said that languages have two aspects. He called them "la langue" and "la parole".

"La langue" is the static structure of languages. From the synchronic perspective, languages are a bunch of rules. Every language has its own grammar and every word has its own meaning. We talk with each other following the rules of our common language, so we can understand what we mean. If languages have no rules, the world would be "the Tower of Babel".

But who decides the rules of languages and where are these rules? Laws are established by congresses (or kings), and we can read the law in the national archives.

When we are born, "la langue" already exists. And then we learn the rules of the language. In this sense, the rules of languages are "givens", which we can't change by ourselves. Especially we, the learners of secondary languages, are learning the grammar and vocabulary through textbooks and dictionaries, as if they were the inflexible written rules.

But we can't point out who decides the rules of languages. "La langue" is established by "la parole", which is the assembly of speeches. The rules of languages are just conventional. The meaning of the certain word established by the fact that people use the word as the certain meaning. For example, in English the word "dog" means the certain species of animal, because English speakers call this animal "dog". In Japanese "犬(inu)" means this animal, because Japanese speakers call it "犬(inu)".

Linguists study the convention of languages and write textbooks and dictionaries. But textbooks and dictionaries aren't the rules of languages themselves. They are just imperfect descriptions of the rules of languages.

In the short term "le langue" defines "la parole" and in the long run "la parole" changes "le langue". The relationship between them is dialectic. We experience that "le langue" defines our "parole", but it's difficult for us to recognize that "le parole" changes "le langue", because this process is so slow and in large scale.

Now I'm really interested in the family langue of my friend, Nigist Aisha. At first please read her journal on lang8.

"My Family's Language" by Nigist Aisha

"Le Langue" of her family language is establishing by "la parole" just now. She can observe "le parole" is changing "le langue"! It's a linguistic laboratory.

Dec 15, 2011

A Baby Starts Learning Language From When They Are In Their Mother's Womb

I listen to English podcasts on my way to the office so that I can get used to the sound of English.

My favorite one is "English Cafe" of ESL (English as a Secondary Language) podcast. This podcast is specifically for people learning English learners, so they talk more slowly and use a smaller range of vocabulary is limited. I can understand almost all of it. And what's more, its content is interesting. For example they talk about atypical the U.S. culture and history.

But I think that I should also listen to natural English, so I try to listen to English news podcasts, such as CNN Student News, National Public Radio, NBC Nightly News and CNN Anderson Cooper 360.

It's good for me to listen to American students' casual English in CNN student news. NPR News is only about five minutes long, so it's convenient when I don't have enough time. I can imagine from very ordinary American lives through NBC Nightly News. I'm most interested in Anderson Cooper 360, but it's a little difficult to catch all of remarks in this program. The discussions between the guest commentators - although really interesting - particularly hard to understand, because the guest commentators' pronunciation isn't always that clear and their vocabulary can be very technical.

Recently I started listening to TED podcasts. TED offers lectures on a wide range of topics. TED's motto is "Ideas Worth Spreading", and in fact most lectures are very interesting.

Yesterday I heard the lecture about the learning of pre-born babies.

There is a word "胎教 (tai-kyo)" in Japanese. "Tai" means "in utero" and "Kyo" means "lesson". Most mothers talk to their babies while they are still in their womb. Some of them play the music of Mozart close to their abdomen so that the baby inside can hear it.

The lecturer said that pre-born babies heard their mothers' voice through vibrations of mothers' bodies. In addition, small Infants can recognize their mothers' voices and they cry in their mothers' accent. An English mother's infant cry in an English accent!

The foods which a mothers eats when she is pregnant can also have an effect on her baby's sense of taste.

I like to eat Italian food that has been cooked by a chef, who grew up on food cooked by an Italian mamma, because only such a chef has the real sense of Italian food. (I don't trust a chef of Italian food born in Japan.) According to this lecture, it's important that the chef's mamma ate good Italian food in pregnancy.

Dec 11, 2011

A Bar Just After Opening and A Hair Salon Just Before Closing

I love a bar just after opening and a hair salon just before closing.

I went to my favorite bar at 5:00 p.m. I was the first customer at the bar that day. The air in the bar was clean and the bartender was fresh and a little nervous.

I said, "Hello" to him, and sat in my favorite chair at the bar. There were many glittering glasses and bottles on the shelf behind him. The top of the bar was brightly polished.

He put a dish of nuts and said, "Welcome. What would you like today?" I replied, "Well, I'll start with beer."

He poured cool beer into the tall glass. I drank the first shot of beer that night. It was like heaven.

The other day I went to my favorite hair salon after work. I was the last customer that day.

My hairdresser said, "Hello, how are you?" He was happy and relaxed, because the salon would close soon. We cracked jokes with each other.

He had my hair shampooed, cut and blow dried quickly. Other hairdressers were cleaning.

After he finished cutting my hair, all of the hairdressers and clerks saw me off and said, "Thank you very much."

I walked down a street with short hair, and felt fresh wind. It was like heaven.

Dec 10, 2011

Perfume and Girls' Generation

K-Pop, Korean pop music, is very popular in East Asia and Southeast Asia including Japan, now.

But I'm not interested in K-Pop, because most of K-Pop musicians, who come to Japan, are so commercialized and their music doesn't touch me at all. Of course all of pop music is more or less commercialized, but I'm looking for the music with soul.

I can understand that Girls' Generation (少女時代), who is the most popular K-Pop girls' group, want to make it in the music industry and in fact they provide well-made entertainment. But I can't feel what they want to express through their music. They don’t play music but “work” music. In this sense I sympathize with them, but I don't want to listen to their music.

My views of music might be out of date and the fans of Girls' Generation might just enjoy their performance.

But it doesn't mean that I don't listen to girls' pop music at all. I like Perfume and Puffy, who are Japanese girls' pop group (Puffy isn't girls now).

All of Perfume's songs are produced and written by Yasutaka Nakata, electro DJ. In the same way, all of Puffy's songs are Tamio Okuda's work, one of the most respected rock musicians in Japan. The members of Perfume trust Yasutaka Nakata and the members of Puffy trust Tamio Okuda.

Yasutaka Nakata and Tamio Okuda make good music, so songs sung by Perfume and Puffy are worth listening to.

At the same time they aren't just puppets of their producers.

Yasutaka Nakata have his own unit, Capsule, but I think that the songs sung by Perfume are much more excellent compared to that of Capsule's. It can be said that Perfume is the best of Yasutaka Nakata's works.

Puffy has their own characters. Tamio Okuda wrote songs, which only Puffy could sing well, for them. Puffy express their music world.

I'm looking forward to female K-pop groups with their own soul and originality.

"Mr. Taxi" sung by Girls' Generation

“Love me naturally”(ナチュラルに恋して) sung by Perfume written by Yasutaka Nakata

Love me naturally and kiss me naturally, please.
Love me naturally and I wanna keep holding your hand.
Love me naturally and huddle together naturally.
Love me naturally. This natural feeling is most real.

You do nothing,
though today is our anniversary.
You're watching TV and clock hands keep going.

Your mobile phone is busy now.
Well, who sends you e-mails?

I'm anxious that you are so popular.
But I feel easy with your smile.

Love me naturally and kiss me naturally, please.
Love me naturally and I wanna keep holding your hand.
Love me naturally and huddle together naturally.
Love me naturally. This natural feeling is most real.

I keep trying watch the movie that you like on your side.
I feel sleepy and sleep on your shoulder.

I'm anxious that you are so popular,
But I feel easy with huddling together.

Love me naturally and kiss me naturally, please.
Love me naturally and I wanna keep holding your hand.
Love me naturally and huddle together naturally.
Love me naturally. This natural feeling is most real.

Love me naturally.

"This Is the Way We Live" (これが私の生きる道) sung by Puffy written by Tamio Okuda

We feel really nice, now.
We say "I'm sorry and thank you".
We see ourselves as the best part of fresh fruits.
And we can keep feeling nice.

If you feel anxious, we could help you.
Whether you do well or bad, it’s the way you live.

We feel nice about our passion.
It’s the proof of living. We can see the world more.
You should see yourself as the best part of fresh fruits.
Changing the angle, we feel nice.

We feel anxious a little, and it's the way we live.
We feel really nice, now.
We say "I'm sorry and thank you".
We've not felt best yet.
See us at the end, and don't get in our way.
We see ourselves as the best part of fresh fruits.
Let it be, and we can keep feeling nice.
And we say "good-bye".

Dec 4, 2011

Writing with a Pen or Typing with a Keyboard

Of course I’m typing this journal with a keyboard now, but I like to write with my favorite fountain pen. I love the feeling of touching and sliding the pen point on paper.

I have a simple rule about whether I write with a pen or type with a keyboard. If things that I write can be reused or searched, I’ll type it and input it as data into a PC. If I use them just one time, I’ll write with a pen.

Especially when I develop an idea, I write it on a sheet of white paper with my favorite pen. I write and draw everything more freely with a pen than with a keyboard and a mouse, so I can develop the idea deeper and wider.

When I stayed in the U.S. for three months 20 years ago, I wrote many letters by pen to my wife (at that time she was a girl friend.) I think that I can express my feelings more when I write by hand.

I always bring a small notebook and when I get an idea to write on my weblogs, I write it down as soon as possible. When I write one of the ideas as a journal, I cross it out. ("I love suffering from insomnia!")

Sometimes in order to share the idea, I scan the document written with a pen into a PDF file and send it to my colleagues through e-mails.

On a business meeting I use a white board and write down what we talked about with a pen. And I take a photo of the white board and send it as a minute. I don't have to write the minute after the meeting with a keyboard.

But there is a great problem. My handwriting in both of Japanese and English is so messy that it's difficult (sometimes impossible) to read it. Even I myself couldn’t read it.

On the other hand, when I make a report, I type it on my PC. I can emend the report easily and of course anyone can read it.

Now I think that I’ll make the expression on the Internet a mixture of digital data and handwritings.

Nov 30, 2011

Thank You for 10,000 Accesses

I started this weblog on Dec. 27, 2010, "Keeping a Dream Journal". Although I wrote journals in bad English, I could get over 10,000 accesses almost for a year.

Thank you very much, merci beaucoup, danke schön, grazie mille, muchas gracias, muito obrigado, 多謝, 대단히 감사해, どうもありがとう!

Anyway it's interesting to see the stats of the access log of my weblog.

1. Popular Posts
(1) "Haruki Murakami's Speech on Catalonia International Prize "As an Unrealistic Dreamer". Jun 14, 2011 1,876

This journal was a turning point of the weblog. Although my journal was full of mistakes, this is the first English translation of Murakami's Speech in Catalonia, so many fan of Murakami, who couldn't read Japanese, checked this journal. After posting the journal, the number of the accesses to my weblog has increased significantly. I reminded the broad popularity of Haruki Murakami.

(2) "I Love the "Past Perfect Tense"" Jun 26, 2011 214
(3) "Multilingualism and Literature" Jun 6, 2011 141

The main readers of my weblog might be Japanese language learner, so the journals about language are more popular.

2. Previews by Countries
(1) Japan 3,014
(2) United States 2,700
(3) France 525
(4) Germany 368
(5) United Kingdom 342
(6) Canada 221
(7) Russia 194
(8) Australia 157
(9) Malaysia 135
(10) Romania 114

I was surprised that accesses from non-English countries were large. Especially who does read my weblog from Romania?

3. Pageviews by Browsers
(1) Firefox 2,848 (27%)
(2) Internet Explorer 2,716 (26%)
(3) Chrome 2,285 (22%)
(3) Safari 1,721 (16%)

The shares of Firefox, IE, and Chrome are almost even. I use Chrome, because it's light and fast.

4. Pageviews by Operating Systems
(1) Windows 5,800 (57%)
(2) Macintosh 2,477 (24%)
(3) Linux 742 (7%)
(4) iPhone 434 (4%)
(5) Android 221 (2%)

It's surprising that the accesses through smart phones are so little. I guess that my journals are too long to read by smart phone's small display.

I'll keep a journal next year. I hope you will enjoy my weblog.

Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.

Nov 27, 2011

House of Rising Sun

I get up at around 5:00 in the morning. At first I turn on my iMac and then check e-mails, facebook, twitter, and lang-8. My iMac stand in front of the east window, so I look at the morning glow every morning and tweet about it.

I'd like to pick up my tweets about the morning sky. I think that they are kinds of Haiku.

"In the morning sun a wisp of cloud is light crimson and very beautiful." 9 Jan.
"What wonderful morning glow! Recently morning glow has been beautiful everyday." 18 Jan.
"I'll have a meeting at 8:45, so I got out of bed earlier than usual. The sun hasn't risen yet. I hear dignified sound of a temple bell." 24 Jan.
"Morning glow is beautiful, but clouds in the morning sky today are also beautiful." 10 Feb.
"It's still cold, but sunrise is getting earlier steady." 4 Mar.
"Good early morning. It's dark and silent." 2 Apr.
"I looked up to morning blue sky, and took a deep breath. I'll go to work now." 5 Apr.
"Blue sky and clear sunshine gave me a lot of energy!" 6 Apr.
"It's a vermilion morning glow!" 7 Apr.
"It's "Vermilion Sands". No, no. It's the vermilion sun!" 7 Apr.
"There is a long and narrow cloud in the sky." 8 Apr.
"It's cloudy and warm morning. This is "花曇り(hagagumori)" a hazy sky in the cherry blossom season." 9 Apr.
"Cherry blossoms are scattering into the clean air." 13 Apr.
"An insomniac's morning is busy. I love loneliness in early morning and warmth of breakfast with my wife." 14 Apr.
"The vermilion sun is rising now." 14 Apr.
"The sun is rising just now. The great merit of early rising is to see beautiful morning glows." 15 Apr.
"Good day sunshine!" 17 Apr.
"It's dark and I can just hear the noise of raining." 19 Apr.
"I, an early bird, am listening to the songs of birds in the early morning." 21 Apr.
"I woke up very early, and fell asleep again. Sleeping again in the morning is sweet." 23 Apr.
"It's cloudy and cool morning. Life is going on." 7 Jun.
"It's rainy and cool morning. I can't see the sun." 8 Jun.
"Now I see the sun is rising in the early morning. It gives me energy to live today." 12 Jun.
"It's cool and rainy morning. I don't dislike such a morning." 13 Jun.
"It's bright morning!" 22 Jun.
"The sky is so blue and bright that it's beautiful but I can't see it well." 16 Jul.
"It's cloudy and cool morning." 19 Jul.
"It's raining heavily in the early morning. The sound of the rain makes me calm." 30 Jul.
"It's stopped raining and birds started singing." 30 Jul.
"It's cooool morning, TOKIO!" 31 Jul.
"It's also coooool morning, today!" 1 Aug.
"It's sunny morning in TOKIO!" 2 Aug.
"It's a hot and sunny morning in Tokyo." 9 Aug.
"It's a cool and rainy morning. When I arrived at Narita airport last Friday, I was surprised that it became autumn in Tokyo." 22 Aug.
"It's a cool morning. I'm hearing that semi (balm cricket) is stridulating. Summer is going now." 23 Aug.
"The morning sun is shining the under side of cloud in orange." 25 Aug.
"In the midnight a thunder storm hit at Zoshigaya, Tokyo, but now it stops raining. Anyway I decide to go playing golf today." 1 Sep.
"It's a tropical morning in Tokyo, so I'm listening to tropical music by Haruomi Hosono." 3 Sep.
"It's a clear and refreshing morning in Tokyo." 4 Sep.
"The sky is strips of blue sky and gray clouds in Tokyo." 6 Sep.
"The sky is stained with burgundy morning glow." 8 Sep.
"Morning glow makes gradations of colors on the sky and clouds from dark orange at the horizon to deep azure at the top of the sky." 9 Sep.
"A hot summer is coming back on September." 12 Sep.
"The colors of sky are turning rapidly in the early morning. Now the sun is shining in a yellow light." 17 Sep.
"I can hear nothing but the sound of rain." 21 Sep.
"The typhoon's passed by Tokyo bringing autumn winds." 21 Sep.
"Good morning, insomniacs, my friends." 24 Sep.
"It's (literally) cool this morning. When my wife found I wore a business suit, she said, "moe-ru (萌える)"." 27 Sep.
"The sun is rising again, today." 8 Oct.
"The sky is dyed faint rose pink in Tokyo, now." 11 Oct.
"I took a bath in the morning, because it's getting cooler." 11 Oct.
"It's a dark and rainy morning in Tokyo." 16 Oct.
"The downside of the clouds in autumn sky are shined in bright red purple by the sun setting in Tokyo." 19 Oct.
"It's dark, but the sun will rise soon in Tokyo." 20 Oct.
"It' a cool and cloudy Monday morning in Tokyo." 24 Oct.
"While watching the sun rising, I was listening to "What's Going on" by Marvin Gaye." 26 Oct.
"It's a Monday morning. Well, I have to go to the office and work as every Monday." 7 Nov.
"It's still dark and cold in the very early winter morning." 16 Nov.
"I see the sun under the horizon dyeing tangled clouds in the sky various colours. Awesome morning glow in Tokyo." 23 Nov.
"I see the beautiful color gradations changing from orange horizon to blue sky in the morning glow. 25 Nov.
It's burgundy sky just in a moment." 27 Nov.


Nov 23, 2011

How to Manage a Baseball Team in the Big League: My Impression of the Movie "Moneyball"

I watched the movie "Moneyball" last weekend. I enjoyed this movie, mainly because I've devoted myself to Major League Baseball. (Of course I've read the original book "Moneyball" and I wrote a journal about it.)  

In addition, I could really understand what Belly Beane, who was a leading character of this movie, wanted to do.

I became one of the managers of my company this August. The main role of managers is maximizing the performance of the team under many restrictions.

Belly Beane is a general manager of Oakland Athletics, which is much poorer than big teams, such as New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. These teams buy star players of Athletics, but Belly Beane can't stop them. The restriction that he faces is money.

I have many restrictions to manage my team. I have no right to select the members of my team. I have to manage given members. It's the biggest restriction.

Belly Beane thought that Athletics couldn't beat Yankees, even if a poor team kept doing the same thing as a rich team. So he changed his approach and began to use findings of sabermetrics (statistical analysis about baseball). Many his staffs resisted his change, but he stuck to his belief.

I'm trying to change my predecessor's approaches, and sometimes I come across resistance. But if I wanted to make my team more efficient, I should break it down.

In this movie Belly Beane always talked straight about what he thought of. I also want to and try to talk straight. But all of my colleagues don't talk straight and sometimes we can't discuss enough. I wonder if the person, Belly Beane, talk straight or business people in the U.S. talk straight.

Nov 20, 2011

A Dream in Daytime

I've been having headaches and feeling tired, so I spent time to take a nap in the bed in all daytime today.

I had many strange dreams. I can only remember their strangeness itself, but I almost forgot their stories. I can remember the fragments of one dream about London and the Beatles.

In that dream;

I was watching a movie lying on the bare ground in the open air. I could see stars shining in the sky.

I saw the views of London with the Beatles' songs in this movie. The guards were walking in front of the Buckingham Palace with "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

Some of my friends bothered me walking around. I wanted to be concentrated on the Beatles' songs, so I kicked them out.

I found myself in London. The Beatles' songs were still blasting from the sky. I heard "Lady Madonna" and I thought that Paul's vocals were always amazing.

Nov 15, 2011

The "Theory" of Relievers

Today's topic is about baseball.

I plan to go to watch the film "Moneyball" this weekend. I enjoyed reading the original book "Moneyball", which was a non-fiction about Billy Beane, the general manager of Oakland Athletics.

Oakland Athletics aren't a rich team like New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, so they can't get well-paid super stars. Billy Beane made his team competitive without enough money using findings of sabermetrics (statistical analysis about baseball).

In the baseball world there were many unscientific "theories", which hadn't been proved by any objective evidences. For example the ability of batters is usually evaluated by AVG (batting average), HR (home runs), and RBI (run batted in) and you will find these data on sports pages of newspapers. But sabermetrics found that OBP (on base percentage), SLG (slugging percentage), and OPS (on base plus slugging) are more adequate indicators.

Billy Beane selects cheap players based on sabermetrics data. He doesn't like hit and run and bunt, because sabermetrics found these tactics weren't effective.

I have a question about a "theory" of relievers. The best reliever in a team usually is assigned a closer, who pitches the end of winning games. The second best reliever is assigned a set upper, who pitches before the closer. But I think that the critical points of games aren't often the end of games. The best reliever should pitch at the critical point of games, should he?

Now the Nippon series is being held, which are the playoffs of Japanese professional baseball. In the second game of the Nippon series Nagoya Dragons scored a run at 1-0 in the top of the seventh inning. In the bottom of the seventh inning Fukuoka Hawks got runners on second and third bases with one out. Dragons' manager Hiromitsu Ochiai changed the pitcher into the set upper, Takuya Asao.

I thought that this was the critical point of this game and that Dragons should send the best reliever. I'd like to know which pitcher should send at that time sabermetrics point out.

Interestingly, Dragons' set upper, Asao, is the best reliever in his team. Dragons' closer, Hitoki Iwase, is an old hand. He has a lot of experience, but already peaked out. Similarly, Hawks' closer Takahiro Mahara is also an old hand and their set upper Brian Falkenborg is in better shape than Mahara.

I don't know if Dragons' manager Ochiai intentionally used the best reliever Asao at the critical point in that game.

Nov 12, 2011

Don't Rely on My Will - What I've Gotten through Suffering from Depression (2) -

I wrote a journal about the lesson, which I got through my depression. Today, I'd like to write about that topic again.

Before I had suffered from depression, I thought that I had a weak will, whenever I gave up doing something, such as learning foreign languages.

Now, I think still that I have a weak will, but at the same time I think that it makes no sense to blame my own will for giving up something.

First of all, I have limited time and energy. The older I'm getting, the less my time left is also getting. The things that I gave up wouldn't be what I want to do with all my heart and soul. It isn't worth giving these things my precious time left.

And then only the things that I really want to do are worth keeping up and I should keep them up.

When I keep up something, I should not depend on my own will, because I have just a weak will. There are three ways to keep up something.

1. Making it routine
2. Enjoying it
3. Decreeing it

1. Making it routine
When my depression was worse, it was quite tough to go to the office. Before I left my house, there were a lot of things I had to do. I had to get out bed, wash my face and teeth, eat breakfast, drink coffee, choose my suits, shirt, tie, and shoes, change into clothes, shave, fix my hair and so on. I felt pain with doing each of these things. Sometimes I just gave up and went back to the bed.

I changed my mind and got everything I had to do in the morning into a routine. I closely defined things to do and their orders. Now I can automatically leave my house from the bed without thinking of anything. I don't need any will and it's just automatic.

In the office I get things into a routine as possible. Things I have to do are defined, when I arrive at the office. I automatically finish off trivial tasks and then think about the business deeply.

2. Enjoying it
It's difficult to keep up efforts, but it's easy to keep up enjoying something. Don't try to make an effort to keep up something, but think of how you can enjoy it SERIOUSLY. Enjoying isn't just meant making fun. You should enjoy something seriously.

Since the end of last year I have been keeping a regular journal in English on my weblog. I enjoy communicating with people around the world. So I seriously try to write interesting journals in order to make more people read my weblog. I'm not consciously studying English, but as a result I've learned English quite a lot. I'll keep journals in English for quite a while.

3. Decreeing it
If you want to diet, you should decree it to all over the world! And then you should write about all the things you eat and to drink on weblog or facebook every day. I declare that you WILL lose weight just by doing so.

My vanity is much stronger than my will, so I use my vanity to keep up something.

Nov 8, 2011

Prime Minister Papandreou Is a Good Political Leader, Isn't He?

Prime Minister Papandreou looks very confused about the debt-relief deal with EU.

He suddenly announced that he would hold a referendum for the acceptance of the terms for the debt-relief deal. Because most people predicted that Geek people would deny the referendum, they thought that Papandreou made the deal and the Euro Zone itself danger. His real intent couldn't be understood well, so Euro market was shocked, and Merkel and Sarkozy called Papandreou to Cannes.

At the end he got the agreement of implementation of the terms of the debt-relief deal with the opponent party, New Democracy, by his resignation of the prime minister. I think that this is just as his plan. (see New York Times)

First of all the prior Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, is responsible for this problem. His government made accounting fraud in order to hide huge national debt and pretend to keep Euro Zone limit. And then Papandreou revealed it.

He confronted quite sever political situations. He had to agree with EU about the debt-relief deal. But it meant that his government should do the policies that were quite unpopular among Greece people. And more his government doesn't hold a stable majority in the house and his political position is unstable.

He struggled to a narrow pass. The reason why he proposed the referendum was bluffing. The members of New Democracy also knew that Greek should agree with EU about the debt-deal, but they wanted to impress the responsibility of unpopular policies to Papandreou. I guess that Papandreou knew that he had to resign from the prime minister in order to get cooperation with New Democracy but at the same time the resignation from the prime minister was the last card.

I think that Papandreou did what he could do as a prime minister in such a sever condition. Now the responsibility is handed over Greece people.

Nov 6, 2011

"An Ideology and a Utopia" by Karl Mannheim

I'm reading "An Ideology and a Utopia" by Karl Mannheim, was a founder of the sociology of knowledge.

He insisted that historical, social, and cultural contexts determined our recognition, thoughts, and beliefs, which he called "total" ideologies.

I also think that our recognition, thoughts, and beliefs are based on the preconditions, which we can't know by ourselves. In order to find the preconditions, which determine our thoughts, we should get out of our "total" ideologies.

There are two ways to get out of our own "total" ideologies.

The first way is to go to other ages. Michel Foucault revealed the preconditions, which he called "episteme", through his comparative study of prisons and madness between the pre modern and the modern age.

The second way is to go to other cultures. Claude Lévi-Strauss went to the jangle in Amazon, and found "pensee sauvage (savage mind)" in a primitive culture. He criticized modern Western philosophy (including Jean-Paul Sartre) from the standpoint of "pensee sauvage".

When I talk with people in other cultures, sometimes I can't make them understand what I mean, because we have different "total" ideologies. For example it's really difficult to explain my religious feeling to people born to be Christians, or the virtues of non-democratic system to Americans who believe in "American democracy".

If I try to explain them too much, it would make them angry. But these kinds of conflicts are chances to know the difference between their and my preconditions, which constrain our thoughts. We could realize that our own recognition, thoughts, and beliefs aren't universal but local, just one of "total" ideologies.

If both of us realized that we have different ideologies, we could understand each other more deeply.

Nov 3, 2011

Talking with a cat

My friend on lang8, who is a Senegalese Muslim girl, wrote a journal about her cats.

In that journal she wrote, "They keep growling at each other for I don't know what reason. I can't figure it out, because OFCOURSE they don't TALK."

So I made a comment, "OF COURSE CATS CAN SPEAK."

And then she replied, "Haha I'll try to have a serious conversation with them today, but if they answer me, I might die of horror XD"

I think that most Japanese who have cats MUST say, "I always talk with my cat."

Of course cats don't speak human languages such as English and Japanese, but people who have cats believe that they and their cats understand each other. I don't keep any cats but I had a friend of stray cats, who has gone of somewhere now, and we often talked with each other.

I think that there is a difference of view of nature and animals between people from monotheistic religions, such as Muslim and Christian, and Japanese people.

We think that human beings are just a species of animals and there is no essential connection between human beings and other animals. Recently people who have cats call their cats "my child" and think that their cats are literally the members of the family. In an animal hospital a doctor calls an owner of a cat "Dad" or "Mum".

When I went to Western countries, especially the U.K., I found pets were much more trained. On the other hand pets are usually pampered in Japan. I guess that the owners of pets have responsibility to train their pets in Western countries.

I was very surprised when I heard about welfare of livestock in Europe. I had never thought about welfare of livestock before. Some stock rising farmers in Japan raise their livestock very carefully with love, but it might be different with the concept of welfare.

Today's journal has no special conclusion.

Anyway do you talk with cats? Yes, I do.

Oct 31, 2011

Heating up Sushi in a Microwave

I had a dream.

In this dream;

I'm a student living in a dormitory of a university with a Western roommate.

He brought a pack of Sushi for his dinner. He asked me if he could my microwave. I felt strange and asked him, "Well, what are you doing with the microwave?"

He replied, "I must heat up the sushi."

I was surprised and said, "Heh, what are you doing?"

He said again, "I'll heat sushi."

"Well, why will you heat the suchi?"

"'Cause I don't eat raw fish and heated sushi tastes good. Haven't you tried it?"

"Hmm, does it really taste good? I've seen someone heat onigiri in a convenience store, but..."

"Yeah, heated sushi tastes as good as heated onigiri."

I like to challenge bizarres foods.

I said to him, "Can I try a piece of the sushi?"

He said, "Sure."

And then I ate heated tuna sushi. Vinegar evaporated and the heated sushi smelled too sour to eat.

Oct 30, 2011

We can't Get Anything without Paying a Painful Price - What I've Gotten through Suffering from Depression -

I've been suffering from depression for about four years. I've almost recovered from it now, but I'm still going to a psychiatrist and taking antidepressant and sleeping pills.

When I developed my depression, I worked quite hard as a project manager. I suddenly became not able to go to the office and took three month medical leave. And then the next year I took three month medical leave again and transferred to the division that I belong to now.

I lost a lot of things because of depression.

As I wrote, I almost recovered but it doesn't mean that I can work as hard as I used to. Basically I loved and still love to work as a project manager, but I will never do it again. Even now sometimes I get so tired that I can't do anything expect lie on the bed.

But at the same time I've gotten a lot of things from depression.

Before I suffered from depression, I didn't know myself well. Of course I don't perfectly understand myself now, but I know myself far more than before suffering from depression.

At that time I was too self-confident. I believed that I could have done anything if I seriously tried doing it. But in fact I couldn't do things well and I was always disappointed with what I had done.

Depression made me know that what I could do was so little. Sometimes I can't even get out of the bed. Lying on the bed is just all of what I can do. And now I accept myself as someone who can just lie on the bed. I think that it’s really important to accept.

After accepting myself I've been able to think of what others think of and feel. Before suffering from depression, I wasn't satisfied with others and myself. I always required too much to others and I didn't give them anything. Now I think about what I can give someone else first. I can get satisfied with what I gave them, even if it was so tiny. And I'm happy, even if I can't get anything back. Interestingly, I can get more when I give someone without expecting something back than I require something to others.

I may be able to do a job as a project manager better now than before because of suffering from depression, but my depression wouldn't allow me to do a job as a project manager.

We can't get anything without paying a painful price. But I could get things that are worth their price.

And life goes on.

Oct 26, 2011

Amazing Voices

One day I was listening to Mary J. Blige on my way to the office in a crowded subway train on my iPod. I got bored with her songs and I looked at the list of other artists on the iPod. I found that Marvin Gaye was next to Mary J. Blige and I accidentally listened to his song "Let's Get It on".

When I listened to the first phrase of this song "I've really been trying, baby," I was completely fascinated by his sweet, sweetest voice and I couldn't stop listening to his song. His voice is really amazing.

"Let's Get It on" by Marvin Gaye

Some singers have such amazing voices, which take my mind away only by one phrase. James Brown and Otis Redding were two of the singers who had "it".

When I hear James Brown shouting, "Watch me!" at the beginning of his song "Super Bad", I forget everything, even where I am.

"Super Bad" by James Brown

Otis Redding's singing, "Sittin' in the mornin' sun. I'll be sittin' in the evenin' come", brings me to "the dock of the bay" and makes me "watching the ships roll in".

"Sitting on the Dock of the Bay" by Otis Redding

Three of them had different voices and their own style but I can't think of anything but their voices when I hear their songs.

P. S. A Sweet Protest Song

Protest songs are usually kind of songs that crowds attending a demonstration sing together. John Lennon's anti-Vietnam song "Give Peace a Chance" is such a typical protest song and it was actually sung by people in many anti-war demonstrations in the late 1960s.

"Give Peace a Chance" by John Lennon

Marvin Gaye also sang the anti-Vietnam song "What's Going on". His voice was so sweet that it made everything, even a protest song, sweet. This song sounds too sweet to provoke anyone but makes me feel the pain of mothers whose children were dead in the Vietnamese War.

"What's Going on" by Marvin Gaye

Oct 23, 2011

"The Beginning of Rangaku (蘭学事始)"

I've read the book "The Beginning of Ranagaku (蘭学事始)" by Genpaku Sugita.

Genpaku Sugita (1733 - 1817) was a Western medicine doctor and famous for the translation of "Kaitai Shinsho (解体新書)". "Kaitai Shinsho" means "the New Book of Anatomy".

In the Edo era (1603 - 1868) the Edo government strictly restricted trade with foreign countries and this policy was called "Sakoku (鎖国)", seclusion. Japan traded only with China and the Netherlands under the control of the Edo government. They were allowed to visit only Nagasaki, which is the East end of Japan, and go around just in "Dejima (出島)", a small island in the port of Nagasaki.

At that time there were three schools, "Kangaku (漢学)", "Kokugaku (国学)", and "Rangaku (蘭学)" in Japan. "Kangaku (漢学)" was a study of classic Chinese philosophy, mainly Confucian. It was the main school and "Samurai (worrior)" class should learn "Kangaku (漢学)".

"Kokugaku (国学)" means "the National study". In the middle of the Edo era "nationalism" and "nationalists" had appeared. They instead that Japanese culture were contaminated by "Kangaku (漢学)" and studied pure old Japanese history and culture before "Kangaku (漢学)" arrived at Japan.

If I translate "Rangaku (蘭学)" directly, it means "the study of Dutch". As I mentioned in the Edo era Japan trade only with Netherlands among Western countries, and Japanese people could study Western culture and sciences only through the books written in Dutch, so study of them were called "Rangaku (蘭学)".

The author of the book "The Beginning of Rangaku (蘭学)", Genpaku Sugita, was one of the latest scholars of "Rangaku (蘭学)". He had been a Chinese medicine doctor. He happened to get the book about Anatomy written in Dutch, "Ontleedkundige Tafelen", which he called this book "ターヘル・アナトミア". Of course he couldn't read Dutch at all but in this book there were many anatomy charts.

At that time it was rare that a human body was dissected and Japanese doctors didn't have the precise knowledge of the internal human body. He had a chance to see a dissection of a condemned criminal and found the Dutch book about Anatomy was quite precise. He decided to translate this book into Japanese and use it to improve Japanese medicine. He got some friends together and began to try the translation.

But the situation was really severe. They didn't almost know Dutch language at all and had no teacher, no dictionary and of course no the internet. Genpaku Sugita wrote in "The Beginning of Rangaku (蘭学)" as follows.


At first we were looking at this "Ontleedkundige Tafelen" and we didn't know what we should do as if we were boarding a ship without a rudder in the big ocean. …. We remembered a few words but we couldn't understand the full sentences at all. For example we couldn't understand the sentence "eyebrows are hair above eyes" for a long day in spring, and we were thinking until evening looking at each other. At the end we couldn't understand just one sentence. In the other day we found the word "フルへッヘンド" on the nose in an anatomy chart and we discussed about the word, but we couldn't get any conclusion.

At the end they had translated this book.


As we had studied for three years, we became able to understand this book step by step. We resolved our old mistakes and enjoy understanding it as if we ate sugarcane and taste its sweetness. We looking forward to the meeting since the night before and we felt like children going to a festival.

Methods and Materials are important, but motivation and friends are far more important.

Let's enjoy learning languages together!

Oct 17, 2011

Where has the "stupidness" gone from Hip Hop?

At first would you watch these two videos?

The former is Parliament, which is one of the most important funk bands in the 1970s. How stupid they were! (Of course I use the word "stupid" in a very very very very good sense.) At that time sound the conditions of the cool funk band were groovy sounds and stupid fashion, lyrics and behaviors. Uncool was cool. Parliament was the most uncool and cool funk band!

The latter is Kanye West and Jay-Z, who are two of the contemporary richest Hip Hop musicians. They aren't stupid at all. They are sophisticated and gorgeous. I like Jay-Z, but he isn't uncool cool but just cool.

At the beginning of Hip Hop history they were still stupid. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the origin of Hip Hop, were stupid enough to be uncool cool. Where has the "stupidness" gone from Hip Hop?

Ah, we have LMFAO! They are soooo stupid and uncool cool.

And George Clinton, the leader of Parliaments, is still stupid now!

Oct 15, 2011

Frick Collection in New York

Recently I've gotten so busy that I don't have enough time to write a journal on this weblog, so today's journal is about a light topic.

When I visited New York with my wife this summer, I planned to see a Yankee's game at Yankee Stadium, but the game was postponed by rain. We came back to Manhattan and visited Frick Collection.

There are many famous museums of art in New York such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), Solomon Guggenheim, and Whitney Museum of American Art. But I love Frick Collection best.

The Metropolitan Museum and MoMA have a lot of famous works of art to see and they are good for "studying" fine art. But they are so big that I get tired of walking in all over these museums.

On the other hand there are small and cozy museums, which have a very tasteful collection. I can comfortably spend time in these museums.

In Paris the formers kind include the Louvre Museum and the Orsay Museum, and the latter include the Orangerie Museum and the Rodin Museum. Frick Collection is one of such museums in New York. I love the atmosphere at Frick Collection. (I also love the Hosomi Museum in Kyoto.)

The Frick Collection building used to be the house of Henry Clay Frick, who was one of the funders of U.S. Steel. He had lived in Pittsburgh, which was the center of the steel industry in the U.S. After retirement he moved to Manhattan. He built a magnificent mansion beside Central Park and began to collect works of fine art.

The quality of his collection is really great. It has several Vermeer works (!), Rembrandt self portraits and many Anthony van Dyke portraits. Before I visited Frick Collection I wasn't interested in van Dyke and just knew his name. But I was fascinated with his works there.

Of course his works themselves are excellent and even more they fit the atmosphere of an old luxurious mansion. They are put in the right place. If I saw them in a modern museum, I wouldn't be fascinated with them.

If I were a millioner in Netherlands in the seventieth century, I would have wanted to make van Dyke draw the portrait of my wife and put it on the wall of my mansion.

Oct 9, 2011

Reading the Air

There are expressions that can't be easily translated into other languages, because these expressions are so deeply imbedded in their specific cultural context. "空気を読む (kuki wo yomu)" is one such example.

If I try to translate it into English directly, it would be something like "reading the air". In this context "the air" refers to the unspoken thoughts or feelings among any group of people. "The air" isn't articulated as such but it's implicitly understood that people should obey implicit "the air" by trying to work out what everyone else is thinking and felling and thereby not go against the unspoken consensus.

Although Japanese people share the same culture (to be more exact, of course, there are varieties of cultures in Japan), they can't "read the air" perfectly, because it should be able to be understood without words. Those people who can't "read the air" well are sometimes criticized as being "空気を読めない人 (kuki wo yomenai hito)".

I don't like to "read the air" and I always try to talk about, and do, those things which I really want to talk about and do. But because I am only such Japanese person living in Japanese society, I sometimes find myself unthinkingly "reading the air" and obeying "the air" unconsciously.

Some of my younger colleagues have confessed to me the difficulty they have had trying to "read the air". I always tell them that they don't have to "read the air". After all, no one can perfectly "read the air", because it's implicit. I refused to read "the air" and have gone ahead and and done what I have wanted to do and in this way have been able to survive in Japanese society.

"Reading the air" has many detrimental effects. For example in a business meeting participants try to work out the thoughts and feelings of others without asking directly ("read the air"). They won't give their own opinion for fear of going against "the air". As a result, we can't reach a truly creative conclusion at such business meetings, because we don't have any "real" discussion.

Steve Jobs said, "Stay hungry, stay foolish." in the end of the speech he gave at Stanford University.

These words are really suggestive and can be interpreted in many ways. I interpret them as an admonition to think broadly and radically without any prejudice. This attitude is very far from "reading the air".

I want to say to the young people of Japan, "Don't read the air. Stay foolish. Be free."

Oct 5, 2011

Don't decide things by "easiness" but "love"

I just got promoted to a manager in my company at the beginning of this October and I had a chance to talk to my people about how to work.

In Japanese the word "楽 (raku)" has two meanings: easy and enjoyable. I think that it's really important to enjoy your work (仕事を「楽」しむ) but it doesn't mean doing easy work (「楽」な仕事をする). Sometimes you have to make a great effort to enjoy your work, but I want you to try to enjoy your work.

Just before I had suffered from depression, I did easy work but didn't enjoy working at all. At that time I had some staple clients and got certain profits from my projects, so I got a high rating in my company. But I completely lost any interest in my projects and I hated to do them. When I woke up, I thought about how long I had to do such projects and felt a feeling of despair.

And then I suffered from depression and took three months of sick leave. Of course I caused my clients and coworkers a great trouble. I failed as a project manager.

If I really disliked my work, I should have quit these projects. I would lose staple clients and a high rating, but I should have tried to develop new projects that I really loved to do, even if it was hard to do so.

Jun Miura and Tomorowo Taguchi said in their book "Bronson would say so (ブロンソンならこう言うね)" as follows.

Don't decide things by "easiness" but "love".

Oct 2, 2011

L'analphabète (The Illiterate) (2)

In the previous journal I wrote about Agota Kristof and her novel "L'analphabète". She wasn't a native French speaker but she wrote novels in French.

She herself wrote, "I know that I will never be able to write in French as well as native French authors, but I will try to write the best thing that I can write."

In fact her words and sentences are simple, but she could express her deep thoughts and feelings. Her works must encourage every foreign language learner.

I'll translate the last chapter of "L'analphabète". (I can't read French, so I translated it from Japanese translation.)

One day one of my friends living in my neighborhood said to me,
"I watched a TV program about foreign woman workers. They work all day and do housework and take care of their children at night."
I replied,
"So did I, when I had just moved to Swiss."
She said,
"Furthermore, they can't speak French well."
"I couldn't speak French, either."
She was embarrassed. She couldn’t talk to me about the surprising story of foreign women, which she had known through TV. She couldn't even imagine that I was one of the women who didn't know the language that was spoken where they lived, worked at factories and did housework at night, because she completely forgot my history.
I myself remember them now; the factory, shopping, taking care of my children, cooking and the language that I didn’t know. It was hard to make a conversation in the factory, where it was too noisy. We could just talk while smoking a cigarette in a restroom.
My woman colleagues told me the necessities. They pointed out the view of Val de Luc and said, "It's fine." They touched my body and told me other words: hair, arm, hand, mouth and nose.
In evening I went back home with my child. When I talked to her in Hungarian, my little daughter opened her eyes widely and looked hard at me.
She once began to cry, because I couldn't understand what she said. In another time she also began to cry, because she couldn't understand what I said.
It was five years since I came to Swiss. I could speak French, but I couldn't read it. I was back to an "analphabète". It was me that could read a book at the age of four.
I knew the words. But when I saw them, I couldn't find that they were the words. Spelling and pronunciation are so different. In Hungarian we spell words the same as their pronunciation, but in French they are totally different.
I can't remember how I had lived for five years without reading books. I had read "Monthly Hungarian Literature", which published my poems, once a month. I sent Hungarian books from the Geneva library, too. I had already read most of them, but I didn't care. It was better that I had something to read than nothing, even if I had read them before. And more I was lucky that I could wrote something in Hungarian.
My daughter will be six years old soon. She will start going to school.
I will start, too. I will go to school again. I registered for the summer seminar at the University of Neuchâtel at the age of twenty-six in order to learn reading. It was a French class for foreign students. There were English, American, German, Japanese and Swiss in German area. The first placement test was a paper test. I couldn't get good marks at all and got put into the beginners class.
After several lessons, the teacher said to me,
"You can speak French very well. Why are you in the beginners class?"
I said to him,
"I can't read or write. I'm illiterate."
He smiled,
"I doubt that."
After two years I got a certificate in French with high grades.
I can read. I became able to read again. I can read everything that I want to read: Victor Huge, Rousseau, Voltaire, Sartre, Camus, Michaux, Francis Ponge, and Sade. I can read non-French authors' works through translations. Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Hemingway. This world is full of books, which I've became able to read at last.
And then I had two more children. I'll lean reading, writing, and verb usages with my children.
When my children ask me the meaning of a word or its spelling, I'll never say,
"I don't know."
I'll say,
"I'll check it out."
I'll never be tired of looking it up in a dictionary again and again. I'll find out what I don't know. I became a dictionary lover.
I know that I will never be able to write in French as well as native French authors, but I will try to write the best thing that I can write.
I haven't chosen this language. The destiny happened to impose this language on by chance.
I cannot avoid writing in French. This is a challenge.
Yes, it is a challenge of an "analphabète".


Sep 29, 2011

L'analphabète (The Illiterate)

I've just finished reading Agota Kristof’s "L'analphabète", which means "the illiterate" (I can't read French, so I read the Japanese translation "文盲".)

Agota Kristof was born in the countryside of Hungary in 1935 (between World War I and World War II). The place where and the time when she was born made her life harsh.

After World War I Hungary became independent from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In World War II Hungary fought with Nazi Germany and after the war Hungary came under the control of the Soviet Union. The destiny of Hungary and Agota Kristof was full of sufferings.

When the Hungarian rising happened in 1956, she escaped from Hungary to Swiss. At that time she could only speak Hungarian and she began to learn French while working at a small factory in the countryside.

In 1986 her first novel "Le Grand Cahier (the Notebook)", which was written in French, was published and was highly regarded. I don't know how she had lived in these 30 years.

She wrote in the end of "L'analphabète" as follows. (I wasn't able to obtain English translation of this novel, so I translated it from Japanese translation.)

I know that I will never be able to write in French as well as native French authors, but I will try to write the best thing that I can write.

I have not chosen this language. The destiny happened to impose this language on me by chance.

I cannot avoid writing in French. This is a challenge.

Yes, it is a challenge of an "analphabète".


I'm really lucky that I don't have to escape from Japan, but if I want to communicate with people overseas, I have to use English. In fact I don't have any other choices, much like how Agota had to use French to express her own thoughts.

I'm also an "analphabète" of English but I try to connect to the world through "English".

Sep 27, 2011

The Grammar of Fashion

A fun part about a journey is watching people walking on streets.

When I made a trip to New York this summer with my wife, we ate breakfast at Dean and Deluca and saw people walking to their offices. We found fashion in New York were far more various than in Tokyo. The varieties of colors of their hair, skins and eyes, their height and weight, and their cultural background make their fashion so various. On the other hand we, people living in Tokyo, wear all kinds of uniform. I wear "salary man" outfit and young girls playing at Shibuya wear young girl outfits playing at Shibuya.

New Yorkers' fashion was quite various and well-ordered at the same time. I had a dinner at Union Square Café in New York, which wasn't an expensive restaurant but a cozy restraint where we saw an old couple celebrate the anniversary of their marriage. All customers there wore nice and cozy outfits, which were adequate for the atmosphere of Union Square Café. I thought that New Yorkers kept "the grammar of fashion," which defined the outfits to wear at particular places, times and occasions.

My wife said that university students in Japan are more fashionable (at least care about their fashion more) than students in the US, who always wear hoodies with the logo of their own university or GAP and backpacks, like Zuckerberg in the movie "Social Network" (it might be my stereotype for about them.)

On the other hand, students in Japan (of course including male students) always care about their own hairstyle (although in my school days, most male students didn't care about their fashion at all, so I'm not fashionable now.)

But Japanese people didn't import the grammar of Western fashion but the elements of Western clothing. Sometimes Japanese people wear inadequate outfits, because we don't know the grammar of fashion. For example, some university students bring Louis Vuitton's bags to their class.
(see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu)

When I'm in Europe, I feel the presence of the class. The class, which they belong to, defines their fashion. Only the members of the particular class are implicitly entitled to have Louis Vuitton's bags. Of course there are rich people and poor people in Japan, but the difference between them is quantitative. In Europe the difference between classes is qualitative.

Some Western fashion designers give great attention to Japanese street fashion. As I mentioned, people on Japanese street coordinate their clothing without the grammar of Western fashion, so Western fashion designers see Japanese street fashion as new and fresh.

Inamoto, an old friend of mine, gave a comment to my weblog as follows.


People could try many different ways freely without "dregs" about the things which are imported from other cultures, such as Jazz in Japan, R&B, Rock and Hip Hop in Jamaica and Rock in the UK.

In the process of spreading cultural elements overseas they would be put in all new contexts and given new meanings.

Sep 24, 2011

The Spirit of Rock's Spread All over the World!

I wrote that Hip Hop killed Rock on this weblog "The Song for All of the Stupid Boys in the Word". Inamoto, who is an old friend of mine, gave me a comment that Rock wasn't dead and linked to this video from "Heimin Shinbun" (this entry is full of amazing videos!)

When I watched this video, I literally laughed out loudly.

I don't know who he is at all. He might be a Russian, because the title of this video looks like Cyrillic letters (although I'm not sure that they are really Cyrillic letters.)

He looked over sixty years old, so I guess that he's played Rock since the era of the Soviet Union. I have no idea how pop music was in the era of the Soviet Union, but he might like British Rock, because he played a riff from Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water."

He was playing the guitar like crazy and shouted, "ROCK 'n' ROLL", on the street but nobody gave him a tip or even looked at him. I really want to give him a tip, but I'm disappointed that I can't. He had the real spirit of Rock.

The origin of Rock was the dance music played by black musicians in early 1950s called "Rock 'n' Roll". Little Richard or Chuck Berry couldn't even imagine their music spreading overseas to te Soviet Union and such an old rocker playing Rock on the street in Russia, could they?

Pop music is traveling all over the world. After black musicians made up "Rock 'n' Roll," white musicians began to play it and musicians in UK sophisticated it into "Rock". Jamaican musicians, who were inspired by Rock, developed Reggae. Immigrants from Jamaica to New York were one of the roots of Hip Hop music.

And then I, living in the Far East of the world, met an old Russian musician playing Rock on the street with the real Rock spirit through the Internet. It's a miracle, isn't it.

Sep 21, 2011

Woody Allen, Spike Lee and "Empire State of Mind" in New York

I can't say that I love it, but at least I like the movie "When Harry met Sally", which is one of Meg Ryan's (many) romantic comedies. Of course it wouldn't change anyone's life but it's good enough for two hours of entertaiment and I have it on DVD.

Back then, Meg Ryan was really cute and dominated the Hollywood romantic comedy scene. I also like Billy Crystal (I can laugh at him more than Tom Hanks), who played opposite. The script of this movie written by Nora Ephron is excellent. "When Harry met Sally" is a so called "well-made" comedy, like Billy Wilder's "The Apartment".

(Shirley MacLaine was so cute!)

In addition the beautiful scenes of New York City in every season in this movie are wonderful. The DVD also has an interview with the director, Rob Reiner. In this interview he spoke about how he and his stuffs looked all over New York City for beautiful places where Woody Allen hadn't yet shot. I think that their efforts got rewarded for these beautiful scenes. (Rob Reiner was born in Bronx, as was Woody Allen.)

When I see places where I know in movies, it somehow makes me happy. If it's a favorite place, I'll be even happier. New Yorkers are lucky, because Woody Allen shot many films there. It's really wonderful that they can see the street, fashion and atmosphere of New York in such beautiful and sweet films as "Annie Hall" or "Manhattan" whenever they want.

Woody Allen's New York might be nostalgic (he is alive but shoot films mainly in Europe, now), but New Yorkers now have Spike Lee shooting post 9/11New York.

In this video Spike Lee said, "'Empire State of Mind' became the anthem of New York City".

I named this weblog "A Daily Life in Uptown Tokyo". I love Tokyo and I want to convey how attractive "a daily life in uptown Tokyo" really is. But my ability to describe it is so limited. There were a lot of literary works about good old Tokyo, written by the authors born in Tokyo such as Soseki Natsume, Ryunosuke Akutagawa and so on, but I can't find the author who expresses the attractiveness of today's Tokyo. I hope that we, people born in Tokyo, will one day have our own Tokyo Woody Allen or Spike Lee and "Empire State of Mind" of Tokyo (How about "Tokyo Tower of Mind"?)

a bonus track; Spike "Ernie" Lee!

Sep 19, 2011

DJing, MCing, Breaking and Graffiti Writing

I've studied American culture (especially pop culture) for many years. Although "studying" sounds something useful, but I don't have any useful purpose of studying American culture but only for pleasure, so it may be just a hobby for me.

There leave two major areas in American pop culture, which I haven't studied yet. They are "Disney" and "hip hop". I'm sure that I'll never be interested in Disney, but I've thought that someday I would get into hip hop.

My wife is addicted to Korean girls pop music. Now her favorite group is f(x) (Don't ask me who they are. I don't almost know f(x) at all.) and one of its members is Korean American, who sings rap and wears hip hop fashion. When my wife had a question about American culture, she would ask me about it. At this time my wife asked about hip hop fashion, but I couldn't answer her question. So I thought that it was good chance to begin to study hip hop culture.

I listened to pop music most in 1980s when I was aged between 13 and 23 years old. 1980s was the earliest days of hip hop music and I've listened to Run-D.M.C's "Walk This Way" and watched Spike Lee's film "Do the Right Thing" and they were quite cool for me, but I didn't follow hip hop after that.

Run-D.M.C. "Walk This Way"

"Do the Right Thing" opening

I thought (and think now) that 1980s' music was so commercialized and disgusting. Of course I checked Billboard's top 100 charts at least but became preoccupied with rock and funk music in late 1960s and 1970s, which I mainly listen to now. Since then I've turned off contemporary pop music including hip hop music.

I began to listen to hip hop music from "old school" such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. I feel comfortable with them, because old school hip hop was influenced by funk music in 1970s, which I'm familiar with, such as Afrika Bambaataa duetted with James Brown (no, in hip hop they never use the word "duet") Afrika Bambaataa featured James "godfather of soul" Brown in "Unity". When I listen to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "Freestyle", I find the enchantment of rap.

"Unity" Afrika Bambaataa featuring James Brown

"Unity" live Afrika Bambaataa

"Freestyle" Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Afrika Bambaataa defined four elements of hip hop; DJing, MCing (rap), breaking (dance) and graffiti writing. I wondered why he defined these four elements but three elements; music, dance and graffiti. I thought that "music, dance and graffiti" were more natural than "DJing, MCing, breaking and graffiti writing". Why did Afrika Bambaataa divide music into DJing and MCing? I guess that it is the key concept of hip hop music.

In rock music there isn't the concept of DJ in hip hop. Rock musicians basically compose and play their own songs and sometimes cover other musicians' songs. In radio Disk Jockeys select songs playing on their programs, but Disk Jockeys aren't essential for rock music but just contingent on it. We don't think Disk Jockeys create something. I was used to rock music system, so at first I couldn't understand the meaning of DJ in hip hop.

But in hip hop DJ is essential for its music. DJs are selecting, editing, sampling and mixing music that they think to be cool. DJing; selecting, editing, sampling and mixing music, is to create something new. The song "Apahe", which originally was played by the Shadows, was remixed by many DJs.

Apahe medley

I'll listen to hip hop music from old school to contemporary. Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash are real street music, but Kanye West and Jay-Z smell commercialized like 1980s' rock music.

Sep 17, 2011

The Result of English Education in Japan

I heard that the average TOEFL score of Japanese examinees was lower than the examinees from other Asian countries. Some people criticized the English education in the Japanese public education system based on this data. (Not only English but all public education might be criticized.)

In fact it might be difficult to learn English skills, which are suitable for practical use, only through public education, but it doesn't necessarily mean that English education in Japanese schools has critical problems. Generally I don't expect so much from the public education system and I think that we should accept that the fact that the public education system can't provide practical skills not only in English but also in the other subjects for students. School hours are limited and there are a lot of things to be taught. If a student wants to acquire a practical skill, they should learn it not only in their schools but also by themselves. The minimum mission of public education is to provide the basis of self-leaning after graduation from their schools. And the levels of English skills that each student requires are various but the public education system should be standardized and common to all schools, so the public education system can't aim for a level of English skills that is too high.

I have written the weblog "A Daily Life in Uptown Tokyo" for nine months. I have become able to express almost everything that I want to express in English and the readers of my weblog might understand what I want to say judging from their comments.

In my weblog I have used only English grammar which I learned in my high school (I don't know the level of English grammars which are taught in high school nowadays). Of course I couldn't write this weblog when I graduated from the high school. After that, my English skills have got better through education at the university, self-learning and business, but I learned the basic knowledge about English through high school education.

Students can't have enough experiences of using English to get English skills. Class hours are limited and the numbers of one class are too many to learn practical English. Native Teaching Assistants aren't enough, either. I myself had never used English for a practical purpose before and communicated using English until I graduated from high school. It was natural that I couldn't get practical English skills only through high school education. But I doubt the public education system should ensure that students get practical English skills. I think that most students don’t actually master English skills educated whilst being educated in high school. If this is the case, the public education system needs to reduce the class hours of other subjects other than English in order to make high school students’ English skills improved. I don't know the appropriate balance between class hours of subjects, but it might cause side effects to increase class hours of English.

I practically had to use English, when I majored in cultural anthropology in university. To tell the truth there were few anthropologists in Japan and little achievement by Japanese anthropologists, so I had to read a pile of papers written in English in order to write a graduation thesis. At first it took a long time to read a page of papers and I was afraid that I could finish my thesis, but the more I read English papers, the faster I could read them. At the end I could manage to finish my thesis before the deadline. It's necessary to read a good amount of books or papers in English in order to get a practical ability to read English, and I had these chance to read English at university. Although my thesis adviser said to me that I could barely read English, I became to be able to read English, because I had gotten a basic ability of English in my high school days.

After I got a job, I also had the need to read documents published by foreign governments and international organizations through the Internet. Formerly I made business trips to interview oversees (most interviewees were non English native speakers) and exchanged e-mails in English to the persons in charge of foreign subcontractors. Whenever I have to use English on business, I could manage to perform the job and my English improved.

Recently I'm enjoying learning English. On my way to the office I listen to the ESL Podcast or news programs in English on podcast. I have my compositions corrected on lang-8 and, as I mentioned, I try to write on weblog, twitter and facebook in English. At least my writing ability in English has improved.

But one of the main problems with the English education in Japanese public education system is teaching proper pronunciations. I took a Chinese language class at university. Since Chinese has many pronunciations that Japanese doesn’t have, it’s difficult for Japanese people to master Chinese pronunciations. Our teacher took plenty of time to train pronunciations early in our class. I'm just a beginner of Chinese, but I can pronounce Chinese better than English. I don't have any experience where Chinese speakers don’t understand what I say in Chinese. But I can't distinguish between "R" and "L", so sometimes I can't communicate in English that well. I wish I could have mastered English pronunciation when I began to learn English in junior high school. Now I have the opportunity to get used to conversations in English, but it’s difficult to correct my English pronunciation.

In Japan English education in primary school is being discussed I don't mind it. To master a foreign language, learners have to be immersed in it deeply for a certain amount of time and they can't do it only in public education. It may be no matter when students begin to study English. The only thing which I want to advise is teaching pronunciation enough at the beginning of English education.