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".