Dec 27, 2012

Victor and Edwards, and "Rockin the Suburbs"

Ben Folds sang "Rockin the Suburbs" as follows.

Let me y'all what it's like
Being male, middle class and white
It's a bitch, if you don't believe
Listen up to my new cd
Sham on

I got shit running through my brain
So intense that I can't explain
All alone in my white boy pain
Shake your booty while the band complains

I completely understand what Ben Folds wanted to convey with his song.  I'm not "white" but I'm "male and middle class", and I've been feeling that "it's a bitch," too.

I was born in a middle class family in Tokyo, and went to a "good" elementary school, a "good" high school, and a "good" university. And then I've got a "good saralyman's" job, and I'm now in the mainstream in Japanese society. Nothing special ever happened in my life. Now I'm really happy, but at the same time I feel that my life is really "a bitch." I'm quite uncomfortable with Japanese society despite being successful here.

In "Edward Scissorhands" Tim Burton described the exclusiveness, which was hidden behind ordinary suburban towns in the U.S. In a similar way Victor in "Frankenweenie" is living in an insensitive suburban town, New Holland, which is clean and neat. Victor's mother wants to be a "good mother," but in fact she isn't really interested in her son and she doesn't find what he really does. People in New Holland are so exclusive that they fire the teacher who Victor respects, but they even can't imagine that they, themselves, are exclusive.

I'm writing in English on the Internet, partly because I want to be just a member of a minority group in the world, Japanese. As I wrote, I am uncomfortable with Japanese society as a member of the mainstream in Japan, but I became comfotable as a member of a minority group in the world. Maybe in Japan I'm uncomfortable, because I suppress someone unintentionally, but in the world I don't have to suppress anyone.

Tim Burton's films are popular all over the world. I hope that this fact means that the fans of Tim Burton's films also feel what I feel.

Dec 25, 2012

What Is the Lesson from "the Gift of the Magi?"

Before I buy a Christmas present for my wife, I ask her what she wants for her Christmas present. Just before Christmas day, all the good things were already sold out, so I went with her to the store, where the thing that she wanted is sold, and I bought it for her. Although my present isn't surprising at all, I'm deeply satisfied with the fact that she is satisfied with getting the thing that she wants.

It isn't romantic, is it? I don't care if it is or not. I'm just a philistine.

I read O. Henry's "the Gift of the Magi" again. At the end of this story, O. Henry wrote as follows.

Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest.Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

O. Henry said that this couple was wise because they love each other enough to give presents each other, even if their presents were not completely useful. But I'm wondering if it is true.

I imagine that I would bring this story as a case into a class in a business school. Students might point out that the cause of this problem is lack of communication between this couple.

I always tell my people that they should never surprise me. When they know something will happen, they must tell me about it that as soon as possible. Close communication brings mutual trust.

Why should a present be surprising? A surprising present is quite risky, isn't it? Aren't you happy, if you get an unsurprising present which you want to get?

Who Is Santa Clause?

I was born and raised in an ordinary non-Christian family in Tokyo, Japan.

I went to a Christian kindergarten, just because it was the nearest kindergarten in my neighborhood. I played the part of the first shepherd in the Christmas play so I understood that Christmas day was the day on which Jesus Christ was supposed to have been born.

On Christmas Day, my family ate Christmas cakes and my parents gave me a present, but I didn't believe in Santa Claus whatsoever and my parents didn't pretend that it was Santa Claus who had brought me my Christmas present. It was lucky for me not to have to pretend that I believed in Santa Clause.

Anyway, who is Santa Clause? He is one of the most popular characters, who are often really weird.

I couldn't even imagine that I, who lived in a small wooden house without a chimney and a fireplace, had any relationship with the fat old white man who ware a red coat and a red hat and rode on a sledge pulled by reindeers. There was no sledge on the streets in Tokyo and I had never seen reindeers except for at a zoo. How could I believe in Santa Clause in Tokyo?

And I don't understand why some parents want to make their children believe in Santa Clause. It was happy enough to be given a Christmas present not by Santa Clause but by my parents.

Dec 23, 2012

Victor Was Created in His Image

I've been too busy to find time to write a new entry for two weeks, because I had to finish my work no matter what in order to enjoy Christmas weekend with my wife. Fortunately I could finish it and last night my wife and I went to see "Frankenweenie" and ate Christmas and her birthday's dinner.

I love "the Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Corpse Bride" best in Tim Burton's films.

I guess that his animated films are more faithful to what is in his head than live action films. In his live action films, "Edward Scissorhands" might be the most personal film. Edward, who was played by Johnny Depp, represented what Tim Burton felt in his childhood. In a similar way, Tim Burton projected his feelings on Victor in "Corpse Bride" and "Frankenweenie." (The names of the central characters of these films were common.) Although Johnny Depp did a really great job in "Edward Scissorhands," a living actor can't be exactly what a director imagines. It is Victor that was created in his image.

"Frankenweenie" is a remake of his own short film of the same name, which was shot before his first major film "Pee-wee's Big Adventure." One's first work usually contains their possibility in their future. We can find every motif of Tim Burton's films in "Frankenweenie," for example, his affection for old horror movies in "Beetlejuce" and "Ed Wood", and his bad taste in "Mars Attack!" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

I have been wondering why Tim Burton's films are so popular despite they are full of his personal partiality. In the first scene of "Frankenweenie" Victor show his handmade motion picture to his parents. I guess that Tim Burton, himself, did the same thing. He has kept doing just what he wanted to do since he was a child until now. He just makes what is in his head in the form of films and shows them.

I love his films, because I find the partiality that I also have. People who love his films also have the same partiality, don't they?

Dec 9, 2012

M Is for Mum: My Impression of "Skyfall"

I saw the movie "Skyfall" yesterday. 

I don't want to criticize it, because the film "American Beauty", directed by Sam Mendes who was a director of "Skyfall", is one of my all time favorite films, but I can't say that I was satisfied with "Skyfall."

I like Daniel Craig's James Bond more than even Sean Connery's. Someone might think that Daniel Craig was too athletic, but I think that he looks intellectual enough at the same time. At least he looks really good in a suit and tie. The 007 movies had been slumping after Sean Connery resigned, and the first Daniel Craig's James Bond movie, "Casino Royale", revived the 007 series. In "Skyfall", Daniel Craig did a great job too.

And I found many scenes that impressed me. One of these was when Bond stopped his old Aston Martin, and he and M stood in front of a desolated land in Scotland. The scenery was truly beautiful and I could feel that they were struggling with a feeling of heplessness in order to fight with their enemy.

But as a whole this movie had lack of harmony. Although the story was basically serious, sometimes the 007 movies should be absurd and comical. The seriousness and comicality were dissociable, so I couldn't empathize with the story and laugh about the jokes enough.

On the serious side, the story of this movie was about fictional mother-son relationships. Both Bond and his enemy Silva, who was played by Javier Bardem, were agents who have no family. They were asking motherhood for M. In this sense, M is for mum. Sam Mendes has dealt with family affairs in his films, so "Skyfall" was no less his film.

In the 007 movies, directors have to use many clichés, for example, the self-introduction, "Bond, James Bond," and these are their chances to show their skill. I guess that Sam Mendes studied 007 movies quite hard, but he couldn't use them well, because the story was too serious.

The point of the 007 movies is the balance of seriousness and comicality. I like "From Russia with Love," because it was moderately absurd and moderately serious. Sean Connery's James Bond movies kept their balance, but Roger Moore was too comical.

Although Javier Bardem gave a good performance, but the character of Silva was too similar to Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter, and the killer in Coen brother's film "No Country for Old Men" was far more horrible.

I wrote bad things about "Skyfall", I enjoyed it enough, even if it wasn't a masterpiece. Anyway I am looking forward to Sam Mendes' next film.

Dec 2, 2012

The Interview with Moto Hagio about Receiving the Medal with Purple Ribbon

I introduced three of my favorite manga authors, Moto Hagio, Katsuhiro Otomo, and TaiyoMatsumoto on my weblog.

Moto Hagio was received the Medal with Purple Ribbon, which honors the achievement in the academic and artistic fields.

The entry about the translation of "Haruki Murakami's Speech on Catalonia InternationalPrize" was well received, so I'd like to translate the interview with Moto Hagio about receiving the medal with purple ribbon (「萩尾望都さん・紫綬褒章インタビュー」) into English.

It made me understand what she said more deeply to translate this interview.

Interviewer: At first how do you feel about receiving the medal with purple ribbon?

Moto Hagio: I've been really surprised until now. I'm wondering if I am suitable for this prize.

When I was preparing for attending "Salon du Livre" at Paris, I heard about receiving the prize. I was so surprised that I can't remember what I replied to the call, which told me that this news wasn't unofficial and you shouldn't tell about the prize before the official statement. I told about it only to my stuffs.

I wanted to tell about this news to my father, because he was admitted to a hospital. I thought that he would pass way while I had been visiting Paris, and he did so. After I returned Japan, I went to the ritual at the forty-ninth day, and I reported about the prize to my father and mother.

She was also surprised and said to me, "Well, congratulations." She is a fan of the drama "the Wife of Gegege", which described the detail of the manga author's life, and she was surprised with it. She might realize that even manga authors lived seriously. She called me and said, "I watched "the Wife of Gegege", and I realized your life at last. I'm sorry." I thanked her.

Interviewer: How do you think about that your manga works are described as "literary?"

Moto Hagio: I have no idea about it. I'm introvert, so I tend to take everything too seriously. I've wanted to be a "girl manga" author, and I've been publishing my works as "girl manga", but at the same time I might be influenced by science fiction and the works of Herman Hesse and Romain Rolland, which I've read.

From my childhood, I've also read both of "boy manga" and "girl manga", and I thought vaguely that I could express my soul through the style of manga, so I began devoted to drawing manga.

Usually I couldn't share my worries, but I found people who worried about the same things, when I read Herman Hess's works, so I was fascinated by them and I felt that I got help from his works.

Interviewer: When did you read Herman Hess's works?

Moto Hagio: When I was about twenty years old. At that time I thought about the reason why I existed and the way that I should live. In everyday life people told me that you should stop thinking about them and do only proper things, like studying hard and getting a job. Ordinary people stopped thinking about them, because thinking about them impeded doing proper things.

But Herman Hess faced such worries seriously, and wrote about wondering how he himself should live and his failure and success. His novel told me that I could worry about them.

Interviewer: Did you want to express them through "girl manga?"

Moto Hagio: I might be permitted to this extent. In "Heart of Thomas (トーマの心臓)" the central character worried himself over. In my adolescence I also worried myself over about everything that my friends did and said. I thought that humanity was quite delicate and I wanted to express the delicacy.

Interviewer: How did people around you thought about expressing these things in "girl manga?"

Moto Hagio: I thought that the works of Osamu Tezuka, Sanpei Shirato, and Tetsuya Chiba actually expressed them. In "girl manga" world, Minori Kimura and Ryoko Yamagishi were pursuing the subtleness of the human mind, so I thought that I also could express them. But at that time we were minor.

Interviewer: How about the reaction from the readers of your works?

Moto Hagio: Some readers were moved deeply, and others complained that they couldn't understand at all.

Interviewer: But "the Poes (ポーの一族)" was sold out.

Moto Hagio: Fortunately "the Poes" in book form was sold out soon. It was really good.

Interviewer: Were you surprised?

Moto Hagio: When "the Poes" was sold out, I was drawing "Heart of Thomas" regularly for a magazine, but it was really unpopular. It could be dropped, but the editors changed their minds, because "the Poes" was sold well. It helped me a lot. I just felt relieved that I could continue "Heart of Thomas", and I couldn't analyze the popularity of "the Poes" objectively.

Interviewer: How do you think about the power of "girl manga?"

Moto Hagio: At Salon du Livre, I was asked why there were "boy manga" and "girl manga" in Japan. At that moment I couldn't understand the meaning of this question, because it was so natural for me that there were both of them. But a person who asked me couldn't understand the differences of these genres. To explain simply, the reason why there were the two genres is that interests of boys and girls are different. Girls are interested in love, and boys are interested in adventures and teamwork

Most early works of "girl manga", which I read in my elementary school days, were almost stories about relationship between mother and child, valley ball, detective, in which girls played active roles or are faced with tragedies. As "girl manga" magazines increased, more female authors were needed. Kodansha and Shueisha established manga awards, and young authors applied to them. At the beginning Machiko Satonaka and Noriko Aoike came out. A little while ago Sachiko Nishitani drew love stories, and then Machiko Satonaka and other young authors began to make the second boom of "girl manga."

They described girls' minds from the girls' stand point of view. Almost of their works were fantastic and some of them were about sports, for example valley ball. From the late 1960s to the 1970s, they draw these manga works, and manga readers liked to read them.

Interviewer: What do you think of the attractiveness of manga?

Moto Hagio: Graphics and words. We, manga authors, construct frames in order to express a story by graphics. When we make perfect series of frames, they could move readers deeply like great films or music. They pierce directly through readers' hearts. I, myself, was moved by great manga works, and I'd like to give something back by drawing manga, which will move someone.

I think that manga, as a genre, resemble to music and films. When we read a novel, sometimes we stop reading them and think about the reason why the main character talked about such things, but we watch through a film without stopping it to think about the meanings. It's the same with music. We don't think about the meaning of the sound of a cymbal, when we heard it. Films and music move us at once. Manga is like them. When we want to stop reading, we couldn't stop reading through, if we watched the next frame.

Interviewer: Manga is the art of time, isn't it?

Hagio Moto: Yes, it is. We manipulate time freely.

Interviewer: After you have been drawing in the front lines for forty years, what would you like to draw now?

Moto Hagio: I wanted to keep drawing manga in the same way, but I was really shocked with the images of the earthquake and the tsunami of the East Japan last year. And then I could hardly believe that it was real to explode Fukushima nuclear power plants, because I had believed that it should be the happening just in the science fiction. I felt like that the world came to the end.

I found that I only draw the stories about this disaster, so I intend to draw other kinds of stories, like "Nanohana." It's really hard to think only about the disaster, so I'd like to get away from it and draw science fiction or a historical story, in which beautiful costumes appear.

I tend to be drawn into this topic, and the half of the books that I read is about nuclear power.

Interviewer: What manga authors should express in this situation?

Moto Hagio: Some manga authors, for example KotobukiShiriagari and Osamu Yamamoto, drew manga works about last year's disaster in their own ways. Someone drew a fantasy, and another drew a real story. I can understand that there are someone who can't help but drawing about this disaster, because it is a really big affair.

Interviewer: It's a long time since manga have taken root in Japan. Do you think if manga will be attractive?

Moto Hagio: Yes. When I was a child and I just became a manga author, the genre of manga was criticized, especially at school. But now people are favorable about manga. I wonder when they turned to be favorable. I guess that the generations who read manga in childhood have grown up and they are not negative about manga.

Nov 25, 2012

The Wreath of Recalling Our Good Things 2012

Left Hand | Right Hand

He is one of my oldest friends on the Internet. When we knew each other, there weren't Facebook, twitter, and even blog services, so we had to write html to made our own website. We deeply know each other, but we have never met in the real world. (I haven't seen even his photo.)

The aim of this project is sharing good things that we experienced in this year. The participants of this project write good things in this year and have links to each other.

You'll find "Left Hand" and "Right Hand" on the top of this entry. If you click "Left Hand", you jump to the next "Good Things" page. And then you'll click "Left Hand" page by page, in the end you will be back to my page. The pages make " The Wreath of Recalling Our Good Things."

Now I'll write my good things in this year.

Fist of all, my family has been staying in good health. Last several years, someone of my family had trouble with their health, so we are happier about our health than anything.

The second is that I became able to express what I want to express in English. English has made my world really wider. I knew people who I would never know without the Internet and English.

I'm really thankful to people who read my weblog, and my family.

"Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan" on National Geographic Channel

As I wrote in the previous entry " How to Score 915Points on a TOEIC Test", I'm really tired of Japanese TV programs, because they are almost all cheap variety shows and dramas. Recently I like to watch documentary programs on National Geographic channel and Discovery Channel. One of my favorite programs is "Dog Whisper withCesar Millan" on National Geographic Channel.

This program is about dog training. Cesar Millan is an outstanding dog trainer, and he visits ordinary families that have dog problems.

Leo Tolstoy wrote in "Anna Karenina", "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." In this program, I found that all the dog problems are quite alike. The causes of the dogs' problems are not the dogs themselves but their owners, the human beings.

Dogs live in their own communities. It doesn't mean that they just live together, but that they constitute orders. When they are kept by human beings, they think of them as part of their communities. If the orders of the families, which dogs belong to, are unstable, the dogs also are unstable. This is the main cause of the dogs' problems.

In this program, Cesar Millan actually doesn't train dogs but owners. He told them that they should have authority and confidence. Cesar Millan has full of authority and confidence, so dogs respect him and calm down. The reasons why the owners don't have authority and confidence are almost the problems of their families, for example twisted relationships between wives and husbands. As Tolstoy wrote, each family problem is in its own way. So at first Cesar Millan begins to counsel the families that he visits to solve dog problems.

In my company I am a boss of a group of ten people. I don't want to be a tyrant at all, and want to manage my group in a democratic manner. Personally the members of my group and I are very friendly. (At least I want to believe that we are friendly.) But at the same time, as a boss, I should have authority and confidence in order to manage my group effectively.

Dogs become stable, when their owners show them clear rules and policies with authority and confidence. It also gives dogs confidence and makes them happy. In a similar way, it is quite important for the tops of the organizations to show their policies clearly.

Sometimes Cesar Millan looks like a philosopher.

Nov 23, 2012

How to Score 915 Points on a TOEIC Test

I took a TOEIC test last month, and I just got my score certificate. My score is 915 points. I don't remember what score I got the last time I took the TOEIC, but I think it was about 820. 915 points is a really good score for me. There are many articles about ways to improve TOEIC scores on the Internet written in a variety of languages, so I'd like to add a new one.

My method is, "quantity over quality." The more I listened, read, and write in English, the more my English I improve. That's all.

But I have a big problem. I'm living in Japan, and I've been working at a Japanese domestic company, so basically everyone around me only uses Japanese. It isn't a good circumstance to learn English. Even in such a circumstance, making a habit of, and having fun with listening, reading, and writing in English are key factors of success.

On my way to the office, I listened to English Podcast, for example, English as a Second Language Podcast, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Students News, NBC Nightly News, and TED. I don't make any effort at all. I listen to these podcasts just for fun. Recently I can't be interested in Japanese TV program at all, and I mainly watch CNN, BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Channel at home.

After I bought Kindle from, it became easier to buy books from the U.S. than from Japan. When I buy books from, I get them almost in a moment, but I have to wait for books to arrive from for two or three days. And it's quite easy to look up a word in a dictionary on Kindle.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, I've realized that Japanese press couldn't be trusted, so I always compare the articles of the same topic on Japanese press and the foreign press.

Now I've been keeping English diary on Lang-8, which is a social network website for language exchange, and the BlogSpot. In the office, I write only in Japanese, but on the Internet I mainly write in English. It's really much more fun for me to communicate with people all over the world than just in Japan.

Using English isn't the way of mastering English. I have many things in English to listen to, read, and write, so I just do so.

Nov 17, 2012

The Death of PC

I'm using iMac with Mac OS 10.5 Leopard in my home and Lenovo ThinkPad with Windows XP in my office. As I wrote in the entry "Whydo I buy Apple Products?", basically I'm satisfied with both of iMac and ThinkPad.

It's enough for me just to be able to use a mailer, a browser, and MS-Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). I guess that most PC users are as same as me. This situation hasn't changed since I began to use Windows 95. I can say that there has been no innovation of PC at all for the past seventeen years.

When I touched PC at the beginning, I used PC with MS-DOS 3.1. At that time, I didn't connect PC to the Internet, and mainly I used word processor, 一太郎 (Ichitaro), which was the most popular Japanese word processor, and WordPerfect, and Lotus 123.

After Windows95 was released, the way of using PC was changed dramatically. It became much easier for me, as an ordinary user, to connect PC to the Internet, so a mailer and a browser became must-have items. MS-Office expelled WordPerfect and Lotus123, and I began to use PowerPoint. It was a kind of revolution that changed my office life.

And then, as I wrote, although PC has been improved, nothing innovative happened.

Now I should update OS of my PCs. Some of applications, for example Flash Player and Kindle, don't work on Mac OS 10.5, and the end of service of Windows XP will be April 2014.

I called the customer support of Apple, and we talked about which version I should update to. The latest version is Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion, but it is possible that some of old software don't run on the version 10.8, so I decided that I would update to version 10.6. In similar way, my company decided that they would update to not Windows8 but Windows7.

It's too much of a bother for me to update OS, because nothing will change by updating OS. It's just marketing of Apple and Microsoft.

Nov 16, 2012

The History of The United Colonies

I've just finished one third of the book "Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America."

This book is really interesting. I almost didn't know about the history of North America before the American Revolutionary War at all, so it was first time for me to hear the word "the United Colonies" in this book. If I thought about it, it would be quite natural that there were "the United Colonies" before the United States was formed, but I never thought about it before.

One of the reasons why I didn't know about the history of North America, is that the history of the conquests of Central and South America by Hernando Cortes and Francisco Pizarro were so dramatic and impressive. I've read about them a lot, but I was rarely interested in the history of North America. Cortes and Pizarro conquered the Aztec Empire and the Inca Empire with quite small bunch of soldiers in the fifteenth century, so I imagined that Pilgrims might conquer the natives in North America in a similar way, but it wasn't true.

Early Western colonists in North America in the seventeenth century settled just in the coastal regions of North America along the Atlantic Ocean, and they didn't conquer the natives but traded beaver furs with them. In the sixteenth century, a beaver hat became quite fashionable in Europe, and beavers in Russia was almost hunted to extinction. So colonists wanted to get beaver fur from the natives in North America, where beavers were abundant.

I guess that the Aztec Empire and the Inca Empire had been so centralized that Cortes and Pizarro could conquer with small soldiers because they just had to seize the Emperors. But the societies of the natives in North America were decentralized, and it was impossible to conquer them with small number, even if they had muskets. And through fur trade, the natives got muskets from Western traders, so it was more difficult to conquer them.

Mainly the colonists didn't fight with the natives, but colonist fought with each other. At first British colonists and Dutch colonists, who built New Amsterdam that is now New York, made a competition for fur trade. And then British colonists and French colonists competed, and in the end, British colonists and their home country fought with each other. After the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, the actual invasion into the inland of North America began.

Of course, there were frictions between British colonies, but they united against common enemies, Dutch and French colonists and their home country. The United States was based on the union of British colonies.

I wrote the entry "American Whaling and Japanese Modernization" about the book "Leviathan: The History of Whaling America", written by Eric Jay Dolin who wrote "Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America." This book is also quite interesting.

Nov 13, 2012

Naked Culture in Japan

Sometimes I read the articles on the website "GaijinPot" (Gaijin means foreigners in Japanese), which is interesting, because the standpoint of this website is from that of foreign people and it is new for me, although sometimes it is ridiculous.

I found the article "Why Japanese People AreComfortable With Nakedness" on this website. It is true that we have many chances to see naked Japanese men especially at festivals, and the festivals called "裸祭 Hadaka Matsuri" (naked festival)" were held all over Japan. But I don't know if this phenomenon is related to onsen, Shinto, or prostitution, as this article pointed out.

Off course Japanese men don't get be naked at just anytime, anywhere. We have a strict rule on when and where we can be naked. I'm living near Ikebukuro Station, which is one of the biggest terminal stations in Tokyo, and during a festival I see many naked Japanese men walking on the street just in front of Ikebukuro Station and foreigner people watch them with curiosity and take photos. But we never see naked men on an ordinary day.

In every culture there is a rule about the costume that participants of festivals should wear. Nakedness is the costume of the male participants of Hadaka Matsuri (naked festival) just like the female participants of Rio's Carnival. The article said, "While sexuality is not encouraged in most Western religions, Japan’s native Shinto religion is more open-minded," but the main religion in Brazil is Christianity.

It is common that things that aren't allowed in everyday are allowed in festival time. The participants of Hadaka Matsuri (naked festival) and Rio's Carnival turn to be naked, because they aren't allowed to be naked in everyday. Japanese folklore scholars call this phenomenon "ハレとケ (hare and ke)". "Hare" means festival time, and "ke" means everyday life.

We also turn to be naked in a public bath and onsen. It is not that we are allowed to be naked in the public bath but we SHOULD be naked in the public bath. Off course it is rude to watch other's naked bodies. In the hinterlands there are mixed bathing onsens, which aren't sexual at all. You can see just old naked men and women.

It's true that sometimes we, Japanese, turn to be naked in public, but it isn't preference but custom.

Nov 8, 2012

Idealism and Pragmatism: the Presidential Election of the U.S.

Obama won the presidential election.

I wrote "From the standpoint of Japanese view I think that President Obama is so underestimated from American people." in the entry "President Obama and Mitt Romney", so I wasn't surprise with his victory at all.

I think that Mitt Romney isn't bad. He is a quite competent businessman, and he could do well if he became the president of the U.S. But Obama is historic and special. He is the first non-white president of the U.S. and his family and he are really cool and sweet. This is the photo that was uploaded on Obama's Facebook wall when his victory came out. He is attractive.

The recession after Lehman Shock wasn't Obama's fault, and it can't be overcame easily because its cause is deep-rooted. Huge trade imbalance between the U.S. and emerging countries is the background of this problem, and there is no silver bullet to solve this situation.

Even Romney can't make jobs, because it isn't the president but businesses that make jobs and the government just can support businesses. Romney, who believes in the power of business sector, also might think so at the bottom of his heart.

When I heard Obama's speech, I was moved by his high ideal. But now, American people want pragmatic solution more than high ideal, don't they? Romney seems to be quite pragmatic.

At the end Obama was reelected, but his political situation isn't easy because Republicans dominates the house. ("Obama Wins a ClearVictory, but Balance of Power Is Unchanged in Washington" The New York Times) I hope that he will make his high ideal for the next four years. He doesn't have to be reelected any more, so he can do what he really wants to do.

Nov 4, 2012

The Writing Revolution

I, who have been keeping a weblog in Japanese for fifteen years and a weblog in English for two and a half years, am deeply interested in the method of writing.

I found the interesting article "The WritingRevolution" on "Atlantic Magazine website".  The author of this article wrote as followings.

Fifty years ago, elementary-school teachers taught the general rules of spelling and the structure of sentences. Later instruction focused on building solid paragraphs into full-blown essays. Some kids mastered it, but many did not. About 25 years ago, in an effort to enliven instruction and get more kids writing, schools of education began promoting a different approach. The popular thinking was that writing should be “caught, not taught,” explains Steven Graham, a professor of education instruction at Arizona State University. Roughly, it was supposed to work like this: Give students interesting creative-writing assignments; put that writing in a fun, social context in which kids share their work. Kids, the theory goes, will “catch” what they need in order to be successful writers. Formal lessons in grammar, sentence structure, and essay-writing took a back seat to creative expression.

The catch method works for some kids, to a point. “Research tells us some students catch quite a bit, but not everything,” Graham says. And some kids don’t catch much at all. Kids who come from poverty, who had weak early instruction, or who have learning difficulties, he explains, “can’t catch anywhere near what they need” to write an essay. For most of the 1990s, elementary- and middle-­school children kept journals in which they wrote personal narratives, poetry, and memoirs and engaged in “peer editing,” without much attention to formal composition. Middle- and high-school teachers were supposed to provide the expository- and persuasive-writing instruction.
I heard that in school of the U.S. the method of writing was emphasized, so I was surprised with this article.

Although I don't know about the present education of writing in Japan, I got "the catch method" of writing education in school. I had to write a diary in every summer vacation for homework, and I didn't know what I should write on a diary, which my teachers would read.

After I finished school, I learned the method of writing by myself. The most useful reference for me is Barbara Minto's "The MintoPyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking, & Problem Solving." It's no useful for me to learn "the catch method" in school. Of course there are people who don't like "the pyramid principle."

I think that the suitable method of writing differs depending on the person. Someone can become able to write creatively well by learning "the catch method." But it is effective for someone to learn "the pyramid principle" like me. It might be important for anyone to be able to choice their suitable method.

As I wrote in the entry "Swim in the Ocean", we wouldn't be able to swim in the ocean just with reading a book about how to swim. We have to write certain amount in order to became able to write well, if we learned any kind of methods.

Nov 1, 2012

Heta-Uma (Unskillful but Skillful) and Uma-Heta (Skillful but Unskillful)

There is the word "ヘタうま (heta-uma)" in Japanese, which hardly can be translated into English. Heta-Uma is combined with the two words, "へた (heta)" and "うまい (umai)". "Heta" means unskillful or primitive, and "umai" means skillful or sophisticated.

In the 1980s, Teruhiko Yuasa, a Japanese illustrator, advocated the concept "heta-uma." He insisted that artworks, which were seemed to be unskillful but in fact were skillful, were most excellent, and called them "heta-uma." And he also criticized artworks, which were just quite skillful but not excellent, and called them "uma-heta."

I'd like to show one of his artworks "情熱のペンギンごはん (Passionate Penguin's Meal)". I think that it isn't realistic but quite skillful. At least it doesn't seem to be primitive for me at all, so I'd like to call it "uma-uma" (skillful and skillful).

In the previous entry "I Hate SongsSung by Whitney and I Love Songs Sung by Carole" I made a comparison between Whitney Houston and Carole King. In the words of Teruhiko Yuasa, Whitney Houston's songs are typically "uma-heta." Her songs are just quite skillful but without any substance.

Sony used to be like what Apple is now, but now it lost its luster. Sony invented Walkman, but it couldn't invent iPod, iTunes, and iPhone. It's not only Sony, but most Japanese electronics companies are slumping. Panasonic, one of the largest Japanese electronics companies, released the report about the estimate of huge loss in fiscal year 2013.  I myself don't want to buy products made by Japanese electronics companies, but I actually bought Apple's products, iPod, iMac, and iPhone.

When I compared the specs of electronic products, sometimes I find that Japanese products were best, but they don't make me want to buy them at all. I guess that they resemble to Whitney Houston's songs, "uma-heta" (skillful but unskillful).

The specs of Whitney Houston might be better than most singers, but her songs don't move me at all. Recent Sony's Products don't move me either, but Apple's products touch me.

In the entry "Why Do I Buy AppleProducts?" I wrote "Nowadays the specs on PCs are not different so much, so the feel of them are important for me. In this mean iMac is as same as my Mont Blanc's fountain pen, whose touch is really nice." Apple's products don't seemed to be unskillful, so they can't be called "heta-uma" (unskillful but skillful) but "uma-uma" (skillful and skillful), but it's clear that Apple doesn't pursue specs on the paper. For example, the size of display of iPhone 5 isn't largest in smart phones, because Apple took account of usability.

One of the strangest electronic products that I've ever seen is the PC with an air washer made by Fujitsu, one of the major Japanese computer manufactures. Who wanted to PC with an air washer? It is "uma-heta" (skillful but unskillful), isn't it? No, it is just "heta-heta" (unskillful and unskillful).

Oct 28, 2012

I Hate Songs Sung by Whitney and I Love Songs Sung by Carole

I hate songs sung by Whitney Houston and her followers. It doesn't mean that I hate her herself, but rather I have pity for her life. I just don't want to listen to her songs.

She could sing loudly in a very high note, and when she sung she looked so comfortable. But so what?

Her voice was a kind of acrobatic performance. When I heard her voice at first time, I was surprised at her voice, but I had got used to it quite soon, and I've been never moved by songs that were sung by her at all.

I think that it was the dark age of soul music from the late 90s to early 00s, because soul music world was flooded with songs without soul, like songs that were sung by Whitney and her followers.

I'm listening to Carole King's album "Tapestry". It's first time for me to listen to this album, but I've heard most of the songs in this album before.

Her songs are so simple that they could be poor when other singers sing, but when she sings, they are really rich. I love her hoarse voice, which move me deeply.