Apr 28, 2013

Chocolate, Coffee, and Tea: The History of Globalization

I have just finished the book “The True History of Chocolate.”

Recently, I have become interested in the history of globalization, especially its origin, so I have been reading books about the history of commodities - such as coffee, tea, sugar, chocolate, whale oil, fur etc. - that were produced, traded, and consumed all over the world.

The origin of chocolate is Mesoamerica. In the Olmec, the Maya, and the Aztec civilization, chocolate was quite a precious drink. Basically, only noble people drank it and ordinary people could drink it only during rituals.

After Columbus reached the New World, chocolate spread mainly among aristocratic society and Catholic churches in Europe through Spain.

The episode in this book that I was most interested in is about coffee houses in the seventeenth century in London. In the middle of that century, three of the most major beverage, coffee, tea, and, chocolate, were introduced to England almost at the same time, and people in London drank them in coffee houses.

The origins of three of them are different. As I wrote, the origin of chocolate was Mesoamerica. Coffee is from Ethiopia and tea is from East Asia. It is no coincidence that they arrived at England simultaneously. Coffee, tea, and chocolate were the most important commodities in early globalization, and their arrivals in the seventeenth century symbolized the dawn of globalization in England. 

In the eighteenth century, coffee was most popular in three of them in England. Chocolate was characterized as southern, Catholic, and aristocratic, and coffee as northern, Protestant, and middle-class. Tea was quite expensive before India was colonized and tea plantations were developed in India. The bourgeoisie with “the protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism” drunk coffee.

Before the nineteenth century, chocolate was basically drunken. In this century, Van Houten, Henri Nestle, Rudolphe Lindt, John Cadbury, and Milton Hershey, who ironically were not Catholic aristocrats in the Southern Europe but Protestant bourgeoisie in the Northern Europe, invented and manufactured the mass product of solid chocolate.

Next, I will read a book about the history of sugar.

Apr 21, 2013

Punk Rock and the Digital Camera: the Impression of the Documentary Movie “Side by Side”

Johnny Rotten shouted, “I wanna be anarchy,” and he broke down the values of music.

When I was a high school student, some of my friends formed a band and played punk rock in the school festival. The reason that they chose punk rock was because they could only play punk rock.

Before the Sex Pistols, music played better technically was better, but Sex Pistols showed that music didn’t have to be played technically well. They democratized rock music.

I watched the documentary “Side by Side” about the transition from film cameras to digital cameras in the movie industry. In this movie, Keanu Reeves interviewed many people: directors, cinematographers, producers, actors, editors, colorists, and so on. Some of them welcomed digital cameras, while others stuck to film cameras.

Digitalization changed movie making in two ways.

Firstly, movie making by a digital camera is far cheaper than by a film camera. Videotapes, which don’t have to be developed, are much cheaper than films, and it is much easier to use a digital camera than a film camera, so they don’t need trained professionals. But the picture quality of digital cameras used to be lesser than film cameras.

Secondary, digital cameras got rid of the technical limitation of film cameras. A film camera can shoot only ten minutes, and a director has to wait for a day to watch the pictures that they take, because films need to be developed. On the contrary, a digital camera can shoot much longer than a film camera, and director can check the pictures that they take simultaneously. The picture quality of digital cameras is getting better and is now comparable to film cameras.

The first way was represented by Danny Boyle and Anthony Dod Mantle, who made “Slumdog Millionaire,” and the second way was represented by George Lucas and James Cameron, and “Star Wars” and “Avatar”.

Dod Mantle worked for Dogme 95 project, in which they used digital cameras earliest to make movies.

Danny Boyle was deeply impressed by his avant-garde pictures and decided to make a movie with him using a digital camera. They used a handy digital camera and expressed the dynamism of Mumbai in “Slumdog Millionaire.”

George Lucas and James Cameron have been developing the new digital technology to make images that they want, and their movies, in which they used these technologies, were quite successful commercially. They are entrepreneurs in the movie industry.

Danny Boyle and Dod Mantel democratized movies by digital camera like the Sex Pistols, and George Lucas and James Cameron industrialized movies like Thomas Edison. 

I want to watch a movie made by punk rockers more than by Thomas Edison.

Apr 19, 2013

Actually I Like to Wait for Someone's Response to the Story that I Threw to the Ocean

Tori Miki, who is a manga artist and essayist, wrote that he liked Twitter much better than Facebook on his column.

I completely agree with him, so I'd like to translate selected passages of his column into English:

"I Love You, Because I'm Selfish" (自分勝手だから、君を愛している)  Tori Miki (Nikkei Business Online) 

In addition to Twitter, I sort of use Facebook in a sort. 
Although I use Facebook, honestly I don't like Facebook better than Twitter.
That is Because Facebook has too much functions and so on. 
I like Twitter, because it is simple and inconvenient. 
First of all, I like the equivalence and parallel of one hundred forty words of each tweet. 
Nobody tries to preach about the correct use of Twitter, and I can use it however I like.
It's OK to tweet irresponsibly, and you don't have to reply them. It's free. You can decide whom you follow and unfollow without any concern. I like the ease of Twitter. 
Originally, I hate closed communities, such as relatives, local community, and school cliques, so I run away from them and do a job like this. Because I want to do things as I like and don't want to belong to any thing, so Twitter fits me very much. 
I can tweet even silly jokes all day long. 
As I wrote that I hated closed communities. When I say so, someone is surprised and says to me “But your manga and tweet are so deep and intricate.”  
Although it may be true, I don’t like to send such stories to closed communities where everyone can understand them. Well, you don’t think that’s interesting at all, do you? Actually I like to wait for someone's response to the story that I threw to the ocean. 
Even editors and fans have the wrong idea, but a deep and intricate story should be used in a major group.
In my weblog, sometimes I wrote a deep entry, which I myself wonder who would be interested in. But occasionally someone from somewhere in the Internet Ocean, would give a comment to such an entry. It resembles fishing.

And today I also go fishing in the Internet Ocean to get someone who understands my deep entry.

Apr 13, 2013

A Very Well Written Novel: My Impression of Haruki Murakami’s New Novel “Tsukuru Tazaki without Colors, and the Year of His Pilgrimage”

I’ve just finished Haruki Murakami’s new novel “Tsukuru Tazaki without Colors, and the Year of His Pilgrimage.”

To put it bluntly, this is a very well written novel.

Haruki Murakami wrote a short novel after a long novel. He wrote “South of the Border, West of the Sun” after “Dance Dance Dance”, “Sputnik Sweetheart” after “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle”, “After Dark” and “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” after “Kafka on the Shore”, and this novel after “1Q84.”

His long novels are somewhat confusing. I guess that Haruki Murakami intentionally made them confusing. Dostoyevsky’s long novels, for example “The Brothers Karamazov”, are confusing, too. The intentional confusion of such long novels moves me deeply.

On the contrary, Haruki Murakami’s short novels are very well constructed. When I’m tired, it is too hard to read his long novels, because I don’t want to be moved but be calm. Thus I read his well written short novels, like “Tsukuru Tazaki without Colors, and the Year of His Pilgrimage.”

If you try to read his first novel, I recommend his short novels.

I’d like to translate several passages from this novel.

Jealousy that Tsukuru understood in his dream was the most desperate prison in the word. That was because it is the prison where prisoners locked themselves up. Nobody forced to imprison them. They themselves got into it, locked the door from inside, and threw the keys outside of the iron bars. Nobody knew that they were locked up there. Of course, if they decided to get out of there, they could do so, because the prison existed in their own heart. But they couldn’t choose to. Their hearts got as hard as stonewalls. This is the essence of jealousy. 

“You just say what you feel honestly. It isn’t an excuse.” 

“I had been thinking of myself as a victim. I was forced into a cruel experience without any reason. So I suffered from a deep pain in my soul, and this ruined my natural life. Honestly, I blamed four of you. I wondered why only I had a terrible experience. But it may not be true. I’m not just a victim, but I might also hurt people around me. And I might also hurt myself. ” 

“If you are a empty vessel, it’s OK,” said Eri. “Even so, you are truly a wonderful and fascinating vessel. Nobody knows what they really are, don’t you agree? If you are so, it is enough for you to be a beautiful vessel, which someone wants to put something into. A favorable vessel.”

Apr 12, 2013

Yanki and YOSAKOI: the Real Dominant Culture in Rural Japan

What do you know about Japanese culture?

Tea ceremony (茶道), zen (禅), ukiyoe (浮世絵), sushi (寿司), or otaku (オタク)?

In a Japanese tea ceremony, the essence of Japanese high culture is condensed. A Japanese tea ceremony is performed based on the beauty senses, “wabi” (侘) and “sabi” (寂), which are the most sophisticated ones in Japanese history. If you are interested in the traditional Japanese high culture, it would be worth learning about the Japanese tea ceremony. 

On the contrary, otakuhood is one of the contemporary Japanese subcultures. Otaku people indulge in “vulgar” things: such as anime or video games. In a sense, they refuse sophistication. I guess that foreign fans like otaku culture because it is a kind of kitsch.

Both the Japanese tea ceremony and otaku are well known in the world. Even now the VIPs visiting Japan are invited to tea ceremonies at Kyoto, and the tourists that are interested in otaku culture go to maid cafes at Akiba (秋葉原). 

As I wrote, Japanese tea ceremony is high culture and otaku is subculture, so, in fact, people that like them are minority in Japan. There is another dominant culture in Japan.

Do you know “yanki” (ヤンキー) or “yosakoi?”

The origin of the word "yanki" was "Yankee." They are a type of delinquent youth mainly living in rural areas. I will introduce a movie about yanki, “Kamikaze Girls” (下妻物語). A picture is worth a thousand words.

Momoko's fashion is called “gosu rori (ゴスロリ)”, which means “gothic lolita,” and she is a kind of otaku girl. On the contrary, Ichigo is a typical yanki girl.

Momoko as a gosu rori girl is lonely especially in a small town, Shimotsuma (下妻). She should go to Daikanyama, Tokyo to buy her gosu rori outfits. I'm not saying that most people in rural areas are yanki, but yanki taste is actually quite popular there. Ichigo could buy her yanki outfits in a local supermarket.

I’d like to introduce another example. This video is the song “Rising Sun” by Exile, one of the most popular groups of singers and dancers in Japan.

Back dancers in this video perform the dance of yosakoi festivals, which are rapidly getting more popular in Japan. I don’t know about yosakoi well, but in my eyes, their costume is really yanki tasted.

Otaku is an urban subculture, and yanki is a dominant culture in rural areas.

Apr 6, 2013

How to Use the Relative Pronouns, Who and Which, and That

I am now reading the book, Adrian Wallwork’s “English for Writing Research Paper.” Even though I have not finished reading this book yet, I’d like to recommend it strongly especially for non-native English speakers.

Basically the author tried to show researchers that are non-native English speakers how to write a more readable research papers. In fact, the book itself is easily readable and clear, so it is a good resource for writing a readable paper.

For many years, I had a question about how to use the relative pronouns, who and which, and that. This book explained it quite clearly:
Here is an example using who and that, which should help to clarify the difference between adding extra information (S6) and making a definition (S7). 
S6. My sister, who lives in Paris, is a researcher.S7. My sister that lives in Paris, is a researcher. 
In S6 the information contained between the two commas is not essential. S6 tells the reader that I have only one sister and she is a researcher – the fact that she lives in Paris is just additional information. I could simply say: My sister is a researcher. 
But in S7 I am giving very different information. I am telling you that I have more than one sister, and that the sister that lives in Paris is a researcher. Perhaps my other sister is a doctor and I am using Paris to distinguish between my two sisters.

As I wrote, the author’s aim was not elegance but readability. He just tried to write this book more readably, but consequently it also became elegant.

I think that I, as a non-native English speaker, would not be able to write rhetorical and literary English like native English speakers do, but I want to write readable, concise, clear, and elegant English like Adrian Wallwork does. Hopefully I will be able to do so someday.

My ambition is to show that even a non-native English speaker that lives in non-English surroundings can express things and thoughts in English. To put it strongly, this blog is a record of this challenge.

Apr 5, 2013

Misfortunes Never Come Singly: The Worst Season Opener of the New York Yankees in These Twenty Years

In this off-season, the Yankees didn’t actively acquire new players, because the owner of the Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner, decided to avoid pay luxury tax.

In MLB, teams whose amount of salary of their players exceeds a limit should pay luxury tax.  If a team wants to avoid luxury tax, it shall reduce the amount of salary.

Consequently, the member of the Yankees in this season was much worse than the previous season.

Furthermore, leading players got injured continuously. Now, there is no Jeter, Teixeira,  Granderson, or A-Rod in the Yankee’s bench.

At the opening game in this season, Sabathia, who is the ace pitcher of the Yankees, was in bad shape. In addition, Kuroda, who is the most reliable rotation pitcher, was hit at his right hand by a line drive at the next game.

Misfortunes never come singly. This is the worst season opener of the New York Yankees in these twenty years.

In other words, it is worst now. I hope that it will not be worse than now.

Apr 3, 2013

A Cat in Love on a Spring Night

Last night, some stray cats in my neighborhood were fighting and shouting at each other, and running around on the roof of the house next door.

Each haiku should have a seasonal word, which was called a "kigo" (季語).

"A cat in love" (恋猫) is one of the seasonal words of spring. In spring, tomcats fight over mates.

Shuson Kato, who is a famous modern haiku poet, wrote a haiku about a cat in love:

A cat in love
Licks a dish at once
And goes calling

恋猫の皿舐めてすぐ鳴きにゆく 加藤楸邨

I'm wondering if I will also hear cats in love calling tonight.

A cat in love is
Running through
The dark night

暗闇を駆け抜けてゆく恋の猫 山羊庵