Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Well, that was ugly. I still have one more exam left before starting the ritual disembowelment. But I think the non-Western language adventure may be ending. I've never studied so inefficiently or had so much trouble memorizing a few things. And I also underestimated the time required throughout the semester. I just hope to survive at this point.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Learning Japanese

Learning Japanese this semester was a very different educational experience than any I've had since seventh grade. That's when I started learning Spanish, which was my first foreign language.

What I've liked most about the class:
-- keeping a blog was a new and fun experience for me. I probably didn't maximize its possibilities as a language-learning tool. Still, the prospect of writing about Japan and Japanese culture (even in English) made me much more aware of Japan-related things during my time on the internet. I think I learned a fair bit about Japan just by reading news articles and the like that I probably would have skipped if I hadn't started studying Japanese and keeping a blog.
-- I'm happy to have learned a new alphabet (hiragana, katakana, and a couple kanji). This feels like an accomplishment.
-- I got on to the elevator in my apartment building the other day with an Asian. She was closest to the buttons, so she asked me what floor. I said "13" and it took her a while to find the right button. "My English is not very good," she apologized. "Oh, where are you from?" I asked. After she said Japan, I said something in Japanese. She practically screamed, "Oh! you speak Japanese?!" Happily, the elevator reached the 13th floor just then, and I got off. But I was happy to know that if I had only 10 seconds or so, I could say something in Japanese and give a Japanese person the illusion that I could speak the language.
-- Class always seemed to go quickly and efficiently.
-- Just memorizing stuff was a challenge for me; it's been a while since I've had to learn in this way.

If I had to complain:
-- I'm not a big fan of the yellow textbook. In my opinion, it doesn't always have enough explanation or enough examples for language use. For instance, it seems that several things we had to know about which verbs take which particles in different instances were only communicated in class. Then, as class often went quickly, I often didn't take very helpful notes. So I'd be left without a written record of something that might have been important.
In fact, it seemed that the yellow textbook was like a summary of important points in some more detailed textbook elsewhere, which we didn't have ("The Main Textbook"). I realize that introductory books should not be overwhelming, but this one seemed a little too scant compared to some of the things we were asked to do in class and in homework assignments.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Stay tuned

I owe a post on learning Japanese this semester, and I've started thinking about it, でも わたしは げんき じゃ ありません、(fever and cold all weekend, but it's improving...) so I'm going to wait until I can think a little more clearly, and positively. In the event that I fall asleep in a couple minutes and never wake up, I will say that I enjoyed learning Japanese very much, and I thought that class was challenging but good (challenging and good, in my better moods). Also, love to my family.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Research Question

Will I write a better-than-average blog post after ordering delivery from Caffe Swish? I got shrimp and vegetable tempura as an appetizer ($7.50) and grilled chicken with mashed potato in spicy garlic sauce -- Japanese-style, according to the menu ($10.95). And the salad with the entree, rather than miso soup. (Salad = lettuce.)

My Chinese friend's reaction to hearing that I was ordering Swish: "nasty!" But then: "actually japanese food at swish is not too bad..."

Columbia Cottage does not have these things but CC has fortune cookies... So I might or might not write better blog posts after eating Swish's Japanese food, but I will never learn that "[I] have a deep interest in all that is artistic," or that "Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm," as I have by ordering Sesame Chicken from CC. And I can now ask a Chinese speaker for a tasty bedtime snack of "niu-nai and you-yu" (milk and squid, apparently). And then there was the other fortune I saved, but can't find at the moment, that said something like, "Stop searching for happiness. It is sitting right beside you." I thought I could use that someday in lieu of an engagement ring, for which the going rate now is apparently 1/4 of annual salary. The fortune is at least as romantic as "I want you to cook miso soup for me for the rest of my life," which this article claims to be a typical Japanese proposal line. (I personally would ask for spaghetti or french toast.)

(But my Chinese friend's reaction to hearing that I sometimes order from CC: "omg!!!!")

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Glass a Day for the Heart

Hakone. Des Japonais fêtent l’arrivée du Beaujolais et l’ouverture d’un « Beaujolais Nouveau Spa ». (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi). Link here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ashita no class

I'm always so happy, momentarily, when Sensei sends an email entitled "Ashita no class." A snow day! But then I realize that "no" is not English, but romaji, and my disappointment is so great that I can't help but write a blog post about it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Technology finally gives us something good

Go here, turn on your computer sound, and switch to "manic mode."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


For the first time last night, as far as I know, Japanese class figured in my dream. Conveniently, the NY Times has a story on dreams today, here.

What kind of dream was it? Well, I'll just quote the paper and you can take a guess: "as a host of studies have shown, most of our dreams are bad."

Interestingly, this science-section story features a creative video. But is it a realistic portrayal of dream-work or an imitation of Bunuel-Dali surrealism, or both? My first impression is that it's a fairly predictable imitation on its own merits--but it's transfixing as an illustration to a science story in the NY Times.

So, music: given this intrusion, and my recent, um, study habits, Morissey's "The More You Ignore Me the Closer I Get" seems appropriate (where I am "you" and Japanese is "I"):

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Rummaging through my past on youtube, I came across this curiosity:

"If I Had a Hammer" was one of my parents' standard lullabies, and I still prefer it sung a cappella, half as fast (at most), and by my mother. She has a singing voice only a son could love, but for me she's next to Joan Baez (to whom she seems to bear some resemblance -- from a sufficient distance -- in pictures from the late 60s):

Sunday Times

I'm phoning this one in (わたしはてんわをします、as it were) because the New York Times is making things too easy (やさしい):

1. The first article, "Fearing Crime, Japanese Wear the Hiding Place," is about clothing that doubles as urban camouflage to elude would-be criminals.

"Japan’s ideas about crime prevention are a product of deeper cultural differences. While Americans want to protect themselves from criminals, or even strike back, the creators say many Japanese favor camouflage and deception, reflecting a culture that abhors self-assertion, even in self-defense. 'It is just easier for Japanese to hide,' Ms. Tsukioka said. 'Making a scene would be too embarrassing.'"

Do not miss the slide show.

2. The second article is a profile of a Japanese royal, cousin of the current Emperor.

"NEVER tight-lipped about his recurring battle with cancer, he still surprised many Japanese by admitting that he was an alcoholic and checking himself into rehab over the summer. Family problems, he explained.

"The inevitable strain of a quarter-century marriage, a cousin’s cryptic comments, existential questions about the nature of family and life itself, all of this, he said openly, had contributed to his heavier-than-usual drinking."

Just when I was doubting whether I chose the right language this semester... thank you NY Times!

Thursday, October 18, 2007



Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Contrary to what was said in class today, NYのちかてつはべんりじゃありません。 It is an unpredictable hellhole. (Upcoming dilemma: will it drive me to Murray Hill, or will I bite the bullet and live elsewhere?)

とうきょうのちかてつはすてきです--if you're short. I thought Paris, DC, Rome, and Vienna were ok; London and Prague were adventures. Brussels, Lille, and Seoul were pretty good. I still think that riding a subway is like being in a sci-fi movie--the subway is a marvel of human ingenuity, but more dystopian than not.

American Cartoons in Japan

My one-stop shop for Japanese culture, The Wall Street Journal, delivers again. A Page One story yesterday was "Cartoon Characters Get Big Makeover for Overseas Fans." (The WSJ always has one quirky front-page story. I think this is the third in a month about Japan, after the air conditioning story and the cellphone novel report.) I excerpt at length for those who don't have subscriptions:

Characters occasionally thrive despite their foreignness. When Nickelodeon looked into bringing SpongeBob SquarePants to Japan, market research said the show was bound to flop. Japanese viewers were believed to favor characters whose appearance exudes warmth and comfort, a concept known in Japanese as iyashi. Iyashi characters -- typically round, with no mouth and small eyes -- rose to prominence in Japan during the long-running economic slump that began in the early 1990s, when people were anxious and uncertain about the future.

SpongeBob, with his square body, huge mouth, buckteeth, big bug eyes and somewhat annoying personality, was the antithesis of iyashi. But viewers didn't mind: Nearly two million households soon tuned into the show every day. One thing that may have helped is that SpongeBob lives in an undersea world without humans and overt cultural references. "There is very little about SpongeBob that is 'American,'" says Cyma Zarghami, president of the Nickelodeon MTV Networks Kids and Family Group.

When Craig McCracken created the Powerpuff Girls show, he deliberately gave it what he thought was a "Japanese look." But when the show first aired in Japan in 2001, it failed to attract a wide audience. So Cartoon Network decided to reinvent the characters to boost its appeal in Japan, an idea Mr. McCracken welcomed.

In their transcreation, Blossom, Buttercup and Bubbles got Japanese names and the lives of typical Japanese junior-high-school students. Since Japanese kids like to dress up like their favorite characters, the girls got more realistic outfits, with miniskirts, matching vests and hip-hugging belts.

Toei Co., the Japanese animation house brought in to help rework the characters, kept the original Powerpuff premise of crime-fighting girls with superhuman powers. To appeal to a preference among Japanese children for longer, more dramatic plots, it made the seven- to 11-minute shows 15 to 20 minutes long. It also gave them a common Japanese theme: accepting people who are different.

"Monsters can be anyone who is different from us. If we change our attitude, they can become our friends," says Hiromi Seki, a producer at Toei who helped create the show. That's a particularly relevant message in Japan, where the pressures among children to conform are very intense.

In one episode, an evil character threatens to bring about an eruption of Mount Fuji that would make Tokyo unbearably hot and spark global climate change. In another episode, a heartbroken performer of traditional kabuki theater turns into a monster and wreaks havoc on his community.

"In Japan, girly love themes are a must," Ms. Seki says. When "Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z" was launched in Japan a year ago, the executives at Cartoon Network soon realized that the revamped plots and skimpier outfits not only attracted young girls, they also broadened the audience to include animation-obsessed adult men known in Japan as otaku, or geeks, who were also fans of the original.

So the network came out with special consumer goods like bookmarks, limited-edition DVDs and pop music targeted at viewers like Hironobu Kamata, a 42-year-old manager of a copyright office in Tokyo. Mr. Kamata wakes up every Saturday morning to watch the Powerpuff Girls.

His favorite character is Miyako Goutokuji, the blond girl known as Bubbles in the U.S. "I love it all! The characters are so cute," says Mr. Kamata.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I had a feeling we'd learn a couple sooner or later. Which reminds me of the song my French teacher used for adjective day: Léa by Louise Attaque (apologies for the video, which is clearly not the band's).

Monday, October 15, 2007

What Makes a Good Podcast?

Sensei has asked us to post on what makes a good podcast. I've actually never listened to a podcast before. And I don't have an ipod, which I assume is related. Clearly, my idea of a good podcast is one that rants like a cranky old Luddite.

But seriously: A good podcast would be not too boring and not too dumb. I hesitate to suggest more specific criteria until I learn more about podcasts.

But in honor of the Chinese Communist Party's National Congress, which started today, and of my recent readings on the Chinese Cultural Revolution, I further suggest that a good podcast avoids:
-- blind actionism
-- adventurism
-- ultraleftism
-- ultrarightism
-- capitulationism
-- snakes, dragons, and poisonous weeds
-- revisionism
-- waving the red flag to oppose the red flag
-- the Lui-Deng line
-- opposing the principle of being both red and expert
-- opportunist deviations
-- great-power chauvinism

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday post

Thank you to all the commenters on my last post. However, I'm now forced to take drastic measures to ensure that my comment-numbers revert to the mean: I will write the rest of this post in French.

But first, congratulations to the girl who refused to show me the Yasakuni shrine when I was in Tokyo: she just got a job at NHK, which is apparently the Japanese BBC. (I didn't know what the shrine was at the time; another friend suggested that we go there. Instead, we visited a Buddhist shrine, a private garden, and a museum for a Japanese movie legend, Torasan. (Sensei, sound familiar?) Of course, there was no English in this museum, but she was sweet and patient. And I ate soba noodles for the first time.)

So the French. You might have noticed that this blog is almost entirely in English. Well, Sensei tells us that writing in Japanese is The Next Big Thing. But unlike my more advanced classmates, I'll have to ease my way out of English by writing in another foreign language first.

Je m'excuse d'avance: j'écris sous le signe d'un rhum imminent et souffre donc d'un grand narcissisme, avec mes souvenirs d'enfances (des offices de ma mère...), etc. Mais je me sens aussi obligé de rendre ce blogpost assez intéressant pour ceux qui s'obstinent à le lire:

Malgré ce que peut laisser croire les romans de portables (q.v.), les japonais ne sont pas assez chauds, paraît-il. J'ai lu qu'ils avaient des relations intimes les moins fréquemment des nations développées (43 fois par an en moyen). Et ensuite un article dans Le Monde sur les conséquences démographiques: des experts préconisent la disparition des japonais en 800 ans. Mais qui sait: 800 ans, c'est longtemps, et puis les japonais ne sont peut-être pas les plus froids, mais les plus honnêtes, ou les plus modestes, en répondant aux sondeurs.

En réponse à une remarque hier sur mon post précédent: à mon avis il est dégueulasse de voir certains japonais se cacher derrière les bombes atomiques pour minimiser leurs crimes et leur responsabilité pour la deuxième guerre mondiale. Certes, le bombardement était un événement horrible, mais il figurait dans une grande série d'événements horribles. Les alternatifs n'auraient pas été forcément mieux, et d'ailleurs il aurait fallu 50 bombes atomiques en plus pour tuer autant de civils japonais que le nombre de victimes des crimes de guerre japonaises. J'ajoute qu'un ami asiatique a été scandalisé par les propos cités, surtout sur la défense (ou même le déni) de l'impérialisme japonais. Si on était en Chine en 1967, disons, je serais tenté d'écrire une affiche accusant quelqu'un d'être un Khrushchev.

Et passant du coq à l'âne (expression que j'adore -- pour sa traduction mot par mot en anglais, gardant les racines), j'ai enfin lu un livre en français! C'est le premier en deux ans, je craigns. C'était Le Vent par Claude Simon: un roman intéressant, mais aussi frustrant et un peu pédant.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Article on Japan

In the New York Times:

"Already 78 years old and in failing health, the Rev. Shigeaki Kinjo no longer wanted to talk about that fateful day 62 years ago toward the end of World War II when he beat to death his mother, younger brother and sister.

"Brainwashed by Japanese Imperial Army soldiers into believing that victorious American troops would rape all the local women and run over the men with their tanks, Mr. Kinjo and others in his village here in Okinawa thought that suicide was their only choice. A week before American troops landed and initiated the Battle of Okinawa in March 1945, Japanese soldiers stationed in his village gave the men two hand grenades each, with instructions to hurl one at the Americans and then to kill themselves with the other. [...]

"Mr. Kinjo agreed to tell his story again because the Japanese government is now denying, in new high school textbooks, that Okinawans had been coerced by Imperial troops into committing mass suicide. [...]

"After the Americans landed, Japanese soldiers expelled Okinawans from shelters and used them as human shields. Thousands are believed to have committed suicide in villages occupied by Japanese soldiers; mass suicides did not take place where there were no soldiers."

Friday, October 5, 2007

An Open Letter to My Professors

Dear Professors,

If I had special powers, I assure you that my very first exercise of them would be to arrive to class on time, every single day. Alas, I have none.

It pains me nearly as much as it must pain you when I lumber in late with my laptop. Is it not richly ironic that I myself taught for two years, and nothing (to exaggerate slightly) galled me so much as my students' tardiness?

(Even if my only special power were that of invisibility, and I could thereby sidestep the drama of a conspicuous late entrance, I realize that you might still find it unsettling if I simply showed up in my seat five minutes into class.)

So it goes without saying that I sympathize deeply with your vexation--I share it, in fact. If I had any power at all to alleviate it, please believe me when I say that I would not fail to do so.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007



Self-portrait as a dogu:

Monday, October 1, 2007

Another Friend Gets Engaged

Japanese connection: He once dated a Japanese girl, and a half-Japanese girl, but his fiancee is Chinese. (He's of Vietnamese ethnicity.)

"True Love Will Find You in the End," Daniel Johnston:

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Division Champs

The Phillies are going to the playoffs! Going into today, the last day of the season, the Phils and Mets were tied for first in the NL East. The Phils just beat the Nationals 6-1 while the Mets were blown away by the Marlins. And there's even a Japanese connection! Tokyo-born Tadahito Iguchi made it 4-1 in the 6th inning with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly.

I still remember watching every pitch of the 1993 playoffs, the last time the Phillies reached the World Series... I still remember Mike Schmidt's retirement speech...

But now I don't even have a TV in my apartment. Am I doomed to play out the World Series scene in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, staring at my computer screen?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Japanese Cellphone Novels

Wow. The Wall Street Journal this morning has a story about Japanese cellphone novelists, here, along with some excerpts from novels. (If you don't have a WSJ subscription and want to read it, I can email you the article, which will give you access. Let me know.)

The WSJ summarizes three plots and gives excerpts from each:

"What the Angel Gave Me" by Chaco

Summary: Mai Hinata, a 10th-grade high school girl, meets Kagu -- a boy "with a face as beautiful as a girl's" -- through a friend, and gradually falls in love with him. He loves her, too, but misunderstandings get in the way, and they end up dating other people for a while. Mai, unable to bear it any longer, eventually gathers the courage to confess her love to him. She asks Kagu to come see her, but he dies in a motorcycle accident on his way there. Mai finds out five and a half years later that Kagu had broken up with his girlfriend the morning he died and had planned to confess his love for her, too.

"Clearness -- An Eternally Pure Love Story" by Towa

Summary: Sakura is a 20-year-old college student who has sex for money to fund her shopping addiction. After her customers leave her apartment, she spends her time spying on Reo, a young, beautiful and (dyed) blond-haired boy, who works at a male escort service across the street. One day, Reo pays her a visit, and so starts an unlikely friendship. But Reo has a troubled past. He is the son of a prostitute who worked for his current pimp and died before she could repay money that she owed. He himself entered the business when he graduated from junior high school. Though Reo refuses to make love to Sakura (he has a policy of not having sex outside of work), the two fall in love and become inseparable until Reo gets into a fight with Sakura's boyfriend and gets him into a car accident. Reo turns himself in, and Sakura moves to Okinawa to wait for him at their dream destination.

"Love Sky -- A Heartbreaking Love Story" by Mika

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Mika meets Hiro, a tall, intimidating boy with dyed brown hair and countless ear piercings, through a friend. The two start dating, but suffer greatly. First, Mika is gang-raped by some boys sent by Hiro's ex-girlfriend. Then, Mika gets pregnant with Hiro's baby and loses it, to their great sadness. Though Hiro stands by Mika through it all, he starts acting strangely and abruptly breaks up with her. Two and a half years later, she finds out that he is dying from cancer and had broken up with her to protect her from the pain of his death. She rushes to the hospital and spends his last days at his side. After his death, she discovers she's pregnant again, but loses the baby.

(I must be getting old -- I can't imagine reading these, much less on a cellphone. But it's true that my typical fare would make for bad cellphone reading. I do remember seeing a Kurosawa movie in which a young doctor leaves his fiancee because he's contracted syphilis during a medical operation in WWII. She never finds out why he left. I watched it in a movie theater.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Class Assignment

Sensei asked our opinion about what makes a good blog. "Your comments will serve as a guideline for you at the end of the semester when your own blogs and those of your classmates’ will be evaluated."

A good blog for me would be well-written and interesting -- good style and good content. But these are such subjective qualities that I don't think they should serve as criteria for evaluation.

I find sensei's question difficult, in part because I don't keep my own blog or read other people's personal blogs (so far). None of my close friends keeps a blog. The blogs I read are professional or impersonal, like the Wall Street Journal's blogs on various topics or Arts & Letters Daily, which is a collection of links to articles that a few academics find interesting. (AL Daily has inspired certain posts, where I just link to things I've enjoyed reading or seeing.) But the qualities of these blogs seem relatively inapplicable to our personal blogs for Japanese class.

I think the criteria for evaluation should reflect the purpose and guidelines of the blog. Such as (pasting from the Class Blog Page):

"You can write about anything (well, as long as it's legal), for example, activities you do after class, what you would like to do in Japanese, and even suggestions/complaints about our Japanese class."
"Expressing your thoughts, feelings, opinions etc. to others (me, classmates, Japanese students in other schools, Japanese-speaking people) in Japanese and/or other languages of your choice)."
"Remember, you are encouraged to express yourself about any topics in any language."

So, I'd say that a good blog, for evaluation purposes, is one that tries in good faith to meet these criteria.

Reading Notes: The Somers Mutiny

(No Japanese connection.)

In 1842 a Navy captain suspected mutiny on his ship. He executed three sailors without trial, including the son of the Secretary of War. The ensuing public debate concerned (1) whether there was actually a mutiny conspiracy and not just a few jokes about one, and (2) if so, whether it was necessary to execute the men immediately, rather than imprisoning them until the ship reached shore and then instituting a court-martial, as the law required.

A contemporary newspaper editorial: "It would seem...that a panic or mania prevailed...concocting mutiny out of Greek letters and nothing. It is probably the greatest farce, ending in an awful tragedy, that ever was enacted since the creation."

A few random notes:

Captain Mackensie wrote in his report that Spencer, alleged chief mutineer, "was in the habit of amusing the crew by making music with his jaw, he had the faculty of throwing his jaw out of joint, and by the contact of the bones playing with accuracy and elegance a variety of airs." With "elegance"?

Note to self: "I have learned by experience and observation, that nine-tenths of all the scrapes men get into are occasioned by writing or saying too much." Philip Hone, diary, 12/29/1842.

It's refreshing to see that some of our expressions are not recent Hollywood inventions: "I told him that if I saw him making any further signs I would blow his brains out." 12/30/1842 testimony.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Introductions, Lies, and True Denials

Now that we must write self-introductions for class, I think of my self-introduction below (first post):

"I am not a doctor. I am not 25. I am not Korean. Nice to meet you."

This is silly, but I think denials of this sort are interesting. They can evoke counterfactual worlds, as where I am a 25-year-old Korean doctor. More interestingly, they involve selection: out of the innumerable things I'm not, why choose "doctor," "25," and "Korean"? So these denials require an active intelligence (I don't say an "intelligent intelligence"), which can set them apart from simple reporting.

So Wallace Stevens in "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock":

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Comments on Class

Sensei asked us to comment on class in a blog post.
1. I think sensei runs class efficiently. There's no dead-air time.
2. Speaking with a partner or in small groups works better in this class than in a previous language class, perhaps because of (a) class size; (b) sensei's vigilance; and (c) the fact that we're given short, discrete tasks and the class quickly regroups.
3. Compared to previous classes, there seems to be less writing and reading so far. I'm used to learning grammar, in particular, by filling in blanks and the like ad nauseum. But that's probably not the best way to learn anyway.
4. I might have appreciated a quick overview of the structure of Japanese and its main differences from English before jumping into particulars. Things like syntax, use of verbs, tenses, pronouns, adjectives, declensions, etc. Maybe I just didn't do that homework assignment and will have to eat crow.
5. I knew no Japanese coming in, and the pace seems pretty quick to me. But the pace for grading purposes seems more indulgent.

I got an A in his Freud class

Three recent articles on Freud by a former professor:

1. On Freud and his daughter: "Freud's authority with Anna was absolute; he had established it early in her life, in part by psychoanalyzing her himself. Looking back on the psychoanalysis, Anna said that her father never permitted her to indulge in halfway measures. He compelled her to offer the whole truth about everything, including her erotic life. It seems that she shared with him accounts of her sexual fantasies and of her initial forays into masturbation, and that Freud took it all in with characteristic equanimity. Anna emerged from the analysis grateful to her father and more committed to him than ever."

2. On Freud's late-life take on religion: "Judaism’s distinction as a faith, he says, comes from its commitment to belief in an invisible God, and from this commitment, many consequential things follow. Freud argues that taking God into the mind enriches the individual immeasurably. The ability to believe in an internal, invisible God vastly improves people’s capacity for abstraction. “The prohibition against making an image of God — the compulsion to worship a God whom one cannot see,” he says, meant that in Judaism “a sensory perception was given second place to what may be called an abstract idea — a triumph of intellectuality over sensuality.”

"If people can worship what is not there, they can also reflect on what is not there, or on what is presented to them in symbolic and not immediate terms. So the mental labor of monotheism prepared the Jews — as it would eventually prepare others in the West — to achieve distinction in law, in mathematics, in science and in literary art. It gave them an advantage in all activities that involved making an abstract model of experience, in words or numbers or lines, and working with the abstraction to achieve control over nature or to bring humane order to life. Freud calls this internalizing process an “advance in intellectuality,” and he credits it directly to religion."

3. On Freud as anti-authoritarian authoritarian: "Freud still manifests himself to us as a grand patriarch. Collectively we have thought about him as the father, as the one who is supposed to know. We have hoped he’d confer the truth — make us whole and happy. Of course, he cannot. But he has been different from all the other aspiring masters in that he has taught nothing so insistently as the need to dissolve our illusions about masters, and to be responsive to more moderate, subtle and humane sources of authority."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Drafting of the Securities Act of 1933

In April 1933, Felix Frankfurter assembled a group of three securities experts. "The team set to work on a Friday. By late Saturday they had a draft that, more than 60 years later, still constitutes the main body of the Securities Act. The Act is a masterpiece, an intellectual tour de force. It is fun to work with once you know how. For now, realize that when one works with the Securities Act, one plays a complex mental game devised by three exceptional minds, over a weekend, more than half a century ago. (Part of the probably apocryphal lore of securities law is that the Act was drafted not only over a weekend, but over a case of Scotch.)"
Soderquist & Gabaldon, Securities Law, 2004, 13.

Tenuous Japanese connection: Here's a presentation on the "Delawarization of Japanese Corporate Law" entitled "In the Shadow of Delaware? The Rise of Hostile Takeovers in Japan."

はい! Delaware からきました。

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Splitting the Baby

From my reading today, here are letters between spouses in the prelude to one of the most notorious child custody battles of mid-19th c. America.

Ellen to Gonzalve: Happiness I shall never know again; and all my earthly prospects, which a few years since seemed so fair, are darkened, never to be bright again! You alone can restore me to tranquility, by ceasing to pursue my child. My only care is watching over it -- my life is its happiness.

Gonzalve to Ellen: I do not wish my wife, if she does not return with the feelings of a wife for her husband; but I take this last occasion to make you reflect upon the immense responsibility that you are taking, not only with regard to myself and your child; but before God, and what you call society, in voluntarily deserting your husband, and concealing a child from its father.

Ellen to Gonzalve: The arrow has passed through my heart, and I am so unfortunate as to have no longer, there, a feeling towards you which would induce me, according to my conscience, either before God or the world, to live with you again as your wife.

Gonzalve to Ellen: There is a duty reposing on me as a father, as a Swiss, as a member of society, that leaves me no alternative. He is the natural inheritor of my estate, he is destined therefore to enjoy a position in his country, that he can find no where else, and only if he is brought up there: I am surprised that you wish to deprive him of it.

At trial, mom won custody of the boy. The case heralded a shift from legal paternalism (e.g., in the eyes of the law then, "The husband and wife are one person; that person is the husband") to maternalism -- the presumption that children are best off with their birth mothers.
(Michael Grossberg, A Judgment for Solomon: The D'Hauteville Case and Legal Experience in Antebellum America, 1996.)

Tenuous Japanese connection here: "The image of fathers is gradually changing in Japan as younger men eschew their own dads' hands-off approach in favor of closer involvement..."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Patti Smith and Four Dance Scenes

1."Gloria" live. The pinnacle of Western music?

2. "Thriller" performed by Filipino prisoners!
3. An infectious scene in Godard's Band of Outsiders.

4. A wistful dance in Fellini's Amarcord.
5. And Napoleon Dynamite.
And I don't even like dancing.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Apologies to classmates, but this blog might be useful as an online scrapbook for my future reference, if no one else's.

In that vein, some anarchistic evening entertainment from Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung, a Belgian band that I saw in France:
1. "Two Fast Dreams"

2. "Pedanterie"

3. "Hot Shades"

4. "Rabbit Eye Movement"

Maybe It's the Best Thing for You

Cue the band:

...and congratulations to Julia!

Hmm, what's a Japanese connection? Julia will be closer to the average age for Japanese women to marry (27.3) than to the average age for American women (25), according to this list. Of course, Julia looks like she's closer to the average American age.

To UVA Students

I see that our sensei has linked to the blog project of a UVA Japanese class. If any UVA students have too much time on their hands and have made it here, I suggest:
--history classes with Megill, Kett, and Zunz
--English classes with Edmundson, Jost, and Tucker
--movies at Newcomb Hall
--more movies at the library
--the used-bookstore on Elliewood Ave., and another downtown
--enjoy the campus
--don't live in Hereford, but in Brown or off-campus after 1st or 2nd year
--don't become alcoholics
--don't worry about your GPA, but try to finish over 3.4
--check out your professors' salaries, which are public information and published somewhere online!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Japanese Women Sweat at Home, Japanese Men at Work

according to these stories:

"Japanese Wives Sweat as Markets Reel," NY Times.

"Japan's War on Air Conditioning," Wall Street Journal (subscription req'd -- it's a good deal for students).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


hajime mashite
watashi wa
isha ja arimasen.
25 sai ja arimasen.
kankoku-jin ja arimasen.

dozo yoroshiku.



1. Many years ago my mom suggested that I learn Japanese, when it appeared that everyone would soon be speaking it. The idea was soon forgotten. To her credit, she has not recommended Chinese in recent years.

2. In 9th grade I had a choice, in my history class, of spending a quarter on Japan or China. I chose Japan. I didn't learn anything and have regretted my choice. I had a dream several years ago that would have made a great movie, set during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

3. I never read Hiroshima mon amour, although my French professor assigned it. (But I saw the movie.) Twice I failed to get past the first chapter of William Gibson's Neuromancer, which I believe is set in Tokyo. I did like Blade Runner, with its Tokyo-inspired setting. (Speaking of which.) I liked the documentary Sans Soleil and also prefer cats. I did not enjoy Lost in Translation. I've seen very few Japanese films. Favorites include Nobody Knows, Throne of Blood, and Dead or Alive (Hanzaisha). I've learned that calling someone "hime" is not the quickest way to her heart.