Thursday, November 29, 2007

One more week

Man oh man oh man... no pun intended...

School is almost out! Just one more week. Then I can look forward to grading finals and then doing research over the winter break. Whooppee!

This semester has gone by soooooooooooooo fast, I can't believe it. Did someone speed up the space time continuum and forget to send me the memo? I swear, I thought Halloween was just a couple of weeks ago, and here we are just about to enter December.

Oh well.

On a side note, my schools played each other last night. I mean, there really was no conflict for me. When UCLA was going up and down the court, there was no sense of guilt or remorse whatsoever. Go Bruins!

Now if only some of that basketball success would rub off on the football team. This Saturday is our rivalry game, but I have a baaaaaaaad feeling that we're gonna have our asses handed to us... in not too polite a fashion.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Hate Battlestar Galactica...

Because it's so frackin' good.

Saturday night, the SciFi channel aired Battlestar Galactica: Razor. This story is supposed to satiate us while we wait for the final season of BSG due sometime in 2008. But it backfired. This story did not satisfy me one iota. All it did was whet my appetite for more, MORE, MORE BSG. The show is so gritty, so on the edge that it is just too cool for TV.

Warning! Mild spoilers ahead: Razor gives us the back story of what happened on the Pegasus under Admiral Cain before it met up with Galactica. The Cylon war starts unexpectedly for the Pegasus with nuclear attacks and Cain turns into a brutal commander as she is driven to seek revenge on the cylons. She will resort to any means to sustain her ship and continue her agenda--shooting a subordinate and stripping civilian ships of necessary items are nothing to Cain.

All this background is provided through the memories/ flashbacks of Cain's former bridge officer Kendra Shaw, who follows in the footsteps of her mentor, making reckless tactical decisions as Lee Adama's new XO on the Pegasus.

This two hour special was great, if you're a BSG fan. An in your face drama about the brutality of war. The actual story was so-so, mostly fleshing out stories that were mentioned in passing in previous seasons. The show also gave a glimpse of the genesis of the human cylons. But it was too brief to mean anything significant now--except one of the humans rescued as part of this cylon experimentation looked like Grace Park. Hmmmm. I wonder if we get a good look at those rescued humans, will we discover the identities of the real cylons amongst the human population?

Speaking of which, I was disappointed that Boomer--Grace Park--hardly appeared at all. But Admiral Cain was pretty hot. She was a memorable character as Ensign Ro, the former Bajoran rebel on ST:TNG, but I never thought of her as hot. But as Admiral Cain. Zowie! Maybe it's the uniform... or maybe her rank--that's her on the very left in the soon-to-be-released DVD covers above (yes, she's a bit airbrushed in that pic.) In any event, I'm glad they made Razor if for no other reason than to give Michelle Forbes one more appearance in uniform.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm tired, but I'm cooking... at least part of the meal. I am currently soaking the turkey in brine and I made the cranberry sauce a couple of hours ago. Oh yeah, I also made some Rice Crispie squares for the kids who will be visiting us for dinner.

Anyway, have a good one everyone.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Literature in Translation

And here I thought I had caught up with all my work

Excuse me while I prepare for next semester, even as I struggle to keep pace with this semester. I will be teaching J-Lit in Translation, as I always do, and am considering adding a few new books, so I will be listing books that I might consider. Just think of this post as me talking to myself. But please feel free to comment on any of the books you have already read, or if you have an suggestions.

The class is a survey course, so the books should be basic and representative of the author, and the authors should be representative of J-Lit. So that should narrow it down to, say, 40 poets and authors? But I only have 15 weeks.

Early Modern

Until recently, I have had students by an Early Modern anthology put out by Columbia University Press. The selection is wide and varied, and the book is relatively inexpensive given its breadth. But I think there might be too much variety. I would rather have more samples of Basho--at least one entire travel journal and maybe even a complete haikai series--and more selections by Saikaku. There is perhaps too much stuff that is not necessary for a survey course. So this year, I've decided to choose just two books and perhaps supplement them with some handouts.

  • Basho's Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho. Trans. Barnhill, State University of New York Press. #0-7914-6414-8
  • Saikaku. Popular fiction. I can't figure out a book yet. Anyone have any suggestions?


  • Natsume Soseki, Kokoro. Trans. McClellan, Dover Publications. #0486451399
  • Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories, Trans. Rubin. Penguin Classics. #0143039849

Mid-20th century

  • Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, Seven Tales, which include the novella "Portrait of Shunkin" and other strangely half-misogynistic, half-masochistic stories like "Tattoo", "Aguri" and "Bridge of Dreams". Vintage. #0679761071
  • Kawabata Yasunari, Snow Country. "Izu Dancer" OR The Old Capital. Trans. Holman. Shoemaker & Hoard. #1593760329


  • Enchi Fumiko, The Waiting Years. Trans. Bester. Kodansha International. #477002889X
    Feminist tale... well, feminist for a woman writing in the 1950s. But its about a woman who has been abused all her life--husband cheats on her, even brings his mistress home to live with them--but finally gets her revenge when she... well, I won't spoil it for you.
  • Mishima Yukio. "The Boy Who Wrote Poetry", Confessions of a Mask. Peter Owen Ltd. #0720610311
    Both of these tell the story of the Mishima everyone seems to forget about, unless you're gay. Confessions is semi-autobiographical, describing Mishima's own struggles to somehow capture masculinity, while realizing that he is unable to deny his attraction to day laborers and a certain classmate in an all boy school.


  • Abe Kobo, The Boxman; film Face of Another. I think most people are famliar with Woman in the Dunes, which is okay, I guess, as a reflection of the loss of identity through corporate society. But Abe does a better job of the loss of identity and isolation in the modern world in The Boxman--the main character literally lives in his box--no, no, no, he isn't homeless, he actually wears it 24/7! And The Face of Another deals with a man who loses his face in a chemical (modern) accident, but creates a new one with a newly invented material (modern, again) so he can eventually seduce his wife as a stranger. Admit it. You wanna read both of them now, right?
  • Nakagami Kenji, The Cape. Trans. Zimmerman. Stone Bridge Press. #1933330430
    Violent, sexist and representative of Japan's untouchable class, the burakumin.
  • Murakami Ryu, 69. Trans. McCarthy. Kodansha Amer Inc, #4770019513.
    I'd rather read Coin Locker Babies, but I think its too long.
  • Murakami Haruki, Elephan Vanishes. trans. Rubin. Vintage. #0679750533

This list is pretty threadbare... I will be adding and subtracting from this list so you can just ignore me while I work.

edoption #1045559

  • Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Five women who loved love. Translated by Wm. Theodore de Bary, with a background essay by Richard Lane, and the 17th-century illus. by Yoshida Hambei. 1956 PZ3 .I235 Fi
  • Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Great mirror of male love / Ihara Saikaku ; translated, with an introduction, by Paul Gordon Schalow. 1990 PL794.N37 E5 1990
  • [ 7 ] Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Life of an amorous man. Translated by Kengi Hamada. Illus. by Masakazu Kuwata. 1964 PZ3.I235 Lg
  • [ 9 ] Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Tales of Japanese justice / by Ihara Saikaku ; translated by Thomas M. Kondo, Alfred H. Marks. 1980 DS 21 .A83 no.24
  • [ 10 ] Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. This scheming world. Translated by Masanori Takatsuka and David C. Stubbs. GW 1965 PL898.I38 S3
  • [ 11 ] Ihara, Saikaku, 1642-1693. Worldly mental calculations : an annotated translation of Ihara Saikaku's Seken munezanyo / by Ben Befu. -- 1976 PL 794 .S413 1976

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An interesting day... for a Monday

I met my third Xangan today, Sunjun. He actually goes to the school where I teach, and probably takes classes from people I know. o-mi-god! He had dropped by and left me a note quite a while ago--a year ago? Two? I forget. But we finally met. Hope he wasn't too disappointed. If I knew he was coming, I would have wrapped myself in nori seaweed so he'd recognize me right away. As it was, he pretty much recognized me, and I him. He came just before class, so we didn't get a chance to talk much. Not that I'd give him too much advice on which courses to avoid... Of course, I would tell him to NEVER take a literature class from the O-man. He'd be bored out of his head.

Today, Monday, I got a long distance phone call from a former student asking for a letter of recommendation. You know, I thought I would be free from this once they graduated, but ... * sigh * Oh well... I'm pretty strict about writing letters of rec, however. I require that a student had already completed one class with me, three weeks advanced notification, a copy of their transcripts, a copy of the statement of purpose, and a copy of a previous paper--if possible, one that I have already commented on. I have had students accuse me of just making things difficult just so they won't ask me. Indeed, I don't want just any student tramping into my office demanding a letter of recommendation. I have guidelines for eligibility on my website at school and direct all inquiries there, and amazingly enough only half of them end up coming to my office--which is another requirement. Getting a letter of recommendation is a privilege, not a right, so a student should ask politely and properly in my office, not after class as an "oh, by the way." Nor by e-mail. Which is why this student called me from afar--like, what? 9000 miles? How far is Hawaii?

This is not to toot my own horn, but this student told me that her advisor suggested she contact me to get a letter similar to the one I wrote for her to get into grad school. Yes, my letter apparently left an impression. You know, I do things like comment on the students overall ability as reflected in the transcripts. I write about the interests of the student so that it dove-tails with the statement of purpose. I make reference to a paper the student wrote for me, so the reader is impressed by the fact that it was so good that I remembered it months later--although we all know now I had it in my hand when I wrote the letter. You know, I don't just write letters of recommendation. I craft them, tailor them, to the individual student. So how about a little appreciation, dudes...

Of course, it doesn't always work. A few years ago, one student was not even selected to be interviewed to the JET program. How pathetic is that?!? Not even an interview? How odd, I thought. Fortunately, she had a back up plan. I had written another letter for her--actually it was the same letter altered just slightly. So instead of going on the JET program, she went to Cambridge University in England on scholarship to study more Japanese stuff. Go figure. She wasn't good enough for JET, but good enough for Cambridge? If you ask me, JET did her a favor.

Anyway, so when I ask students for these different things for a recommendation, I don't do it for my health--just in case you may be reading this... which, by the way...

Today, Monday, I also found out a student in my Lit class, reads this blog regularly, a student I am just starting to become familiar with--in that teacher-student kind of way, of course. Oh gawd, I thought all the students who read my blog had graduated. Crap. I can't go back to writing what I really think. Hahahahha. just kidding.

I also received a message on my Facebook Wall from another student who recently told me she wouldn't be able to take my Lit class next semester. I told her how sad that made me, and she responded:

Alright, I might be committing academic suicide, but I don't care. I am taking your class! I will work something out, even if I have to beg the S**** Center!

Aaaaah, the pressure, the pressure.... Back to grading.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lazy Sunday

There should be a law, or rule, or somekind of religious commandment that states you must be lazy and do nothing once a week. I've been grading all weekend long--Literary Japanese and J-Lit in Translation midterms. It hasn't been too bad, as I've come to appreciate the benefits of multiple choice questions. Much easier to grade. But I also have essay to grade--a literature class cn't be all multiple choice, true-false and matching, right? Anyway, I think I'll go to sleep for now. Hope some of you have the luxury of a lazy Sunday.

2007.11.11--01:30, 6.58 mi.

Friday, November 09, 2007

As if I weren't there

Talking behind someone's back is not very good form. But it would seem to me that talking in front of someone as if they weren't there is probably worse and pretty rude.

Of course this is just my opinon.

In a recent proseminar class, one of my students responded to a classmate during a discussion on "Differance" by Jacque Derrida, and referenced something I had just said by refering to me as "he". Now, I am not one to be referred to in the third person when I'm in the room, so I had to comment, "Did she just call me 'he'?"

Hahahah. Anyway, this is a good student. She is dilligent, performs well and is generally very polite, and I am positive that she wasn't even trying to be rude. So I made the remark, not to embarrass her, but to point out that some people--including me--find it rude when treated in the third person in their presence. Were I to refer to someone in this way, I would feel like I was talking about them as if they were not there, i.e. invisible or unacknowledged. This is similar to talking to someone in a language that another person present doesn't understand. When I speak in Japanese in front of others--like with M or any other Japanese national who doesn't speak English--I always explain what we are talking about to the non-speakers who are present. I do this even when M and I are shopping and talking in front of a salesperson who's helping us. If I'm with a friend who speaks English, I will always speak in English. If they speak in Japanese, I will either explain to the non-speaker, or ask the Japanese speaker to switch to English. It is just too rude for me to talk as if the other person was not there.

Perhaps I am being too sensitive. But I wonder if this has to do with being a minority in the US. When I grew up, I found myself in many situations in which "mainstream" people talked about me or my family in our presence as if we didn't exist--and for all intents and purposes, a few decades ago, in a more unenlightened society, we really didn't exist. Asian youths today may not have experienced this--or at least not as much as the previous generation--and you would be lucky, for it is not a very good feeling. I know people who switch languages intentionally--from English to Japanese--so others will not understand them. How rude is that?!? I will remind them that if you don't want some people to know what's being said, then talk about it when they are not around, not in their presence.

Anyway, I hope I didn't make this student feel too awkward--because as I said, I'm positive she didn't mean to be rude. Do you think I was mean?.

2007.11.09--0:35, 3.18

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Going unconscious

There is just too much work. They should have an anti-over-worked-teacher law on the books. I am exhausted. I just finished grading the midterms for my readings in modern Japanese course. Today was the J-Lit in Translation midterm, so I have a brand new stack of exams and essays in front of me. And I just finished making the Literary Japanese midterm for tomorrow, which means another stack.

Not only that, I had to take an online exam yesterday--or was it two days ago? The past two weeks have been a blur. Anyway, I had to read some online material on Human Subject Testing. Yes, you'd be surprised what we do in Japanese language and literature these days. Actually, I am involved in a research project with my colleagues and part of the research requires that we take surveys on the efficacy of our product--a Japanese language textbook. Unfortunately, giving surveys constitute "human subject testing."

So I had to read this thing called the Belmont Report and a few other online "courses" so we don't abuse the people we survey... or something like that. I end up staying up all night because my colleague tells me on Tuesday that she has to submit paperwork by Wednesday on the primary researchers, including evidence of completion of the course. I delve into a series of online readings and take a series of online quizzes. Bleary-eyed and exhausted, I finish around 4:30 AM. Luckily, I pass...

... just barely. 75% is passing and I got 78%. I figure I took the course in one sitting and passed it in one attempt, so it's not too bad. Sure, the score isn't great, but I can now test human subjects. Hahahahhahaaa.Sounds kinda scary, don't you think?

So like I was saying. I've got all this other shit to do right in the middle of the semester, with midterms and papers literally adhering themselves to my body. And all I can think about is the next J-dorama I'm missing.

I think I'm gonna pass out...Someone catch me.

2007.11.04--1:01, 5.29

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Recently, I wrote a bit about how English is difficult for many Japanese. I thought I'd respond to some of the (edited) comments I received.

There are so many different shades of "fluent" that the more proficient I become at Japanese, the more I know what I actually don't know. If I were to just transplant myself and live here forever (Japan), I think I would need my wife to translate things for me, too (even though I could function quite well on my own, as is the case with your wife, it's the juicy drama that kills me).
Posted 10/26/2007 2:58 AM by Smart_Bad

Ah, the intelligent man. Indeed, I've been trying to learn Japanese since 1972. That's, what? 25 years? And I swear, I too feel as though the more I learn, the more I realize how much more I have to go. Japanese is wide and deep. As for your Japanese, understanding the juicy dramas will come in time.

there is the research on how we have trouble learning languages after about age twelve or so. or do you think it is more than that?
Posted 10/25/2007 1:02 PM by lightpinksheep

Yes, I think the two hemispheres of the brain completely separate--except for the corpus callosum that connects them. When the brain is still one big lump, information is freely and rapidly exchanged throughout the brain, so language learning--or rather acquisition--is easier. I think that's the explanation. But as far as Japanese are concerned, learning English goes beyond this. I've know people from Japan who have lived in the states for over 50 years and they still never learned English. It is definitely a mystery to me.

My mother has lived in the United States for over thirty years now and has spent most of it working as a registered nurse in the South. Her English is reasonable, but she still has difficulty understanding movies. I'm not sure if it's accents, slang, uncommon vocabulary, or just listening comprehension, but she has trouble keeping up. The only exception is when we turn on English subtitles in which case she has no problems (I think her reading comprehension is much better and faster than listening). Oh, and she has no problem with medical dramas as well.
Posted 10/25/2007 1:55 AM by SunJun

My wife is not Japanese but her first time in the US was after she married me. When we rent DVD's, we enable the English subtitles function. When there are no subtitles I translate for her. I'm not sure why English is so hard for Japanese. My mother has been here for 40 years and she still has trouble once in a while.
Posted 10/24/2007 11:15 PM by SammyStorm2

I think working in the US would make a significant difference in one's speaking abilities. My mother had virtually no English skills until she went to work in an environment where she had to use English everyday. While it was far from perfect, she could understand much more than before. Or at least she seemed to. It was hard to tell if she really understood the Cosby Show, but she laughed at all the right moments. As for M, she also uses the subtitles function, I have learned. When I was running on the treadmill in the basement, the Captions were always on. I'd get off and turn off the Captions because it blocks the lower part of the screen. Can't read the box score, you know? But the next day, the Captions were back on. What gives? It took me a while to figure out that M was turning it on to watch the Food Channel, or Travel Channel as she exercised. After we catch up on last year's Heroes, I'm hoping to use the Captions function for this years show. Then I could be a pinch hitter, so to speak. I would explain the parts that were particularly fast or slangy (read: difficult), but leave the rest to the Captions.

Wait a're married? Wasn't it a few months ago that you were infatuated with PW?
Oops, sorry...forgot to introduce myself. I'm a new reader; didn't mean to jump into the fray with such an accusatory opening, but I just got curious.

Posted 10/26/2007 12:38 AM by amazngrace

New readers are always welcome! So its no big deal if you get mixed up a bit at times. It probably has to do with my writing style and many readers know a lot about me, so I might skim past a lot of the details. Anyway, Yes, I'm married, and have been for seven years. In fact, this is my second go-round. PW was a young lady many of my peers had a crush on back in the 1980s when we were in college. When I first saw the model/TV personality, Marianne, I immediately thought of PW. They don't look exactly the same, but that's who I'd point to as a referent. I think Marianne is taller, but I'm pretty sure PW is much smarter.

2007.11.02--1:15, 6.53
2007.11.03--0:46, 3.95