September 30, 2007

Chapter 19 (The Shore in Twilight)


潭翠 [たんすい] Tansui (deep green)
The Hakuchi's foot is put into use as a seal in chapter two of A Thousand Leagues of Wind.

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September 27, 2007

Manji


An architectural kerfuffle recently broke out thanks to Google Maps, when a Navy barracks turned out to resemble a swastika when viewed from above. The swastika is actually an ancient Sanskrit symbol associated with holiness. That is, until the Nazis stole it and ruined it in the public consciousness.

In Japan, the left-facing swastika or manji (卍) is used to indicate a Buddhist temple. In this Google map of Kamakura, every manji symbol is a temple. If the opportunity presents itself, put Kamakura on your list of places to see when you're in Japan. It's an easy day trip from downtown Tokyo.

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September 24, 2007

"Shadow of the Moon" revisions


TP is the TokyoPop translation. EW is my translation.

Chapter 46

      1. TP: Either the sugar peddler had missed Rakushun, or the beastling had already left the town of Goryou .
      And I've no way of finding out which it was.
      Yoko hung her head where she stood on the highroad, still facing the gates in the distance.
      This is my punishment. This not knowing. Not being able to throw it all away.
      With a heavy heart, she turned and set out down the road alone.

      EW: Maybe the woman had overlooked him. There was no way for her to know for sure.
      Standing on the highway outside Goryou, Youko faced the city and bowed. She understood only that this was some sort of divine retribution. And that here, in this place, she had come at last to the line she could not cross.

"This not knowing" and the last sentence beginning "With a heavy heart" are not in the original. The sentence in the middle, though, is a more literal translation of the original: "Here, at this moment in time, the only thing she couldn't do was throw everything away."

The verb "throw" in this instance can be used metaphysically as well as physically, so I think my version hews closer to what "it" means to Youko (the antecedent is vague in the TokyoPop version).

      2. TP: She had spent so much time walking in the dark hours, she realized, that a part of her was convinced this whole country was a land of night where darkness was the norm and the harsh light of day no more than an unsettling dream.

      EW: Having traveled this way so often, Youko's experiences of this country were of nothing but night.

The key verb here means "to live in one's memories": "Youko's memories of this country were of nothing but night." TokyoPop waxes a tad too metaphorical and a tad too long.

      3. TP: After all, it was only the voice of her own fears. She didn't need the creature's presence to hear that.
      It is.
      Worth enough to abandon the one who saved it?
      I don't know. But I'm not going to give up.


      EW: He was the substance of her own conscience to begin with, so she didn't need him around to hear his voice clearly.
      So precious. But still the kind of life that throws a Good Samaritan to the wolves, no?
      "It may not be worth much, but right now it's the only life I've got. That's the way it is."

TokyoPop is right about the attribution of the reply to the previous question: "Do you really think your own life is so precious?" I combined these two lines when they should be separate:

      "Yes, it is."
      But still the kind of life that throws a Good Samaritan to the wolves, no?

      4. TP: Right now, Yoko thought, right now is for living.
      Yes. Living. Living and killing. Slaughtering demons, threatening people with your gleaming sword. You like the look of fear in their eyes, don't you?
      I only do what I have to do. I must go to En. I can't afford to wander. Once I'm there, I'll be able to lay down my sword.


      EW: Right now, all that mattered was staying alive.
      And killing youma and assaulting people.
      "For the time being, I don't have a choice. The only thing worth thinking about is getting to En as quickly as possible, no time for detours. If I can get to En, then at least I'll be able to face my enemies and settle things without using a sword."

The second sentence should be: And killing youma and putting people to the sword. The possessive isn't used. The rest of the additions are not in the original.

      5. TP: The rain fell more frequently as the days wore on, and Yoko guessed that it was now the rainy season in the west of Kou.

      EW: The rains increased. It may have been the rainy season.

The additions are not in the original.

      6. TP: Sometimes, the more belligerent folk would call the village guards. Once, an entire hamlet turned out to pursue her, and she was certain she would be stoned to death before she escaped. But sometimes she was invited in for a warm meal, often at the poorest of homes.

      EW: There were those who called the constables on her, as well as those who looked in the mood to give her a good beating and throw her out in the street. On the other hand, there were those who, despite their meager circumstances, would give her a meal to eat.

No mention of stones in the original. The only reference to a village is a "bunch of people/crowd/gang from a village had once seemed about to give her a beating."

      7. TP: Sometimes the more prosperous folks would let her stay on for a few days earn a handful of coins. [1] And thus Yoko moved from village to village, working when she could, drawing her sword and running when trouble loomed. She discovered whenever a village called its guards against her, security would be tight at all the neighboring villages, [2] and so she would camp out under the open sky until she reached an area where the people were less wary.
      The demons came, too, and in increasingly greater numbers but she barely paid them any attention at all. She fought, cleaned her sword, and moved on. [3]

      EW: Thanks to these jobs, she got herself a bed for the night and put aside a bit of money as well.
      She wandered from hamlet to hamlet, picking up work along the way. If trouble presented itself, she drew her sword and got out of there. If the constables were called out, everybody would get skittish for a while and it was back to roughing it until things cooled down. She was often attacked by youma, their numbers increasing bit by bit, but she was also getting used to fighting her enemies.

7.1. There's no mention of "more prosperous folks" in the original.
7.2. The TokyoPop version is more literal: "the villages would become more vigilent for a while."
7.3. There's nothing about cleaning her sword in the original.

      8. TP: About a month into her journey, Yoko was walking down a rural road when she heard a noise behind her [1] and looked back to find that she was being pursued by a group of men, village guards from a place she already left far behind. [2] Whenever she stopped in a village and met people there, she left a trail; perhaps it was unsurprising that somebody had picked up that trail and caught up to her.

      EW: She'd been traveling for a month when she spotted what seemed to be a bunch of gendarmes coming up the road after her. If she sought lodging, she'd leave a trail that could be tracked. She couldn't go leaving her calling card behind while she was being pursued or they would catch up with her eventually. But she knew all this and didn't let it knock her off her game. [3]

8.1. The addition is not in the original.
8.2. The addition is not in the original.
8.3. The original reads: "Because she knew this, it didn't especially confuse her." The previous sentence is an if-then statement: "If she left a trail behind, (then) the people pursuing her would surely catch up with her."

      9. TP: She fled into the mountains, losing her hunters in the trees and underbrush; but in the days that followed, she encountered more and more guards walking the highroad, and increasingly, she was forced to stay off the roadways and instead travel through the open country.

      EW: She headed up into the mountains and managed to shake them, but after that she saw soldiers on the road more and more often.

The additions are not in the original.

The online and offline browser versions have been updated.

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September 23, 2007

Chapter 18 (The Shore in Twilight)


Rousan's R&D department

匠師 [しょうし] shoushi (craftman + teacher/expert)
玄師 [げんし] genshi (occult + teacher/expert)
技師 [ぎし] gishi (art/technique + teacher/expert)

饕餮 [とうてつ] toutetsu (ravenous + voracious)
女怪 [にょかい] nyokai (female + mysterious/apparition

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September 21, 2007

Why I watch sumo


The most exciting wrestler in the tournament wins the most exciting bout of the tournament, as 9-3 Ama defeats 10-2 Goeido for a share of second place in the Autumn Basho. Keep in mind the masses involved here: Ama weighs in at 277 pounds, Goeido at 308 pounds. To skip all the prelims (sumo matches are a lot like horse races), the actual bout begins at about the 7:30 mark.

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September 19, 2007

FRB


The first time I heard "FRB" (pronounced using those English initials) in a Japanese news broadcast, I wasn't sure what they were talking about. It's the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. It's usually called "the Fed" in the English language press.

The recent Fed action on interest rates led all the news programs in Japan, an indication of how important the world's biggest economy is to the world's second-biggest economy. On the equivalent of NHK's Nightly Business Report, they parsed the Fed statement sentence by sentence in English with side-by-side Japanese translations.

I'd be curious to see what sense they managed to make of previous FRB chairman Alan Greenspan's "orotund stylings marked by barely penetrable syntax" (as Peggy Noonan puts it), which he now admits were purposely obtuse so as not to prematurely commit the Fed to future actions it might take.

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September 18, 2007

Functionless clothing items


That's what Great Britain's Department of Health calls ties. "They perform no beneficial function in patient care and have been shown to be colonized by pathogens." Ditto long-sleeved shirts, watches, and jewelry.

I've been avoiding long-sleeved shirts, jewelry, watches, and ties for years. Of course, I don't work in a hospital, but why risk contaminating my keyboard? It's good to see solid scientific evidence backing up my fashion choices.

In Japan, the "Cool Biz" campaign swaps less air conditioning for a tie-less, jacketless, sleeveless work environment. It seems to be taking, as it's not unusual to see government officials going tie-less in settings where you'd never see an American bureaucrat so attired.

On the other hand, on solemn occasions like the Japanese equivalent of Memorial Day, the prime minister wears a morning coat. I have to admit, it looks a lot better than standard business attire. Dress way up a few times a year, or don't bother. I could live with that.

It's time for this custom to go world-wide and year-round.

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September 16, 2007

Chapter 17 (The Shore in Twilight)


大司馬 [だいしば] Daishiba (head of the Ministry of Summer)
大司空 [だいしくう] Daishikuu (head of the Ministry of Winter)
太宰 [だいさい] Taisai (head of the Ministry of Heaven)
琅燦 [ろうさん] Rousan (brilliant gem)
皆白 [かいはく] Kaihaku (all white)
張運 [ちょううん] Chou'un (head of the Ministry of Spring)
宣角 [せんかく] Senkaku (head of the Ministry of Earth)
詠仲 [えいちゅう] Eichuu (the Chousai of Tai)

Risai provides a good definition of psychological projection in this chapter:

The Taiho chose His Highness right before my eyes. I've never harbored a moment of regret. Those who say I must be angry about it would themselves be furious and unforgiving if such a honor were taken from them right before their eyes, so they insist that I must be as well.

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September 13, 2007

Japan's manga minister


It's not often that a political shakeup directly affects the arts. But Shinzo Abe's sudden resignation as Japan's Prime Minister has been taken as a favorable sign by purveyors of popular art. Not because of anything Abe did or didn't do, but because one of the strongest contenders for the job is former Foreign Minister Taro Aso, an enthusiast "evangelist" of popular Japanese culture abroad, especially manga and anime.

"Cultural exchanges" usually suggest the kind of high-minded activities that show up in PBS specials. Taro Aso, though, has long maintained that pop culture is more important in cultivating cultural ties with other countries. With this in mind, he created the "International Manga Awards" for non-Japanese artists working in the manga style, and invented the post of "Anime Ambassador" to promote anime films overseas.

Notes Aso, "We didn't develop manga, karaoke and conveyor-belt sushi because we wanted to be valued overseas. We just liked it, and while becoming nerds and immersing ourselves in it, it became popular."

The spread of Japanese pop culture has correlated to a 30-fold increase in the number of students studying Japanese around the world in the past decade. In contrast, the Japanese corporate culture that dominated the business world during the 1980s did comparatively little to promote the retail consumption of Japanese culture and push students into the classrooms. And in the most unexpected of locales, as this story makes clear:

Bahrain is not a country where it is common to encounter Japanese people, but even here interest in Japanese anime has been encouraging young people to learn more about Japan, as well as to study the language.

Even in Japan, in the wake of Abe's announcement, market indexes fell while the stocks of manga publishers soared, with the head of the cash equities department at Bear Stearns in Tokyo terming them the "Aso-related shares." I, for one, hope that the moment for Japan's first "manga minister" to take the stage has arrived, even if Aso will have plenty of motivation to mix art and politics with political motives in mind.

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September 12, 2007

I didn't watch the whole thing


I'll sample just about any anime series that gets at least three stars on Netflix. Whether I'll keep watching after the first DVD is another matter. So I've sorted through the last several years of my Netflix history and made a list of some of the series that I believe paid off straight through to the end.

To start with, I'll mention a few of the exceptions: titles I didn't finish or did and still can't recommend, and why.

The Read or Die TV series, for example, started well but I thought it sagged toward the end and started repeating itself (repeat after me: hostage-takers don't have your best interests in mind!). Initial D does repeat the same storyline over and over, yet I didn't get bored (though I won't be watching season two of Initial D).

Ah! My Goddess (the condensed version) and the first season of Oh! My Goddess are excellent, but watching the second season, I find myself getting fed up with Belldandy and Keiichi. (Even in season one, the best of the later episodes feature Urd.) There comes a point at which the relationship has just got to move on.

Ditto: Ai Yori Aoshi. When the protagonist is actually a college student (and not even one of those pretend hentai college students), I expect him to act a bit more mature than a thirteen-year-old. Besides, the harem genre really gets old after a while.

Ditto: Ranma 1/2, a true classic. The brilliant first season is hard to match. As with many U.S. television series, the inability to resolve the primary relationship (Ranma/Akane) turns tedious, and they pile on extra characters to distract you. Still entertaining, but not after a fashion that drives you from disc to disc in the later seasons.

Midori Days, to compare, is an extremely welcome relief in this respect, actually featuring male protagonist who grows up over the span of the series.

Tenjho Tenge starts out well as another teen-exploitation action series--pretty much a copy of Ikki-Tousen--but then gets bogged down in an extended flashback that takes up the entire middle third of the series. I kind of lost track after that. I'd rather watch a show just about Bob and Chiaki.

Most anime series derived from manga stick pretty close to the original pacing. But such fidelity is also not always the best recourse. I prefer the first Hellsing series than the supposedly more faithful remake, which is too heavy on the splatter and too impatient with the plotting.

The anime version of My Zhime ("Mai Otome Hime") also improves enormously on the juvenile premise of the manga (which should be avoided at all costs).

I have a hard time explaining why I haven't finished watching some series. Conceptually, Full Metal Alchemist and Cowboy Bebop are two of the better science fiction series, but if I don't add the next disc to the queue, out-of-sight, out-of-mind. (Watching the "director's pick" DVD of Cowboy Bebop episodes probably didn't help.)

And despite the cult religion that is Evangelion, it wore me out after a while. I'm too old for all that angst, and mecha is always a hard sell for me. Sorry. I gave up on the original Full Metal Panic, but loved the dumb and dumber comic spin-off, Full Metal Panic FUMOFFU. There's no accounting for taste.

Part II: shows that made the cut.

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September 08, 2007

Chapter 16 (The Shore in Twilight)


尚隆 [しょうりゅう] Shouryuu (esteem + prosperity)
鸞 [らん] Ran (a mythical imperial bird)
梧桐宮 [ごとうきゅう] Godou Palace (parasol tree), the home of the Hakuchi, is descripted in chapter 2 of A Thousand Leagues of Wind.
 国氏 [こくし Kokushi (kingdom + clan name), the assigned name of the monarch while he or she is alive; the character is different from the name of the kingdom, but is pronounced the same. Youko, for example, is the Royal Kei (景王) of the Kingdom of Kei (慶国). The Royal En (延王) of the Kingdom of En (雁国). The Royal Tai (泰王) of the Kingdom of Tai (戴国).

The Kokushi for the Imperial Sai changed from 斎 to 采.

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September 06, 2007

Consuming fiction


What kinds of novels Americans are actually reading: some industry statistics (2004) from the Romance Writers of America (a vested interest, to be sure, but no reason to question their math).

All fiction sold by genre

39.3% Romance
29.6% Mystery/Thriller
12.9% General Fiction
11.8% Other Fiction
6.4% Science Fiction

Romance specifically

$1.2 billion in sales
2,285 total titles
54.9% of all paperback sales
10.5% trade paperback
8.3% hardcover

The primary driver of these reading habits? According to NPR, women account for 80 percent of the fiction market (all genres). The rest of the RWA statistics can be found here.

Studies from the National Literary Trust (United Kingdom) also conclude that "Women are more dedicated novel readers." But it points out that men read more from "non-bound" sources, such as newspapers, magazines, and the Internet.

One curious finding--at least comparing the U.K. to the U.S.--is that "in only ten years the nation [meaning, women] had ended its love affair with family sagas and books about romance and was devouring thrillers--the more ghoulish the better."

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September 05, 2007

"Shadow of the Moon" revisions


TP is the TokyoPop translation. EW is my translation.

Chapter 45

1. TP: "See, Kuyo? She's fine. There was nothing to worry about."

      EW: "You see, Gyokuyou, she's fine."

What, too many syllables in "Gyokuyou"?

2. TP: "No, i'm fine now." Yoko lifted one sleeve to show the scar where one of the demon-dog's claws had slashed her.

      EW: "No. It's healed up fine." She showed her the fading scar in her hand.

The addition is not in the original.

3. TP: Yoko nodded. "My friend. A rat beastling."

      EW: Youko nodded.

The addition is not in the original. I don't like "beastling" either.

4. TP: Then she hurried back to the gates, leaving Yoko to wonder whether the woman knew what had happened the other day, and who Yoko really was.

      EW: She reported that she hadn't found anybody called Rakushun among the living or the dead and then hurried back to the city. She gave no indication of whether she understood anything more of the quandary Youko was in.

The TokyoPop version is wordier but perhaps more accurate. The noun in question should be translated "circumstances" rather than "quandary": "She gave no indication of whether or not she understood [the details of] Youko's [actual] circumstances."

The online and offline browser versions have been updated.

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September 02, 2007

Chapter 15 (The Shore in Twilight)


The word "spirited away" here is the same as in the film by Hayao Miyazaki.

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