steepholm: (Default)
Japanese words often have a wide range of meanings. For example, there's ataru (当たる): I've cut and pasted this from my flashcard program (Memrise - I recommend it). I could have inserted punctuation in the relevant places, but I think the effect is conveyed more feelingly without it:

ataru = to be hit
to lash out at to be affixed to apply to to be a hit to be afflicted to be selected (in a lottery, etc.) (in baseball) to be hitting well (of fruit, etc.) to be bruised to be equivalent to to lie (in the direction of) to undertake to be applicable to be assigned to face to go well to be successful to be stricken (by food poisoning, heat, etc.) to be on a hitting streak to be in contact to confront to be right on the money (of a prediction, criticism, etc.) to treat (esp. harshly) to be unnecessary to be called upon (by the teacher) to touch to spoil to win to strike to check (i.e. by comparison) to probe into (in fishing) to feel a bite to shave to feel (something) out


I especially like words where the meanings include ones that are antonyms or (better still) near antonyms of each other, such as hitting and being hit, or to be successful and to be stricken. Of course, it sends my mind back to English, which has no shortage of similar artefacts, even in this semantic area. To be touched or struck could be a good or disastrous thing, depending largely on who's doing the touching - a god, the heat, elves (as in elf-stroke), genius.

As ever, a big part of the appeal of learning Japanese (and no doubt any language) is to make oneself more aware of the peculiarities of one's own word-weathered mind, carved as it is into eccentric peaks and whorls by the constant swirl of linguistic currents.

The other day, I imagined (or remembered?) an Addams Family cartoon in which Morticia is discovered sprinkling dust over the furniture, and responds to an enquiry, "Oh, I'm just doing the dusting". "To dust" is one of my favourite auto-antonyms, perhaps because it's such a simple-looking, common word. Who cares whether "cleave" means the opposite of itself, when we don't often use it in either sense? But dust? That gets under one's skin.
steepholm: (Default)
My friend Chiho told me a story today about how she'd gone with her mother recently to watch Deep Water Horizon at the cinema. During a sequence with a lot of explosions, an earthquake happened to strike Kagoshima (4 on the Richter Scale, which isn't so unusual, but certainly feelable). Afterwards she mentioned the earthquake to her mother, who was surprised, and said, "I just assumed the film was in 4DX!"

It made me laugh - and only afterwards did I realise that I hadn't even been thinking about the fact that she was speaking Japanese. I count this as progress.

This is as an aide memoire. When I visit the places in Japan that have been inspired by Britain (detailed in this recent post), as I surely will, I mustn't forget to include these two additions to my list:

a) Brockhampton Church. Brockhampton is a village in Herefordshire, with a nice Arts-and-Crafts-inspired Church. But it's also (copied at full scale) a place you can get married on the 20th floor of an Osaka hotel.

b) At least they left the original Brockhampton Church in situ. Not so with "Lockheart Castle" (formerly Lockhart House, near Edinburgh) which in the 1990s was transplanted stone by stone from Scotland to Gunma Prefecture and re-erected, much as that American bloke did with London Bridge back in the 1960s. The new Lockheart Castle has been rebranded as a paradise for lovers, although it also hosts a museum of Santa Clauses. Obviously.
steepholm: (tree_face)
Or, to transliterate that: 警察の生活は嬉しくないですね! "A policeman's lot is not a happy one"

That popped into my head as I walked by Romsey's suitably Trumptonish police station this morning. I was interested to find how neatly Gilbert's pentameter converted into an iambic fourteener - although the translation isn't perfect, "生活" being closer to "way of life" than to "lot", which ought perhaps to have some overtone of being a hand dealt by fate. Oh well, shouganai...

Translating random sentences is fun, and probably also a useful exercise, but it's not the same as original composition. Today, I tried to put my ambivalence at being here in early spring (my favourite season) yet not being in Japan as I have been for the last two years into haiku form:

庭を見て
桜と水仙は
変な出会い

niwa wo mite
sakura to suisen
henna deai

Look in the garden
Cherry blossom and daffodils:
A strange encounter.
steepholm: (Default)
Or, to transliterate that: 警察の生活は嬉しくないですね! "A policeman's lot is not a happy one"

That popped into my head as I walked by Romsey's suitably Trumptonish police station this morning. I was interested to find how neatly Gilbert's pentameter converted into an iambic fourteener - although the translation isn't perfect, "生活" being closer to "way of life" than to "lot", which ought perhaps to have some overtone of being a hand dealt by fate. Oh well, shouganai...

Translating random sentences is fun, and probably also a useful exercise, but it's not the same as original composition. Today, I tried to put my ambivalence at being here in early spring (my favourite season) yet not being in Japan as I have been for the last two years into haiku form:

庭を見て
桜と水仙は
変な出会い

niwa wo mite
sakura to suisen
henna deai

Look in the garden
Cherry blossom and daffodils:
A strange encounter.

Baby steps, yet - but I'll try to do more, and better.
steepholm: (tree_face)
#1: when you give blood at Antwerp University, you get free entertainment from a giant drop of blood, who dances around in front of your already-dazed eyes:

IMG0273A

I can't decide whether or not this is a good thing.

#2: when the Belgians decide to erect a monument to the characters in a book hardly anyone there has heard of, they make a very good job of it:

IMG0278AIMG0282A

#3: When this monument precipitates Korean and Japanese tourists, the Fish and Chip shop round the corner takes on a new dimension, offering panko and tenpura options, and a kimchi side.

#4: When they want to advertise the university, they dress the academics as superheroes (centre-stage is my friend Vanessa, who invited me to talk to her conference on Wednesday):

IMG0295A

#5: In Luxembourg, if you're too tired to boil and decorate your own Easter eggs, you can buy them ready-boiled and painted. Probably someone will eat them for you too, for a price:

IMG0298A

(Also, there is almost certainly a charming story behind this statue in Luxembourg City, but I've no idea what...)

IMG0297A

#6: Finally, it turns out that my brain will only hold a maximum of two languages at a time. Since arriving in Abroad I've done my best at least to make an effort, language-wise, although Flanders and Luxembourg both being notorious nests of polyglotism it was never going to be more than a token one, and it's not as if I knew any Dutch to begin with. However, whenever I try to pull my school French out from the lumber room of my mind I find it's buried under a huge pile of conversational Japanese. I can get at it eventually, but it takes time - rather too much time in a country where everyone's already on a hair trigger to switch to English at the first sign of linguistic ineptitude. I've already thanked someone in a supermarket with 'Arigatou' and, truth be told, a few 'Hai's and 'Daijoubu's may also have escaped the fence of my teeth.

Still, the main business - being patron for a travail de candidature (don't ask) - went off smoothly, though in circumstances that were also rather tragic, for reasons I can't go into here, because it's not my story to tell.
steepholm: (Default)
#1: when you give blood at Antwerp University, you get free entertainment from a giant drop of blood, who dances around in front of your already-dazed eyes:

IMG0273A

I can't decide whether or not this is a good thing.

#2: when the Belgians decide to erect a monument to the characters in a book hardly anyone there has heard of, they make a very good job of it:

IMG0278AIMG0282A

#3: When this monument precipitates Korean and Japanese tourists, the Fish and Chip shop round the corner takes on a new dimension, offering panko and tenpura options, and a kimchi side.

#4: When they want to advertise the university, they dress the academics as superheroes (centre-stage is my friend Vanessa, who invited me to talk to her conference on Wednesday):

IMG0295A

#5: In Luxembourg, if you're too tired to boil and decorate your own Easter eggs, you can buy them ready-boiled and painted. Probably someone will eat them for you too, for a price:

IMG0298A

(Also, there is almost certainly a charming story behind this statue in Luxembourg City, but I've no idea what...)

IMG0297A

#6: Finally, it turns out that my brain will only hold a maximum of two languages at a time. Since arriving in Abroad I've done my best at least to make an effort, language-wise, although Flanders and Luxembourg both being notorious nests of polyglotism it was never going to be more than a token one, and it's not as if I knew any Dutch to begin with. However, whenever I try to pull my school French out from the lumber room of my mind I find it's buried under a huge pile of conversational Japanese. I can get at it eventually, but it takes time - rather too much time in a country where everyone's already on a hair trigger to switch to English at the first sign of linguistic ineptitude. I've already thanked someone in a supermarket with 'Arigatou' and, truth be told, a few 'Hai's and 'Daijoubu's may also have escaped the fence of my teeth.

Still, the main business - being patron for a travail de candidature (don't ask) - went off smoothly, though in circumstances that were also rather tragic, for reasons I can't go into here, because it's not my story to tell.
steepholm: (tree_face)
I'd never heard of the English novelist Ouida, let alone her 1872 children's book, A Dog of Flanders, until the other day, when I mentioned to one of my Japanese conversation partners that I was about to go to Antwerp for the first time, and she brought it up.

This ultra-depressing tale of a destitute boy and his faithful but doomed hound, dying of exposure in Antwerp Cathedral, has I believe has been largely forgotten in the UK, and was never well known in Belgium; but it turns out it's regarded as a classic in Japan and South Korea, and has been televised in numerous versions in both countries. I'm always interested in this kind of "prophet without honour in his own country" survival: When Marnie Was There/Memories of Marnie is another notable instance (although in that case I had at least read the original off my own bat).

Anyway, the burghers of Antwerp were apparently taken by surprise when Korean and Japanese tourists turned up asking to be shown to the sites of the book's various events. Nothing daunted, they arranged for statues and plaques to be erected, so that the tourists would have something to photograph. But in which district of Antwerp was the majority of the story set? The novel never names it, and Ouida herself had only ever spent four hours in Antwerp. But how could literary pilgrimages be made, documented and uploaded to the cloud, without more specific information? The exasperated officials decided more or less arbitrarily that the novel was set in Hoboken, and erected another statue there to prove it. So now, when far-eastern tourists ask where these entirely fictional events really happened, the authorities are able to point them to the exact spot.

I will try to take a photograph when I'm there on Wednesday and Thursday, so as to have ocular proof.
steepholm: (Default)
I'd never heard of the English novelist Ouida, let alone her 1872 children's book, A Dog of Flanders, until the other day, when I mentioned to one of my Japanese conversation partners that I was about to go to Antwerp for the first time, and she brought it up.

This ultra-depressing tale of a destitute boy and his faithful but doomed hound, dying of exposure in Antwerp Cathedral, has I believe has been largely forgotten in the UK, and was never well known in Belgium; but it turns out it's regarded as a classic in Japan and South Korea, and has been televised in numerous versions in both countries. I'm always interested in this kind of "prophet without honour in his own country" survival: When Marnie Was There/Memories of Marnie is another notable instance (although in that case I had at least read the original off my own bat).

Anyway, the burghers of Antwerp were apparently taken by surprise when Korean and Japanese tourists turned up asking to be shown to the sites of the book's various events. Nothing daunted, they arranged for statues and plaques to be erected, so that the tourists would have something to photograph. But in which district of Antwerp was the majority of the story set? The novel never names it, and Ouida herself had only ever spent four hours in Antwerp. But how could literary pilgrimages be made, documented and uploaded to the cloud, without more specific information? The exasperated officials decided more or less arbitrarily that the novel was set in Hoboken, and erected another statue there to prove it. So now, when far-eastern tourists ask where these entirely fictional events really happened, the authorities are able to point them to the exact spot.

I will try to take a photograph when I'm there on Wednesday and Thursday, so as to have ocular proof.
steepholm: (tree_face)
Did I mention that I'd be going back to Japan this summer? I don't think I did, but let me make that good now. Last month I won a Visiting Scholarship at Tokyo Woman's Christian University, and I'm going to be there at the end of June and beginning of July. (In Japanese, incidentally, the name translates as Tokyo Young Woman's University, which I think an interesting difference. It was actually founded by a Japanese Quaker - perhaps a unique combination? - a century or so ago.)

What this means is that as well as a research grant (which will mostly get eaten up by translation fees) I can live on their campus for a very small amount of money for three weeks, while researching an article. I will of course also be taking the opportunity to sample Tokyo life, at a slightly less breakneck pace than I was able in my previous visits. Lectures at the National Diet Library and the university's Institute for Comparative Culture have also been slated, and maybe at a couple of other colleges. By singing for my supper I'm hoping to keep costs down.

The campus looks very pretty, perhaps more like an American campus of the early twentieth century than anything very traditionally Japanese, but lush and leafy. I'll be staying at the foreign faculty residence, which I think is housed in this building. It's not clear whether I'll need to live in black and white, though.

I'll be there for the Tanabata festival, which I'm looking forward to - but where's the best place to experience it? I will need to look into that...

So, that's all rather exciting. When I've finished my stint, the plan is to stay on another week to do a bit of exploring outside Tokyo. Since Tokyo at that time of year is said to be more or less unbearably hot and humid, I'll probably head north in search of more clement climes, but I've not broken it down more than that at the moment. Any recommendations for Hokkaido or Touhoku?
steepholm: (Default)
Did I mention that I'd be going back to Japan this summer? I don't think I did, but let me make that good now. Last month I won a Visiting Scholarship at Tokyo Woman's Christian University, and I'm going to be there at the end of June and beginning of July. (In Japanese, incidentally, the name translates as Tokyo Young Woman's University, which I think an interesting difference. It was actually founded by a Japanese Quaker - perhaps a unique combination? - a century or so ago.)

What this means is that as well as a research grant (which will mostly get eaten up by translation fees) I can live on their campus for a very small amount of money for three weeks, while researching an article. I will of course also be taking the opportunity to sample Tokyo life, at a slightly less breakneck pace than I was able in my previous visits. Lectures at the National Diet Library and the university's Institute for Comparative Culture have also been slated, and maybe at a couple of other colleges. By singing for my supper I'm hoping to keep costs down.

The campus looks very pretty, perhaps more like an American campus of the early twentieth century than anything very traditionally Japanese, but lush and leafy. I'll be staying at the foreign faculty residence, which I think is housed in this building. It's not clear whether I'll need to live in black and white, though.

I'll be there for the Tanabata festival, which I'm looking forward to - but where's the best place to experience it? I will need to look into that...

So, that's all rather exciting. When I've finished my stint, the plan is to stay on another week to do a bit of exploring outside Tokyo. Since Tokyo at that time of year is said to be more or less unbearably hot and humid, I'll probably head north in search of more clement climes, but I've not broken it down more than that at the moment. Any recommendations for Hokkaido or Touhoku?
steepholm: (tree_face)
When I went to Taiwan in 2013 I had exactly two words of Chinese at my disposal - meaning "thank you" and "hello". I was ashamed of this lack, naturally, but got by just fine because English was everywhere on signs, and my host (Dutch herself) was fluent.

Anyway, I just had a bit of "Duh!" moment, which makes me realise that I actually know quite a bit more Chinese than that - albeit the Chinese of some 1,200 years ago. The thing is, when the Japanese imported characters from China, they not only assigned those characters to native Japanese words, but also kept the Chinese readings (as I discussed here). The general rule is that native readings ("kun" readings) are used when the kanji is on its own, and Chinese readings ("on" readings) are used in compound words involving more than one kanji. So, for example:

Character: 山
Kun reading: yama ("mountain" in Japanese)
On reading: san
Japanese for "volcano" (火山): kazan

Character: 小(さい)
Kun reading: chiisai ("small" in Japanese)
On reading: shou
Japanese for "primary school" (小学校): shougakkou

Character: 年
Kun reading: toshi ("year" in Japanese)
On reading: nen
Japanese for "annual" (年間): nenkan

Character: 心
Kun reading: kokoro ("heart/mind" in Japanese)
On reading: shin
Japanese for "worry" (心配): shinpai

And so on - several thousand more times...

Anyway, it only just occurred to me to check the on readings against modern Chinese, and results are pretty striking. Take examples above:

On reading: san
Modern Chinese for "mountain": shān

On reading: shou
Modern Chinese for "small": xiǎo

On reading: nen
Modern Chinese for "year": nián

On reading: shin
Modern Chinese for "heart": xīn

Assuming this works more generally (and I've tried it on quite a few words now), it means that if I ever get around to learning Chinese I'll be off to a flying (if somewhat antiquated) start.
steepholm: (Default)
When I went to Taiwan in 2013 I had exactly two words of Chinese at my disposal - meaning "thank you" and "hello". I was ashamed of this lack, naturally, but got by just fine because English was everywhere on signs, and my host (Dutch herself) was fluent.

Anyway, I just had a bit of "Duh!" moment, which makes me realise that I actually know quite a bit more Chinese than that - albeit the Chinese of some 1,200 years ago. The thing is, when the Japanese imported characters from China, they not only assigned those characters to native Japanese words, but also kept the Chinese readings (as I discussed here). The general rule is that native readings ("kun" readings) are used when the kanji is on its own, and Chinese readings ("on" readings) are used in compound words involving more than one kanji. So, for example:

Character: 山
Kun reading: yama ("mountain" in Japanese)
On reading: san
Japanese for "volcano" (火山): kazan

Character: 小(さい)
Kun reading: chiisai ("small" in Japanese)
On reading: shou
Japanese for "primary school" (小学校): shougakkou

Character: 年
Kun reading: toshi ("year" in Japanese)
On reading: nen
Japanese for "annual" (年間): nenkan

Character: 心
Kun reading: kokoro ("heart/mind" in Japanese)
On reading: shin
Japanese for "worry" (心配): shinpai

And so on - several thousand more times...

Anyway, it only just occurred to me to check the on readings against modern Chinese, and results are pretty striking. Take examples above:

On reading: san
Modern Chinese for "mountain": shān

On reading: shou
Modern Chinese for "small": xiǎo

On reading: nen
Modern Chinese for "year": nián

On reading: shin
Modern Chinese for "heart": xīn

Assuming this works more generally (and I've tried it on quite a few words now), it means that if I ever get around to learning Chinese I'll be off to a flying (if somewhat antiquated) start.
steepholm: (tree_face)
British Winter Solstice tradition: pop over to Stonehenge (round about now) to watch the sun rise over the heel stone. Except that it's drizzling there at the moment...

Japanese Winter Solstice tradition: take a hot bath with a few dozen aromatic yuzu and some friends.

Which to do, which to do?

Stonehenge is only an hour away by car, but I feel strangely drawn to the yuzu option. Except that I can't buy yuzu in this country! Would satsumas do at a pinch?

(In Satsuma, by the way, they don't call satsumas satsumas, they call them mikan. My friend Chiho was surprised to hear that the region had somehow become the name of a fruit in English. I, conversely, had to stop myself from laughing every time she mentioned "the Satsuma wars" or "the lords of Satsuma".)

I was so enamoured of yuzu when in Japan that, wandering around the streets of Kyoto (as I think I mentioned here at the time) I made a little rhyme to express my love, in the style of Cole Porter:

There's a fruit called the yuzu I eat all the time;
It's bitter, but better than lemon or lime.
If you too like yuzu, feel free to share mine!
Won't you do the yuzu with me?

Now it occurs to me that, many years before, I had also improvised a paean to the humble satsuma - to be sung to the tune of "We'll have a Dalmatian plantation":

I am a satsuma consumer,
Consuming satsumas all day -
It's not just a rumour,
Consuming satsumas
Has chased my blues away.

But - oh no! I don't have any satsumas either!

Oh well, Radox it will have to be... And happy sun-returning.
steepholm: (Default)
British Winter Solstice tradition: pop over to Stonehenge (round about now) to watch the sun rise over the heel stone. Except that it's drizzling there at the moment...

Japanese Winter Solstice tradition: take a hot bath with a few dozen aromatic yuzu and some friends.

Which to do, which to do?

Stonehenge is only an hour away by car, but I feel strangely drawn to the yuzu option. Except that I can't buy yuzu in this country! Would satsumas do at a pinch?

(In Satsuma, by the way, they don't call satsumas satsumas, they call them mikan. My friend Chiho was surprised to hear that the region had somehow become the name of a fruit in English. I, conversely, had to stop myself from laughing every time she mentioned "the Satsuma wars" or "the lords of Satsuma".)

I was so enamoured of yuzu when in Japan that, wandering around the streets of Kyoto (as I think I mentioned here at the time) I made a little rhyme to express my love, in the style of Cole Porter:

There's a fruit called the yuzu I eat all the time;
It's bitter, but better than lemon or lime.
If you too like yuzu, feel free to share mine!
Won't you do the yuzu with me?

Now it occurs to me that, many years before, I had also improvised a paean to the humble satsuma - to be sung to the tune of "We'll have a Dalmatian plantation":

I am a satsuma consumer,
Consuming satsumas all day -
It's not just a rumour,
Consuming satsumas
Has chased my blues away.

But - oh no! I don't have any satsumas either!

Oh well, Radox it will have to be... And happy sun-returning.
steepholm: (tree_face)
Chris Broad is one of my favourite J-Vloggers, but in this Christmas special he has excelled himself. If you've ever wondered why I'm hooked on Japan, watch - and wonder no more.



For more information on the village where Jesus spent the last 70 years or so of his long life as a garlic farmer, see this article, linked from the video, which also has compelling evidence for the story in the form of Hebrew survivals in the local dialect. (Okay, Jesus spoke Aramaic, but let's not split hairs.) Oddly, the place has been visited by the ambassador of Israel; but from the Pope? Not a dicky bird.

Also: why isn't Shingou twinned with Glastonbury?
steepholm: (Default)
Chris Broad is one of my favourite J-Vloggers, but in this Christmas special he has excelled himself. If you've ever wondered why I'm hooked on Japan, watch - and wonder no more.



For more information on the village where Jesus spent the last 70 years or so of his long life as a garlic farmer, see this article, linked from the video, which also has compelling evidence for the story in the form of Hebrew survivals in the local dialect. (Okay, Jesus spoke Aramaic, but let's not split hairs.) Oddly, the place has been visited by the ambassador of Israel; but from the Pope? Not a dicky bird.

Also: why isn't Shingou twinned with Glastonbury?
steepholm: (tree_face)
Well, I really enjoyed Makoto Shinkai's Your Name (Kimi no na ha) - the anime film that's taken Japan by storm this summer. I watched it at the local multiplex, but I think it's got a limited release more generally, and I highly recommend it as a film that is a) beautiful, b) funny, c) clever, d) touching. There's no doubt it deserves all its plaudits. Some of the scenes were stunning; there was a great running gag about breast-fondling; and I don't think I'll easily forget how to make sake from rice and spit.

And yet... I don't know, I was expecting to be more moved by it. Perhaps my expectations were too high (I'd been excited for weeks); perhaps the bottle of Wiper and True IPA I took into the cinema had its effect; perhaps I was in the wrong mood, although I don't think so. I cry easily at films, and at much worse ones than this, but Your Name left my ducts untapped despite having just the sort of plot that should have had me bawling. I've been thinking about it since with pleasure, but largely intellectual pleasure, mixed with a slight sense of irritation. I wonder why?

The feeling is rather reminiscent of the one I tend to get from the novels of Neil Gaiman. When reading, say, Coraline or The Ocean at the End of the Lane or The Graveyard Book I feel, here is someone who is thoroughly steeped in fantasy convention, has all the tools well within his command, and knows exactly how to use them. A craftsman, in fact, and a good one - but still, there's something missing that makes my admiration fall short of love. When I read Gaiman, I involuntarily switch into a mode somewhere between writer and critic (rather than reader), noticing his techniques, his devices, his references, and quite unable to keep my head below water. I like his work, but can't bring myself to love it; many worse writers engage me more.

Probably the fault is in myself rather than these stars, but if I were to turn this into a kind of back-handed compliment, I'd say that Gaiman (at least in the books I've read) has stayed too far within his own safety zone, doing the things he knows he can do well. Because he can do many things well, his safety zone is very large - so large, in fact, that it's in danger of turning into a pocket universe from which he can't escape.

But escape he must.
steepholm: (Default)
Well, I really enjoyed Makoto Shinkai's Your Name (Kimi no na ha) - the anime film that's taken Japan by storm this summer. I watched it at the local multiplex, but I think it's got a limited release more generally, and I highly recommend it as a film that is a) beautiful, b) funny, c) clever, d) touching. There's no doubt it deserves all its plaudits. Some of the scenes were stunning; there was a great running gag about breast-fondling; and I don't think I'll easily forget how to make sake from rice and spit.

And yet... I don't know, I was expecting to be more moved by it. Perhaps my expectations were too high (I'd been excited for weeks); perhaps the bottle of Wiper and True IPA I took into the cinema had its effect; perhaps I was in the wrong mood, although I don't think so. I cry easily at films, and at much worse ones than this, but Your Name left my ducts untapped despite having just the sort of plot that should have had me bawling. I've been thinking about it since with pleasure, but largely intellectual pleasure, mixed with a slight sense of irritation. I wonder why?

The feeling is rather reminiscent of the one I tend to get from the novels of Neil Gaiman. When reading, say, Coraline or The Ocean at the End of the Lane or The Graveyard Book I feel, here is someone who is thoroughly steeped in fantasy convention, has all the tools well within his command, and knows exactly how to use them. A craftsman, in fact, and a good one - but still, there's something missing that makes my admiration fall short of love. When I read Gaiman, I involuntarily switch into a mode somewhere between writer and critic (rather than reader), noticing his techniques, his devices, his references, and quite unable to keep my head below water. I like his work, but can't bring myself to love it; many worse writers engage me more.

Probably the fault is in myself rather than these stars, but if I were to turn this into a kind of back-handed compliment, I'd say that Gaiman (at least in the books I've read) has stayed too far within his own safety zone, doing the things he knows he can do well. Because he can do many things well, his safety zone is very large - so large, in fact, that it's in danger of turning into a pocket universe from which he can't escape.

But escape he must.
steepholm: (Default)
Well gosh, it seems like days (because it is) since I went to Hyperjapan in London's glamorous Tobacco Dock. I was there last year, of course, and my return visit was strangely similar, with many of the same stalls in the same places - but stepping into the same river twice is no hardship if it's a pretty river. The highlight was perhaps my private photograph with Domo, the NHK mascot:

IMG_20161127_150656

But I was also struck by this Teddy Bear, who was having difficulty getting into the role:

IMG_20161127_123402

And by this texting angel:

IMG_20161127_114444

Given that my father was an art teacher, it's sad that I've never had any facility that way - but this was brought home afresh when I paid £5 for a chance to be a have-a-go hero with a calligraphy brush. I realised belatedly that being left handed was actually a grave disadvantage when it comes to drawing Chinese characters, which demand a certain stroke order drawn in a certain direction (usually left to right). Why I hadn't thought of this over the years of using a biro for the purpose I don't know, but it was only when I got a brush in my hand that I knew how much of a disadvantage my hidarikiki-ness would be. But I can't blame that alone. I also have a very bad visual memory, so that (for instance) my attempt to remember the kanji for "dream" turned into a bit of nightmare - not only infantile in execution but also missing two crucial strokes:

Scan_20161201

Plus, I'm just very bad at drawing. They were nice enough to give me a version of my name, though - with the same "Fruit Poetry" kanji I have on my hanko:

Scan_20161201 (2)

On Monday I was visited by [personal profile] kalimac, with whom I toured Bristol (especially the bookshops, but also of course the Suspension Bridge), and whom I accompanied to Oxford on Tuesday evening for the launch of Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgin's edition of Tolkien's essay on invented languages, A Secret Vice

IMG0199A
[personal profile] kalimac at the Clifton Suspension Bridge

I had to leave Oxford early because (like every week) my alarm was set for 5.45am on Wednesday morning, necessary if I'm to get to Cardiff in time for my first lecture - and it was the same story on Thursday. On Friday I went to Romsey to visit my mother, and returned yesterday. So, this is the first day I've had free to write about any of it, and now I'm too tired to make a good fist of it - but for the record, that was my week!
steepholm: (tree_face)
Well gosh, it seems like days (because it is) since I went to Hyperjapan in London's glamorous Tobacco Dock. I was there last year, of course, and my return visit was strangely similar, with many of the same stalls in the same places - but stepping into the same river twice is no hardship if it's a pretty river. The highlight was perhaps my private photograph with Domo, the NHK mascot:

IMG_20161127_150656

But I was also struck by this Teddy Bear, who was having difficulty getting into the role:

IMG_20161127_123402

And by this texting angel:

IMG_20161127_114444

Given that my father was an art teacher, it's sad that I've never had any facility that way - but this was brought home afresh when I paid £5 for a chance to be a have-a-go hero with a calligraphy brush. I realised belatedly that being left handed was actually a grave disadvantage when it comes to drawing Chinese characters, which demand a certain stroke order drawn in a certain direction (usually left to right). Why I hadn't thought of this over the years of using a biro for the purpose I don't know, but it was only when I got a brush in my hand that I knew how much of a disadvantage my hidarikiki-ness would be. But I can't blame that alone. I also have a very bad visual memory, so that (for instance) my attempt to remember the kanji for "dream" turned into a bit of nightmare - not only infantile in execution but also missing two crucial strokes:

Scan_20161201

Plus, I'm just very bad at drawing. They were nice enough to give me a version of my name, though - with the same "Fruit Poetry" kanji I have on my hanko:

Scan_20161201 (2)

On Monday I was visited by [livejournal.com profile] kalimac, with whom I toured Bristol (especially the bookshops, but also of course the Suspension Bridge), and whom I accompanied to Oxford on Tuesday evening for the launch of Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgin's edition of Tolkien's essay on invented languages, A Secret Vice

IMG0199A
[livejournal.com profile] kalimac at the Clifton Suspension Bridge

I had to leave Oxford early because (like every week) my alarm was set for 5.45am on Wednesday morning, necessary if I'm to get to Cardiff in time for my first lecture - and it was the same story on Thursday. On Friday I went to Romsey to visit my mother, and returned yesterday. So, this is the first day I've had free to write about any of it, and now I'm too tired to make a good fist of it - but for the record, that was my week!

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