Monthly Archives: January 2007

Warning: learning Japanese can lead to addictive behaviour

…But at least the manfacturers of my new dictionary have recognised the threat and printed directions for help in the inside cover.

The New Nelson Japanese English Character Dictionary was recommended by our teacher at the end of last semester. At 1600 pages, it was certainly one of the heaviest presents I recieved this Christmas, but I’m just working out it might well be one of the most useful.

The handout for our translation module this semester included as the first of its objectives that students would be able to “read, translate, summarise, and discuss Japanese texts that are NOT altered for ease of comprehension.” While the texts we were given last semester were fairly complex, last week’s work (an extract from a book on General MacArthur and the post-war occupation of Japan) included some characters and vocabulary that completely defeated my trusty electronic dictionary. Working with my three-year-old miniature model and the newly acquired paper monster, I was able to work through the text and unearth the most obscure and specialist vocabulary, including this gem: 公娼制度, or the pre-war system of licenced prostitution. If that isn’t specialist, I don’t know what is.

In short, if like me you’re at a fairly advanced level in Japanese study and know you’re going to continue at it for a long time, the New Nelson or a dictionary like it is basically invaluable.


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Filed under education, language

The Sun Says: Racism bad this week

Anyone with half an eye on the UK press over the last week or two will have noticed that all national tabloids have been markedly loud in their condemnation of racism. All it took was the juxtaposition of someone as beautiful as Shilpa with someone as unappealing as Jade.

While the media reaction is on the whole a good thing, you have to question their motivations. The most violent condemnations of Jade come from the Sun, a paper that not only reports avidly on every run of Big Brother and arguably helped launch Jade’s celebrity career with their coverage, but has been known to cast slurs on entire communities and make stuff up when it suits their agenda of demonising a given group. The coverage, as well as having in some cases a ugly undertone of classism, gives the impression that The Scum and others are having their cake and eating it.

To sum up in a simple way what I was trying to express in my original post, the question is what is more offensive:

1) Someone who has achieved public recognition from being stupid and loutish while appearing on television, again behaving in a stupid and loutish fashion on television, or:

2) The confluence of business and media interests that work together to ensure people like the example of 1) are kept in the public eye and their path to fame seen as something to emulate.

I, personally, go for the latter.

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Filed under media, television

It’s the little things we do, when you go out in the night

No, no, no. Never again. No nay never, no never, no more. I am never drinking again – until the next time, obviously.

A housemate’s birthday is always a big occasion, and Saturday was J’s 21st. A bunch of J and S’s friends came up from their hometown, and with most of my housemates elsewhere, hosting duties were down to me. What with their having started drinking early on, I was very well-lubricated by the time we went out to the Elbow Room. Make that completely smashed. I was dancing like a loon amongst all the trendy types on the dancefloor, getting odd looks and the occasional thumbs-up. I knew what a fool I was making of myself, but I didn’t care. Self-awareness mixed with joyous abandon – it’s a good combination, and the way I’d like to live all of my life. Shame I have to get terrifically drunk to do it.

Arriving back at the house a little after everyone else, I found my room turned upside down and my safe gone. It was a practical joke by one of our guests, who kept dropping me subtle hints for the rest of the night about whose room he’d left the safe in. This made me laugh in the morning. We weren’t exactly in Da Vinci Code territory – I was having trouble understanding simple sentences, let alone coded messages.

The following afternoon, we braved the outside world to go to the pub and watch the football. I don’t really support any team, but I can watch a football match and appreciate it. The trouble is, I do it in a rather detached way, which coupled with my hungover state meant I was the only person in a crowd of cheering Manchester United fans sitting down, clapping my hands at the goal and drawling “Fantastic. Jolly good show. Super-duper.”

I have a feeling that they somehow had me pegged as a casual fan.

Unfortunately, today classes begin again and I have my nose to the grindstone once more. Expect more adventures to the furthest edges of my sanity Japanese grammatical forms, as 2007 rumbles on.

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Filed under antics, friends

Oh noes! How did I miss this?!

My friend Sam is off on his travels overland from Paris to Osaka, and has set up a blog to chronicle his epic adventures. Also blogging the journey are his travelling companions Raph and Johnson. Each of the three are worth a read, and the journey itself sounds absolutely amazing – the kind of thing I wish I had done a few years ago, if I had the initiative, the funds and like-minded friends to accompany me. Right now, in the middle of a degree and the financial obligations that entails, the best I can do is track their progress through the magic of teh interwebs. Hell, already the Foreign Legion is sounding a decent post-graduate career choice…

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Filed under blogging, friends, travel

But everyone’s doing it, ma!

Yes, yes, I deplore reality TV in all its forms, and I know there are probably more important things going on in the world right now (China’s entry into the space arms race being one of them). But as the whole blogocube and all the daily papers are talking about it, the Celebrity Big Brother racism controversy is stuck in the public consciousness as an uncomfortable reminder, not only of the underlying racism and prejudice in modern-day Britain, but also the adulation and celebrity status we reserve for complete halfwits. As the rather excellent (and newly-discovered) Obsolete puts it, a lot of the abuse may stem from the fact that Shilpa has more good looks, talent and genuine celebrity than her female antogonists.

The whole thing sits very uncomfortably with me, because while I don’t think the comments by Jade et al have much to do with old-fashioned Alf Garnett racism, they are a logical outcome of ignorance and a complete lack of interest in the wider world and other cultures.

Over the past few years, I have never forgotten how lucky I am to have been able to meet people from so many different countries and cultures. I’d be a completely different person, but for a few chance occurences. As the person I am now, I look at the picture of modern Britain this show is presenting and feel … well, very uncomfortable. However, most of the people I know and see on a daily basis are very open-minded and friendly towards people who come from a different background, country or culture to them. And the masses of complaints that Channel 4 has recieved show that people are less willing to put up with intolerance and abuse than might have been assumed.

I honestly hope that the moves towards an atavistic, tribal politics that I’ve written about before comes up against this wellspring of public opinion. Then again, if people paid more attention to politics than to amazingly stupid people raised to the level of public figurehead by the simple application of media power (insert comparison joke here), the country probably wouldn’t be in such a state.

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Filed under television, thoughts

Science building

Originally uploaded by moorethanthis.

Taken while wandering around campus on Sunday. I guess this is what people thought the future would look like in the 1970s.

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Filed under photography

Compare and contrast

I’m back at Leeds revising for the exams I’ve got this week, so I spend a lot of time listening to the radio. Here’s an instructive review of my reactions to two new tracks:

On hearing the new U2 song for the first time: Hey, this is rather good.
On hearing it for the second time: OK, I’m bored of it now.

On hearing the Kaiser Chiefs’s new song “Ruby” for the first time: Hey, this is rather good.
On hearing it for the third time, I was dancing around my room singing along. Now that’s catchy.

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Filed under music