Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A place is only a place

Dune, by Frank Herbert, is probably my favorite book of all time. I read it twice in college (once on my own, and then once as assigned reading for a sociology class). That's right - we read Dune in a social science class because of the the story's richly developed religion, social structures, classes, etc. I've read it a couple more times since then, as well. It's a story with many themes; many facets to think about and digest.

One particular bit of dialogue that has stuck with me, and that I think about quite often, comes in a scene before the Atreides family has left their homeworld, the blue planet Caladan. The household is preparing to relocate to Dune, the rich but deadly desert world so unlike their Caladan. The novel's protagonist, Paul, asks his tutor (the Atreides Master of Assassins), Thufir Hawat, if he is going to miss their present home. To this Hawat replies "Parting with friends is a sadness. A place is only a place."

When my family moved from New York to Maryland, and while I was living in Japan, I mostly agreed with that sentiment. Sometimes I still do. I don't miss living in New York, but I do miss friends that remain there. I miss friends and people who were special to me in Japan. And if I were to leave the Maryland/DC area, I probably wouldn't miss it so much, though I would miss some people here.

There definitely are things I miss about life in Japan, though. Shops and places, smells, sensations. Of course the mind revises and romanticizes memories so that we don't place as much weight on the things we don't miss.

I think one of the things I miss the most often is the sight of hills or mountains in the distance. In many of the places I lived or visited in Japan, there were rolling forms off on the horizon. As Bilbo Baggins says, "I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains[...]"

I suppose the question isn't black and white, as is the case with so many things. How about you, dear readers? Are you the type to miss places? People?

Friday, March 14, 2014

From the Archives: Warm and Cold

I don't usually repost old material, but lately the weather has really been making me think of this Japanese expression that I introduced a few years ago. Although perhaps now I'd translate it as "three cold four warm," as this time of year it doesn't really get "hot." Anyway, if you're living in a temperate clime and just biding your time until spring arrives, here's some Japanese for you, originally posted in March 2010:

The last couple weeks have been pretty mild. There was even a day or two that got up to around 18 C (about 64 F). And then it got cold again. And rainy and miserable. Towards the end of the week, though, things may heat up again. This kind of weather isn't unusual for the end of winter in temperate climes.

The other day I learned that there is a Japanese expression for this type of weather behavior. It's even a yo-ji (word or phrase made up of a 4-kanji chain)! Ready? Here it is:


It's pronounced 「さんかんしおん」(sankan-shion). Literally, the kanji mean "three cold four hot." When put into its proper context, it refers to the weather cycle that follows the rough pattern of three cold days and then four warm days.

I think it's a pretty cool phrase to know, but just be warned that it's not exactly mainstream. I learned it from a teacher that I work with, and although I tried to sneak it into conversations with some of my Japanese coworkers and friends, only about half of them knew what I was talking about.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

J-Word Play: Coffee of the Dead

It's been a while, but I wanted to share a new riddle that I came up with (I don't know how original it is; could be that this already exists in some other wording). I've decided to do away with the dual posts and just include the question and answer in one. This way those of you who just want to know don't have to wait a week. Here we go:


Thursday, March 6, 2014

J-Music and Me: BABYMETAL

Rocketnews recently posted about the new album release of a band called BABYMETAL (all in caps, yes). This is a band I was unfamiliar with. Some might call the marriage of raging guitars and hoarse screamer metal with cutesy girl pop an abomination. I am not such a one. Or maybe I should say that even if it is an abomination, there's something to it. I'm not sure what that something is, but it definitely exists.

To co-opt a thought from one of the top commenters to the above video:

"I didn't want to like this, but it consumed my soul and now I do. Pretty f[#^$ing] metal."

Are there other bands like this? And what other insane musical combinations are out there? Only time will tell, but I will report back with any extraordinary findings.