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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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