Monday, September 19, 2005

Music according to Yuji Takahashi

Music is very near to the body, but you can't tie it up. (Oto no seijaku, seijaku no oto, Heibonsha, 2004, p.144)

La musique réside tout près du corps, mais on ne peut pas l'attacher.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Nirvana, possibly

This morning (September 9, Japan time) at six thirty my father passed away. He had been bed-ridden for seven years and it was no surprise. Yet it came as a surprise. He was 85.

Having been born in the southern island of Kyushu, especially with his native village named "Big Wave," he could have loved the sea. He did love the sea, I beileve, but not to the extent to jump in and take a dip whenever he had a chance to do so. When we went to Waikiki together exactly twenty years ago, he didn't even change into his swimming shorts. But he enjoyed watching the waves.

During those seven years, he could not respond to others. He was awake, he was asleep, but no, there was no sign that he recognized us around. Even his grandchildren, who were all his purest joy. Or he simply didn't have the command of facial and verbal expressions. My mother took care of him almost single-handedly during all these years. She is now 78.

Yet I like to imagine my father, in his involuntary half-sleep, dreaming of his boyhood days on the warm western coast of Southern Kyushu. One goes out a hundred meters off the beach and "faire la planche," as Albert Camus once wrote. All you see is the blue of the sky. All you hear is the wave and your own heartbeat. You are alone. You become one with the elements.

What else could there be, if such wasn't our practical, cheap, absolutely happy nirvana?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

From Akutagawa to Kurosawa?

My friend Mike Hanne asked me to give a talk on the topic of "retelling a story." It's a very comparatist topic that no comparatist can avoid tackling from time to time. With available resources so limited, I have decided to follow Mike's suggestion to discuss Kurosawa's film Rashomon. This is just a very rough draft.

Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) is even today one of the most famous Japanese films ever made. It is well known that the film is a cinematic adaptation of a short story called “In the Grove” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Kurosawa’s film is a retelling in other medium of Akutagawa’s story. But then, Akutagawa’s short story was already a retelling of at least two distinct and direct textual predecessors. One is a very short tale compiled in a vast twelfth-century Japanese collection of strange tales: Konjaku monogatari shu (Tales from Yesteryears). The other is a short story called The Moonlit Road by nineteen-century American short story writer Ambrose Bierce, of whom Akutagawa was a devout admirer. Akutagawa takes at least these two sources as a basis for his story in question, which of course has been thoroughly reworked and has every right to assert itself as an original, nodal story. Then Kurosawa takes Akutagawa’s as his starting point to create an ever fiercer version mainly by adding a fourth character to Akutagawa’s original triad of characters. What I will attempt to do is to compare the diegesis and narrative deployments of both Akutagawa’s scriptural and Kurosawa’s filmic tellings to better understand possible general problems of filmic adaptation and no less interesting extra-generic continuity of stories.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Arabia Deserta (C.M.Doughty)

One book I've been meaning to read is Arabia Deserta by Charles Montagu Doughty. T.E.Lawrence studied the book for ten years, and called it "a bible of its kind." The book of course is read for what it narrates, but also for its style. I am interested in conceptual writing, but at the same time if it was not for style I wouldn't bother to invest my limited time to any of those stacks of paper masquerading as books.

It's interesting to see Henry Green, the great stylist, talks so laudatorily of Doughty.

His style is mannered but he is too great a man to be hidden beneath it. It does not seem possible that future generations will be able to date one of his paragraphs, he seems so alone. His style is constant throughout, seems to be habitual, but, on analysis of this last, is found to vary with his subject. He is often obscure. He is always magnificent. (Surviving, Harville, 1992, p.96)

I can't recall if Chatwin somewhere talked about Arabia Deserta. But this is surely one book that's on the upper part of my must read list... waiting to be scrutinized for what it reveals on the level of lingustic arrangements and disjunctions.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Silliman's Blog

Poet Ron Silliman's blog is the most extensive one there is around.

I dream of writing up each day all the thoughts that crossed my mind during that day but it's a tall order. So I stick to my two cents each day. Flickering bits of thinking, snap shots of verbal landscapes, strangely recombined and arranged like a stone henge, surrounded by eye-less and ear-less moais...

The Butterfly Effect

The typhoon that caused flood in Tokyo yesterday is named Typhoon Nabi. Very aptly. Nabi means butterfly in Korean! Who named that anyway? And what a cosmic butterfly it is!

Let's Call the Sandman! (R.D.Laing)

I'm really fed up. I'm just tired of telling my children to go to bed every night, at 9:30 to my daughter and at 10:30 to my son. But if I don't tell them to quit whatever they are about and hit the sack they keep doing things, wide awake from their own inner caffein that their brains somehow manage to produce from scratch. They are probably fascinated by life.

I remembered having read a paragraph from R.D. Laing;

Sleeping and waking, eating, drinking, digesting, urinating, defecating and breathing are biological basics. These basics are deeply socially programmed. They are all subject to disturbance. A great deal of the disturbances doctors are asked to treat are socially conditioned disturbances of these socially conditioned, biological, organic functions. (Wisdom, Madness & Folly, 1985, p.25)

As a parent I am so violently representing the society to control their basic needs. And here, to control means to time; mostly by giving them time limits for such and such activities. How disgusting. How necessary. To shape them into admittedly "human."

Another quote from the same book:

She was nineteen, and a circus-horse rider. She and her horse fell. The horse rolled over her head and had to be destroyed. She was completely 'out' for several days. When she came round, she WAS a horse. She looked like a horse. She had horse's eyes. She neighed. She grazed on the grass outside the ward, naked, on all fours. After three or four weeks she turned into herself again, over the course of two or three days. I wanted DESPERATELY to UNDERSTAND this sort of thing. (p.87)

Well, well. I'd love to understand that sort of thing, too. When in fact did I become human? When did I quit that more comfortable life of mine as a dog?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Walking Backwards (Anne Carson)

My friend Yoden writes about the Canadian writer Anne Carson in his blog ( and quotes some wonderful short pieces called "short talks." I can't resist the temptation of copying one of them.

"Short Talk On Walking Backwards"
My mother forbad us to walk backwards. That is how the dead walk, she would say. Where did she get this idea? Perhaps from a bad translation. The dead, after all, do not walk backwards but they do walk behind us. They have no lungs and cannot call out but would love for us to turn around. They are victims of love, many of them.

Woof. Some strong stuff here. At least three instances fascinate me. Mother's prohibition quoting the custom of the dead, the narrator's reasoning by "bad translation," And the dead's having no lungs.

Anne Carson is a scholar of Ancient Greek (now a professor at the U of Michigan). No wonder she has such unusual association of things!

The Village (Night Shyamalan)

This evening my son began watching Night Shyamalan's THE VILLAGE (2004) and I kept him company. I was pleasantly surprised.

The film is a masterpiece! The plot is very mythical and the overall atmosphere rather folktalish, but rendered with subtlety and taste, a real craftsman's work. The reason why the people decided to isolate themselves is believable. It's impossible that the park rangers don't know about the existence of the village, but it doesn't put me off. The structure is so straightforward and convincing.

I am interested in Night Shyamalan's background. According to the biographical note, he was born in Pontdecherry, India, and raised in Philadelphia. Pontdecherry is one place I've been wanting to visit. This film offers a great material for a course in Anthropology for undergraduates!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Morningside for Life! (Bro' Town)

Watching a DVD together has become our family entertainment for the past week and what we watch, over and over again, is a local cartoon called BRO' TOWN. This is great. No other country has produced such a seriously hilarious and up-lifting immigrant / minority cartoon filled with contemporary issues. At first I thought it was something like Fat Albert's (Bill Cosby's) but it was not. It's much more in the vein of some Japanese classics such as Osomatsukun or Moretsu ataro (both of our great, incomparably great, Fujio Akastuka), tuned totally into the real-time real-life Auckland setting! You got to watch it to believe it!

And Wikipedia is great. They have an entry called Bro' Town and here is what it says (thank you whoever has written it!). Morningside for life! and Wikipedia for life, too!

(What follows is all quote)

Bro'Town is New Zealand's first adult-targeted animated series. It is set amongst New Zealand's growing Pacific Islander community.

Vale, Valea, Jeff da Maori, Sione and Mack live in the suburb of Morningside and attend the local college, St Sylvester’s, where their principal is a Fa’afafine and the PE teacher is legendary ex-All Black Michael Jones.

Vale and Valea (loosely translates to dumb and dumber) are two brothers, living in a single-parent household with their father Pepelo, a benefit bludging, occasional fork-lift driver with a love of beer, porn and gambling. Vale has a strong social conscience while Valea is more interested in girls, but both brothers believe in having a strong solidarity with their boys.

Sione is Vale and Valea’s best mate and fancies himself as a bit of a ladies man, while he constantly looks for ways to impress the girl of his dreams, sixth former Mila Jizovich.

Jeff da Maori lives with his mum and eight dads in a car shell outside the house. He was brought up in the country by his auntie but then moved to the city ‘for better tv reception and because the thieving colonialists stole our land’.

Rounding out the group is the softly spoken Mac who has definite gay tendencies and a knack for talking his way out of things but does stand behind his word eventually!

Produced by New Zealand company Firehorse Films and funded by New Zealand On Air, Bro'Town was made using three animation studios – two in New Zealand and one in India – and involved over 100 staff.

Each episode took up to six months to make and consists of 16,000 drawings, making it a huge undertaking for all involved.

This Blues Now Is Just Too Big (Andrei Codrescu)

For those of you who are concerned about the situation in New Orleans: read Andrei Codrescu's moving comment on .

This again is an instance of "écho-monde" (Glissant) that reflects the savage past of slavery (and so is Cidade de deus).

Kaze no tabibito (Travellers of the Wind)

For the Japanese magazine Kaze no Tabibito I have begun a seris of essays: the series title is Shasen no tabi (Transversal Voyages) and the first installment (which will appear later this month) is titled "Twilights in Fiji". I am still wondering about what to write for the next issue. Maybe on Tonga. But I am rather determined that I will pursue a thread that goes from one archipelago to another.

The island has been my favourite topos since childhood. I can't explain its fascination. Coziness that comes from smallness? But it can be suffocating, too. A temporary sojourner doens't know anything about the life on an island. Yet the constant presence of the sea and the wind, visually and audibly, is a sort of nirvana.

I am now re-reading Le Clézio's Voyage à Rodrigues (1986). On the island:

Le vent, la pluie, le soleil brûlant. L'île est semblable à un radeau perdu au milieu de l'océan, balayée par les intempéries, incendiée, lavée. L'érosion extrême de la mer a modelé ces roches jaillies des profondeurs, les a usées, polies, vieillies, et pourtant reste sur chacune d'elles la marque du feu qui les a créées. (35)

Extreme erosion by the sea. The phrase fits well with the blow holes on the southern coast of Tongatapu.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Toda a gente fica morrendo

Finally I saw Fernando Meirelles's CIDADE DE DEUS (City of God). Set in Rio's notorious favela, it's a story of incredible violence and touching sentimental education of a would-be photographer. It's based on a true story, it says, and this is plausible enough. The depiction is at times stunningly beautiful. The song that was used at the end of Walter Salles's Central do Brasil is again heard in the middle. I couldn't really tell which song was by Seu Jorge who is now performing in Japan (this weekend in Tokyo).

It's been 24 years since I spent a year in Brazil, in São Paulo. But already São Paulo is a world apart from Rio. And in Rio, there is a geographical combat going on... reflecting class, economy, ethos, and the degree of violence.

I am wordless about everything Brazilian...