Saturday, March 31, 2007

FCI Asia International Dog Show

Went to see the biggest dog show in Asia today, at Tokyo Big Sight (this must be a pun on "site") in the Odaiba area. I used to be a junior handler when I was around 10. I went straight to the Ring 5 where a round of French Bulldog breed show was going on. The dogs were so well-built, impeccably manicured. To me a brindle male looked particularly good and it won the junior competition, apparently.

There were some awesome English bulldogs, too. Compared to the French, they were HUGE, with IMMENSE pows! My childhood dog was Toby, the English bull. Oh, how I miss him. Another breed I wanted to see was the Bull Mastiff, but we missed it. Leonbergers were quite nice, too.

Auto-circulating Cherry Blossoms

Cherry trees are in full bloom and I've been making palindromes about them. These sentences are all untranslatable; I'll write them down in Japanese.


Beware, the final one is not really a palindrome! But when you present them in this order, almost every one believes and buys what you say.

What follows is the best one I wrote today. Made out of 21 Japanese letters.


Tonight I took my dog out for a walk to appreciate cherry trees blowing in a stormy wind. White petals in the air like so many snow flakes. Dream-like. The only bearable moment in this season!

Michael Richardson on Breton

I went to Waseda this afternoon for a presentation by my friend Michael Richardson on André Breton's L'art magique. It was held under the aegis of the newly formed Dada-Surrealism study group led by Masachika Tani, Humi Tsukahara and others. Breton gathers various African objects in his own private office and they are nice to look at, really, but what's the use of them when they are totally decontextualized? An object loses its magic once it's taken out of its own milieu.

Over the years I am less and less interested in surrealism, although I still feel strongly connected with them regarding basic sensibility. Breton was my hero when I was twenty. Now I consider Blaise Cendrars much more important and actual than all three representative surrealist poets combined: Breton (whom Blaise considered too pretentious), Aragon (whom Blaise considered to be a really brainy stylist), and Desnos (whom Blaise considered the only authentic poetic genius of the group).

Today was the last day of Michael's three-year appointment at Waseda. He is going back to England in July. Vale, Michael, the world is your oyster!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Whale of Dinner...

There is a restaurant in Shibuya called Kujira-ya, now totally refurbished. Went there last night with a couple of college buddies for the first time in almost twenty years. It's a very sophisticated restaurant and they gave us the best separate room there was, overooking the busy traffic down on the street. Ah, Shibuya has changed. It's sad to see the street I walked everyday back in the period of 1977-1983 so dirty and crowded.

The dinner was gorgeous. We paid 6000 yen a piece. The courses were:

1. Raw whale meat chopped and mixed with mentaiko (spiced cod roe) and squid.
2. Whale red meat sashimi combined with whale skin.
3. Deep fried whale meat.
4. Harihari nabe: a pot with soup stock in which you cook whale meat, vegetables, and finally some noodles.
5. Ice cream (green powder tea flavor).

It was delicious!

The dinner was to send off Yasushi Ishii, a Latin American lit specialist, to Stanford where he'sll spend two years. Keisuke Dan was with us; he is just finishing his long novel (that has been in the making for several years).

Next time at a dojo restaurant, perhaps! (Look up your dictionary and find out what DOJO is).

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ah, c'est toi JuliA/En...

One of the books I've been browsing here and there is JuliAn Green's Le langage et son double, traduit par JuliEn Green. It's interesting how he thinks of the two languages separated by a thick wall. Somebody like Wallace Stevens, a casual reader, could pretend that English and French were one. Not so for Green, native in both languages.

This book presents his own texts and his own translations side by side; it is a source of infinite illuminations. Just look at his epigram for one of the essays:

She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleamed upon my sight;
A lovely apparition sent
To be a moment's ornament.

This is rendered as:

C'était le fantôme de la joie
Quand la première fois elle brûla à mes yeux,
Charmante apparition envoyée
Pour embellir un instant.

The difference is striking. In the original English, "she" from the beginning is given with its anthropomorhic resonance. Then it is revealed that she is but a phantom, an apparition. Then in the French, the sentence is lead by a "Ce" and "le fantôme" is given sooner than the human-designating pronoun. Although the time lag is minimum, there is certainly a deep gap, with "elle" appearing late. "To be a moment's ornament" rendered with "embellir" gives a different impression, too.

There is much to be learned from here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Those were the days

It's March already and my resolution to work FURIOUSLY has been put off because of various obligations... tant pis! But I got to get some work done in three weeks. Essays, translations, as always. And some preparation for the new academic year. Ay, ay, ay.

I can only sing a Papago song at this time of the night:

In the great night my heart will go out;
Toward me the darkness comes rustling.
In the great night my heart will go out.
(American Indian Poetry, xx)

Last friday there was a party to honor my friend Shimada, the editor at Kokusho kankokai. He will quit his company soon to freelance. It's a hard way, but the only way to seek REAL satisfaction. I support him totally.

It was a rare occasion to gather the most prolific of translators actively working. With Motoyuki Shibata, Minami Aoyama, the Numanos, Kan Nozaki, Sachiko Kishimoto, among others, we have (including myself) produced several hundred books combined! The surface of the Japanese language mush have changed a little because of our collective work.

And March continues.