Neener Neener, My Culture’s Older Therefore More Valider Than Yours

I can’t sleep. I think it’s because I didn’t drink enough caffeine today. Whatever the cause of this insomnia, rather than toss and turn, I picked up GACKTIONARY. To be honest I’ve never read the whole thing. When I pick it up, I usually read the headings and let that determine if I’ll read the rest. There’s some good stuff in there, but there are also things I don’t agree with. And usually, I leave it at that. But it really annoys me when GACKT asserts as facts things that he has no qualifications to say. Take this passage from entry #32:

「日本人は態度がすごく消極的で、欧米人はすごくジェスチャーが大きいって、よく言われるよね?何で欧米人はジェスチャーが大きいか?って、簡単な理由だよ。何でアメリカに住んでいる連中はジェスチャーが大きいか?簡単だよ。要は英語には僕らの言語に比べて、男言葉も女言葉も文法的な細かい表現が少ないから。彼らは身振りや仕草でそれを表すしかない。だから、女らしさを体で表現する。彼らは、体と共に語ってる。言葉じゃ足りないからボディーランゲージが必要になってくる。でも僕らは、もともとすべてを言葉だけで補えるだけのものがあったから、手の動きがなくても、言葉の美しさだけで伝えることができたんだ。」

It’s often said that Japanese people’s mannerisms are very passive, and Westerners’ gestures are very big, right? If you ask, “why is it that Westerners use such large gestures?”, the reason is simple. Why do those people living in America use such large gestures? It’s simple. It’s because, in short, compared to our language, English has few expressions which are grammatically specific as masculine speech or feminine speech. They can do nothing but express that through gestures and mannerisms. So, they express femininity through their bodies. Their bodies speak with them. Body language is necessary because their words are lacking. But from the start, we’ve had something that could be sufficient for everything through words alone, which is why we could express things through just the beauty of our words without the need to move our hands.

Perhaps I should’ve started off by saying that this entry is about how he likes for women to speak “properly” or “beautifully,” which to him means “like a woman should.” Ignoring the issues of restrictive gender roles and the fact that no one ever said the sole purpose of gestures was to constantly be slapping people over the head with gender expression (since you can’t see my gestures, let me tell you since apparently it’s crucial that you constantly be reminded of this, but I’M A WOMAN! </sarcasm>), what bothered me about this was the Japanese Exceptionalism (better known as Nihonjinron). Whereas I as a biased Westerner would say that gestures enrich our communication, perhaps GACKT as a biased Japanese sees this feature of English through a lens of deficiency stemming from Nihonjinron: English has X. But Japanese doesn’t have X. There’s no way any language can have something over Japanese, so there must be something wrong with English that requires the use of X.

GACKT has never (as far as I know) lived in a Western country. If he had, he would know that what most Japanese people are taught in schools about gestures is exaggerated; furthermore he would be aware that despite the fact that he can communicate to some extent in English, he is nowhere near fluent, thus he would kindly refrain from educating people about a topic he can’t really instruct them on. How could someone who doesn’t know the difference between calling your S.O. “baby” and calling a mass of people “babies,” or the huge semantic difference between a sentence-final “anyway” and the same word at the beginning of a sentence, think that he knows the nuances of what makes gendered speech in English, or even how much of it exists? GACKT has come a long way in his English expression ability, but realistically it doesn’t take that much to communicate. Babies do it without using words at all. Let’s see newborns get Holier Than Thou about that!

As for the gestures, I think Western gestures aren’t as big as most Japanese people apparently imagine them to be. As a Westerner who had the privilege of judging middle school English recitation contests in Fukuoka, I saw that children were trained to gesture through speeches to the point it went from oratory to mime. Nobody delivers a speech like that! Watch J.K. Rowling’s Harvard speech, which was used for the prefectural high school speech contest in 2011, and you’ll notice that she doesn’t even use her hands; she speaks with her eyes. When comedians do impressions of Obama or Bill Clinton or other modern politicians, they do that thumb pointing thing, and we can immediately recognize it as a politician’s gesture because most people don’t move their hands that way when talking. The mime thing isn’t as bad at the high school level (at least, it wasn’t in my experience), but the tendency for Japanese Teachers of English to tell students that they have to gesture is still there, but they don’t offer concrete examples of how to go about doing that in a way that’s natural for them and appropriate to the setting. Even in more casual social settings, which are likely more what GACKT was thinking of when he wrote this, you don’t have people turning to mime to express themselves, though some people certainly get more animated than others.

As far as traditional binary gender expressions go, I think most Americans are able to tell whether a person is a man or a woman from things like voice pitch, consistency of said pitch, number of words used, and certain vocabulary choices. In the traditional gender binary, I wouldn’t expect a man to walk into a room and greet his male friends with “Hey Guys!♪” in a singsongy voice; he might say it in an excited voice, but there wouldn’t be as much variation in the pitch within those two words as there would be were a woman saying the same thing to the same people. Grammatically, written Japanese can be vague about gender because it’s unnecessary to state the subject of a sentence in many occasions. (Side note: I wouldn’t want to leave out that saying that Japanese “omits” the subject is, potentially, viewing Japanese through a lens of deficiency. Maybe subjects don’t exist in Japanese!) So sure, “atashi” is the feminine “I” while “ore” is the masculine “I” in informal speech, sentence-final “wa” is a marker of feminine speech outside of certain dialects, and women are in general expected to be more polite. So let’s look at English. Sure, “I” is unisex, but in situations where Japanese would make no gender nor marital status distinctions by addressing people as Last Name-san, in English there’s Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Last Name. Women’s greater vocal pitch variation or the fact that they get associated with vocal fry despite the fact that men do it too is sort of like a “wa” at the end of a sentence. And in the Western world as well, women traditionally weren’t “ladylike” if they cussed or otherwise spoke rudely.

Those are just some examples, but if we put more on the scales, I think they’ll still even out. I don’t say “Such language has to do X because it’s deficient.” I say “X is a feature of such language because it is.”

I tend to refrain from saying “Japanese is such and such” and “Japan is this and that” because I know that four years in Japan is a very short time in terms of truly mastering a language and culture at the level a native speaker would. I know more than someone who’s never lived there, but I still tend to present my experiences with that caveat, because I think it’s important to say. Also, the suburbs of Fukuoka City are culturally not the same as Tokyo. Many non-Japanese in the blogosphere and vlogosphere talk about “In Japan” when really they should be saying “In the Tokyo metropolitan area.” Then there’s the issue of being in the global eye. I remember how that video was making the rounds during the World Cup (IIRC) of Japanese fans picking up after themselves in the stadium in Brazil even though they’d lost the game. “Japanese are so clean and respectful!” was the message. And they were in that instance, most definitely. But do all Japanese act like that at home, which is the implied message? I went to several baseball games in Fukuoka, where one of the features is that fans buy long balloons to blow up then release during the 7th inning stretch, and again at the end of the game if the home team wins. The balloons aren’t tied; the point is to have them fly around as they deflate, then they fall down unto the stands. Nobody picks them up. There would be spilled food and drinks on the stadium floor too. It was what you’d expect to see in a stadium. While there I thought, “See, Japanese are regular people too. They’re not these perfect stoic Zen drones, they make and leave messes.” Then that video was going around, and Japanese people who’d I gone to baseball games with were posting it on Facebook like “See how wonderful we Japanese are! ♡” and I was like “…So we’re just gonna act like Yahoo Dome isn’t always a filthy mess at the end of SoftBank Hawks games? Okay cool gotcha.”

Hahh, let’s see if I can sleep now. ^_^;

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All Souls’ Dance Party

Back when I lived in one of the raggediest kyoushokuin juutaku (teachers’ housing) in Fukuoka Prefecture, I dreamed of getting a fog machine, speakers, and turning the place into a haunted house. While I never did it, I did decide that a big part of the soundtrack had to be from Castlevania. Especially the Michiru Yamane ones. At the same time, I didn’t want to make a playlist that tried too hard to smack you over the head with Halloweenity, nor include tracks as predictable as “This is Halloween” or “Thriller.” Not that those aren’t great tracks (I love them both), but everyone can see those coming. Thus, “All Souls’ Dance Party” came into the world. I’ve created the playlist on YouTube for your listening pleasure.

Sephiroth carving pumpkins with Masamune

Sephiroth carving pumpkins with Masamune

In case some of the videos are blocked, here’s the tracklist. Enjoy~

  1. Bloody Tears – Akihiro Honda Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
  2. Soul Dracula – Hot Blood
  3. Cave of Jigramunt – Michiru Yamane Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
  4. Every Day is Halloween – Ministry
  5. Howling at the Moon – Phantogram Voices
  6. Anti-Soul Mysteries Lab – Michiru Yamane Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
  7. Dance of Pales – Michiru Yamane Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  8. Play Dead – Björk Debut
  9. Empezar de 0 – Thalia El Sexto Sentido
  10. Requiem for the Lost Ones – Shirou Sagisu Bleach OST
  11. Wandering Ghosts – Michiru Yamane Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  12. Control – The Birthday Massacre Pins and Needles
  13. Fall in Love – Phantogram Voices
  14. Lu:na – Gackt MOON
  15. Lullaby – The Cure Disintegration

On Becoming Able to Interact With People Right When People Interact More With Their Phones

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, but this made me want to write it down. I don’t have any IKEA furniture so I don’t know if they’re any good, but their commercial sure is hilarious. I love the super serious painter and the tense string music.

I’m not here to lament, necessarily, that people are supposedly losing the ability to communicate face-to-face, that they’re slaves to their screens, or what have you, but rather to share why I feel particularly…ironic? out of place? being toyed with by the Universe? when I find myself in a group of people who are all in their smartphones.

I’ve lived most of my life with relatively little interaction with anyone other than my mother and two brothers, and with us studying/working long hours, sticking to different schedules, moving in and out, etc., sharing a permanent address hasn’t always meant really sharing a life. So basically, I’ve felt alone most of the time.

From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—

“The Raven” may have drawn me to Edgar Allen Poe, but “Alone” was the first (and for two decades, the only) work that I could, as they say, “really relate to.” At least up to the part quoted above. He kinda lost me for a bit with the fountain to the red cliff and the mountain but when the demon comes in I think I get it again.

Anyway, as a child, I was never good at starting conversations. I’d talk your ear off once you lent it to me, but I was never the one to ask for it. In 10th grade, at the beginning of the school year, I didn’t know anybody in my lunch hour. Somewhat mortified, I sat down at a table by myself in Old Cass Tech’s huge cafeteria. But I came up with a solution to my problem of being alone: I buried my face in my textbooks as I ate my school lunch, pretending to study. This way, I figured, other kids wouldn’t look at me and think, “She’s eating by herself,” they’d look at me and think, “She’s busy studying.” Some nice juniors eventually invited me over to their table, and I sat with them the rest of the year, but the habit of pretending to be deeply engaged in something while out in public to try to draw attention away from the fact that I was alone persisted through my undergraduate days. Although by then I was also doing it because heaven forbid fat people eat in public, but that’s another story. The main thing I want to point out here is that I frequently made a visible display of disengaging from society because I felt myself unable to make any other choice.

Eventually I grew older and just a tad wiser, less neurotic perhaps, and became able to engage with people a bit more normally. But when a protracted job hunt led to me working from home, I ended up, once again, seriously deprived of meaningful human interaction. When I started grad school two years ago I had a really difficult time speaking because I had hardly been doing it. I started reading the textbooks out loud just to use my voice. My mouth and tongue would hurt after about 10 minutes. That’s how little I was speaking. I lived my life in front of a screen, mostly in silence.

While that was going on, I started reconnecting with a friend in Detroit. She started inviting me to things like Slow Roll and Bikes & Yoga, and introducing me to some of her friends. I was a bit nervous at first considering how rusty I was at purely social (as opposed to work or academic) settings, but her friends were all cool people that were easy to get along with and talk to.

One day, we went on a bike ride through the city. We went to Wendy’s then went to the little park next to/below the MacArthur Bridge to eat outdoors. Once everybody finished eating, the conversation slowly died down as one by one, they took out their smartphones. I sat there. I took out my flip phone and put it on the table mostly to be an ass. Eventually my friend looked up, and we laughed about the fact that I was the only one without a smartphone.

Photo taken with a camera. The kind that can't send text messages.

Photo of my bike on the MacArthur Bridge (AKA Belle Isle Bridge), taken with a camera. The kind that can’t send text messages.

Another time, we were sitting in a coney island waiting for our order to come. Five of us. Again, the conversation slowly died down as people started using their phones. And then, there were two. That’s when the one guy in the group said something like “Ugh, what a time to have my battery die.” The other three were playing games. I said to him, “We could just like…talk.” Another friend heard that, laughed, put her phone away, said something about how people don’t know how to interact in person anymore, and slowly everyone came back to the present time and space.

I didn’t say it, but I was thinking, “You guys are the only friends I have. You guys are the only people I see on a somewhat regular basis, and even that’s just once a week. I want to hang out with you. I have finally learned how to people, but now all the people who knew how to people are always using their phones, they’re doing by choice what I had to do with books because I didn’t know what else to do, what kind of joke is this, Universe?”

To end on a less emo note, last November I had started working with a personal trainer, and I came up with the idea of using Twitter so that I could easily track what I was eating and share it with her. At first having to take a picture of everything I ate was novel, then I started playing with my food (arranging it into smiley faces and such), but after three months or so it just became another horrible chore. I did, however, take a photo of Corn Flakes that was far more dramatic than Corn Flakes has any business being:

Corn Flakes Chiaroscuro

Corn Flakes Chiaroscuro

No, wait, I lied, let’s end on a semi-emo note. XD

An Illustration Of Why You Shouldn’t Use Google Translate Unless You’re Fluent In Both Languages And Just Need a Good Laugh

Perhaps automatic translation has made strides in the past few years, but it still has a long way to go when it comes to working between Japanese and English.

The other day I posted this heartwarming scene to Facebook:

Adult & three little kids walking down my street:

Kid: What’s that?
Dad(?): It’s a rooster.
Kid: What’s a rooster?
Dad: It goes *does an admirable impression of a rooster crowing*
Kid: Cock-a-doodle-do!
Kid 2: Cock-a-doodle-do!
Youngest Kid: *attempts to crow, ends up shrieking instead*

This made me smile as I sat in my window reading. lol

The next day I noticed that some unexpected people had liked the status, people who aren’t native English speakers and probably don’t speak it at a terribly high level (though maybe they do now, I haven’t seen some of them in like 6 years). So I wondered if they had just liked the stat for the sake of interacting with it, if they’d understood it, or if they’d read a machine translation of it and…well, what did that say? So I plugged it into Google, and it gave me this.

アダルト&私の通りを歩いて3小さな子供:

キッド:それは何ですか?
お父さん(?):それはオンドリです。
キッド:オンドリは何ですか?
お父さんは:それが行く**雄鶏の鳴き声の立派な印象を行います
キッド:コックは–落書きが-やります!
キッド2:巨根–落書き致し!
年少の子供:*は、カラスしようとする代わりに叫び終わります

これは私が私の窓の読み取りに座って私を笑顔に作られました。笑

This is a horrible translation for several reasons, but if you just re-translate it back into English you might not see some of them, because some words will end up correct in English even though the wrong word was used in Japanese. So let’s human translate Google Translate’s attempt:

Adult & walk my street three small children
[The way that the children were “counted” was grammatically incorrect]

Kid: What is that?

Father(?): That is a rooster.

Kid: What is a rooster?

Father is: that goes **Performs an admirable impression of a rooster’s crow
[Invisible problems here: Japanese does not idiomatically use the verb “go” in this sense; the word used for “impression” means “impression” in the sense of “He made a good impression on me” rather than the intended “impersonation”; Google doesn’t understand the convention of narrating actions in the third person within asterisks—though to be fair perhaps such a convention doesn’t exist at all in Japanese.]

Kid: Cock is–doodle-does!
[Google Translate failed to recognize this as onomatopoeia, taking it as four separate words instead; yet, as with the asterisks before, seemed at a loss over what to do with the hyphens. The katakana word that it chose for “cock” can mean “cook” as in “chef,” “cock” as in “male bird,” or “cock” as in “penis.”]

Kid 2: Huge cock–doodle I do!
[Not gonna lie, this cracked. me. UP. Unlike the first instance of “cock,” which was rendered with a katakana word that at least had the correct meaning within its pool of possible meanings, there’s no doubt as to what  kyokon means, and it ain’t “rooster.” Also, for further inexplicable reasons, it chose  itasu, the humble form of the verb “do” in respectful language.]

Young child: * is, instead of trying to do crow finishes shrieking
[Here it took “crow” as a noun rather than a verb, so it used the Japanese word for the bird. Also, while “finishes shrieking” could potentially sound like the intended “ends up shrieking,” what the Japanese implied was actually that there was already shrieking going on, and that instead of trying to crow, the child stopped that shrieking, ultimately yielding silence.]

I sat reading my window, this made me into a smile. LOL
[The word used for “reading” can mean regular reading as of a novel but usually has some extra nuance, for example, a machine reading data, a person reading someone’s mind, reading between the lines, etc. Also, Google Translate attempted to convey “made me smile” by keeping the two verbs, but the thing is that the construction “made (someone) do (something)” is expressed in Japanese by conjugating the action verb with an ending that reflects the “made~”, so you end up with one only one verb when you translate this construction correctly.]

There you have it, folks, an analysis of some of the things that can go horribly horribly wrong when you use Google Translate and its peers. Sometimes those mistakes end up being pretty entertaining, but a lot of the hilarity would fly over your head if you weren’t bilingual.

After tearing Google Translate apart, I suppose it’s only fair that I should translate this myself. That said, I wouldn’t present the story the same way were I to have Japanese speakers primarily in mind. For one, that narrating actions in third person bit doesn’t really translate (as far as I know). Also, I’m a big proponent of using what you know rather than trying to sound as if all your languages are at the same level. I mean, even if I consider my Japanese to be strong, my English level is still far beyond that. So if I attempt to write something in Japanese at the same level as I can write it in English, I’ll probably fail. That’s why I don’t bother. I just use whatever words come naturally, like so:

私が部屋の窓際に読書したら、道を歩いていた一人の男性と三人の子供の会話が聞こえてきました。

子供:それは何?
お父さん(?):雄鶏だよ。
子供:オンドリって何?
お父さん:「こけこっこ」と鳴るやつだよ。
子供:こけこっこー!
子供2:こけこっこー!
一番ちっちゃい子供:コッケッイィーーーーぃっ!

お父さんの立派な雄鶏の鳴き声のモノマネもできず、ちっちゃいお子様の気合いに私は感動して思わず笑みを浮かべました。笑

 

 

 

Videos in which GACKT…

Sits in a chair:

Mizerable
Vanilla
Secret Garden
Kimi no Tame ni Dekiru Koto
Juuni-gatsu no Love Song
Kimi ni Aitakute
No ni Saku Hana no You ni
Flower
PS I Love U

Sits in a chair and dies:

Metamorphoze
Setsugekka
Hakuro
Akatsukizukuyo

Dies outside of a  chair:

Kimi ga Oikaketa Yume
Redemption
Episode.0
Returner ~Yami no Shuuen~
Seki-Ray

Dies outside of a chair but in a sitting position:

Tsuki no Uta
Until the Last Day
ARROW

Dies la petite mort or pretends to do so:

Vanilla
Black Stone

Does not die but appears very hungry:

Mizerable

Goes down to Georgia:

Mizerable

Is an inspiration to little kids:

The Next Decade
EVER

Has red Kool-Aid raining on this blonde chick:

Claymore

Wears a burlap sack:

Oasis

Sits in an ear canal:

Arittake no Ai de

Gets you every time:

Love Letter

———————–

I could be wrong about some of these as I didn’t actually go through and watch them all again but I had a dadaistic compulsion to make this list.

Unagi no Gotoku

Message from GLEARS just came in like “The Kugustu ga Gotoku video is finally out!” and I’m sitting here watching it grinning from ear to ear because GACKT is robot dancing in an eboshi while an eel flies around on fire for no good reason.

Unagi no Gotoku

Granted if I actually look at the eel and not at all the almost popping and locking I can see that it’s a dragon. With like legs and stuff. But the association has already been made. It’s too late for me to go back. I’m reminded of all the times Gackt has joked about his grandfather saying that x animal looks delicious.

Not the kind of feast he was singing about. XD

Not the kind of feast he was singing about. Someone please go to Yoshizuka Unagi in Nakasu and eat this for me so I can live vicariously through your stomach.

 

Just in case

The other day I thought I’d join tumblr since WordPress seems to be full of tumbleweeds as far as the GACKT and exist†trace fandoms go. Figured I could save all the interesting posts I see on the tumblrs I read anyway. So I went to join. Among various suggestions for usernames it gave me “GloriousBasementTrash,” which was quite amusing but I went with WarpSpeedLibra instead. It was interesting at first, but then it started to feel like work. So I deleted it. orz

I doubt many of the tumblrs I followed in that brief time will see this, but I wasn’t trying to be an ass! I still read & enjoy your fandom tumblrs, I’ll just watch you from afar. Does that sound weird? It sounds weird. I’mma stop being weird now.