Books!

Feb. 20th, 2009 11:13 pm
elwen: (reading)
This is the second part of my post from last week, in which I spent so much time explaining why I had been busy that I never got to the point: I was too busy to read. Especially since a lot of that busy-ness during the school week involves reading for class. "Efficient non-fiction reading" only goes so far, after all, and even if I have free time after all that other reading, it makes me want less to be mired in text -- even interesting text -- than otherwise.

So these are some books I've been wanting for a while, which I've finally managed to pick up lately, that I sadly haven't had much time or inclination to read since getting them. (At least I've started on the first set, finally.) The recurring theme is that I desperately wanted to read these, and they are not in any library I have access to, and the first set weren't even available new anymore. I'm a big fan of libraries, and not a big fan of buying books given my overcrowded living space, but with these books I just had to give in. Which makes it more of a shame that now they're just lying around the house untouched.


  • Max Danger: The Adventures of an Expat in Tokyo and More Max Danger: The Continuing Adventures of an Expat in Tokyo, by Robert J. Collins

    I've had these on my "to read" list for ages after they were recommended in some long-lost post in [livejournal.com profile] japanese. As you might guess from the titles, the books are series of short stories about Max Danger, an expat working at the Tokyo branch of an American company in the 1980's. Lots of hilarious misunderstandings and sheer incomprehensible events ensue. Normally, I might find some of the humor painful -- especially plays on L/R pronunciation or pronunciation in general -- but the writing is brilliant enough to make it work. The introduction had me instantly hooked. Sadly, Amazon's "Look Inside" excerpts the first few short stories and not the intro, and I couldn't find all of it online, but here is an excerpt of one of the best parts, found in, of all places, an international management textbook.

    The bite-sized stories are helping me get through the book, too. I have a tendency to start reading a book before bed and still be up hours later, but Max Danger makes itself easy to put down because each story is only a few pages, and it's just nice to stop and digest the humor rather than race through. I'm sure I'll be rereading these long into the future, anyway.

  • Making Sense of Japanese: What the Textbooks Don't Tell You, by Jay Rubin

    I think I just stumbled across this book on Amazon one day -- I have a bunch of random Kodansha books (on particles, gramamr, words-not-in-the-dictionary, etc.) on my wishlist, so I get a lot of these through random recommendations. I read the excerpt, and it blew my mind. Seriously, after those few minutes, I grokked Japanese ten times more.

    [Here is the Amazon page, so you can try it for yourself. Be warned that I shared it with my sister, who was less enthusiastic about it.]

    So after that flash of enlightenment -- which I didn't even get to finish reading because the excerpt cut off -- I figured the rest of the book must be just as brilliant, and had to have it. Eh... my LexisNexis points were languishing anyway.

  • Fujoshi Kanojo and Fujoshi Kanojo: Part 2, by Pentabu

    I've written about these books before. Basically, they're the compilation of a blog by the boyfriend of a yaoi fangirl. He recounts straight-faced conversations she has with their uninitiated friends about random aspects of anime fandom, late-night conversations in which she shows more interest in anime couples than in their own relationship, and generally the trials and travails of living with a shameless fangirl. His long-suffering tone and mental tsukkomi are so genuine and so much fun to read. You can find samples here at Baka-Tsuki.

    After posting last time, I did place a phone order with Kinokuniya for the books. At ¥1000 each, they came out to $31US. Oh how the exchange rate kills me. (Actually, I don't think it's that much different from their usual markup. The books were just inherently kind of pricey.) They books are really nice, though, and they preserve the different font sizes Pentabu uses (which Baka-Tsuki does not) and includes his little illustrations (albeit in black and white). What really bummed me out, though, is that it appears not all of the blog posts were compiled -- for example, the one about Ouran which I translated off the website for Baka-Tsuki does not seem to be anywhere. I'd like to think that between the posts still up on the website and the books themselves, all of the posts are preserved for posterity, but I think that's a little optimistic... I mean, it's not like I'd know when something was missing, but it will bother me to think that there could be.



...I think those are all of the books I've acquired. So in hindsight, I guess another theme was the Japan-focus. That's really because most other books I can find in a library and so they just live on my "to read" list. And I've added a lot, if you look on weRead. Some notables:

  • Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law, by Nancy Polikoff: The book I mentioned last week that I wanted to read after attending the symposium on gender, parenting, and the law. I gather it's about different kinds of family structures, such as extended biological family units and loose communes of several couples with children, that are basically ignored by the law, and what they do to survive under current legal structures.

  • The Opportunity Maker, by Ari Kaplan: Book about networking by a guy who gave a really interesting and engaging talk at the law school a few weeks ago. I am generally pretty skeptical about networking books -- I can try to read them, but I don't really get anything out of them, like my half-finished copy of Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty -- but if it's like the tips he gave during his talk, there may be hope.

  • Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman: Recommended by the teachers of my mediation training, about how empathy and such are more important to navigating society than is intelligence per se.


And since I'm at it, here are some things I've been itching to reread lately:

  • Angel Diary: They're manhwa, not books, but I ordered the latest volumes along with Making Sense of Japanese, then I started reading and realized that I totally didn't remember what had happened anymore. So now I need to start over. Hopefully I'll be caught up right around when the last volume comes out in June...

  • Incarnations of Immortality: I'm sorry, I just like Piers Anthony, as sexist and dirty as he can be. I think I was at a rather impressionable stage in life when I read this series, and a lot of its content got incorporated into my . . . um, delusions, shall we say. One of my goals in rereading is to find out if they were actually good, or if I was just crazy. Well, and I think I will still like For Love of Evil a lot, plus I think that is what Angel Diary reminds me of regarding a particular plot twist that I am predicting.

  • Tortall: Y'know, I finally finished rereading the Song of the Lionness quartet a while back, and was gearing up to reread Immortals, but now I feel like I don't remember Lionness enough anymore and kind of want to reread them again. At least they're relatively quick reads...? Maybe I just want to savor George Cooper's awesomeness some more. Better that than the creepy loli vibes I can't help but get from Immortals. (I don't know. I was actually happy about the couple at first, I think, but then I started having misgivings for some reason.)

  • Pern: I got through all of the first trilogy, and then the first two of the Harperhall trilogy, and for some reason I haven't gotten up the initiative to start Dragondrums. I think I got too attached to Mennolly, and I don't want to shift focus to Piemur, even though I like him, too. Anyhow, I do want to get through all of the Ninth Pass books, but I have this sense that I'm not going to like what happens in Masterharper (which I think I read before but for the life of me don't remember at all) and afterwards.


Whew! That's... a lot more on my plate than I thought. Though manageable, I think, if I do fewer kanji flashcards before bed and devote more of that time to reading. It's just that, like I said, it's harder to control my bedtime going that route.
elwen: (language)
One thing I will never understand is "translating" a foreign title into the same language.

I just watched the movie "Harakiri". (Which was really good, BTW.)

But... the Japanese title isn't "Harakiri".

It's "Seppuku".

They both mean basically the same thing -- ritual suicide performed by cutting the stomach. Written in kanji, each is the other backwards -- 切腹 vs. 腹切. (When the title screen came up, I even thought they had chosen to write the characters left-to-right to be old-fashioned and annoying.)

So what's the point of changing the title???

[According to Wikipedia, there is a subtle distinction, but I somehow doubt that's what the "translators" were going for.]

I feel like both words are rare enough in English that neither has truly achieved loanword status, but it may just be that I move among more culturally enlightened circles. But really, I feel like "Harakiri" would draw as many "what?" responses as "Seppuku". Changing the title like that just seems so insulting. It's like telling the Japanese that they don't know how to use their own language.

I keep trying to think of another example of this kind of non-translating, but I can't. I'm sure there must be more...
elwen: (lol internet)
Someone on [livejournal.com profile] japanese posted a link to Kanji Clinic, a regular column in the Japan Times. There's also a section of book reviews, which I immediately turned to, as I have been looking for a good Japanese-Japanese dictionary and a good synonym/homophone dictionary.

The reviews of Japanese-only dictionaries were not that numerous, but there were a few recommendations for synonym/homophone dictionaries, at least. Along with this observation:

While native speakers often disagree on the correct kanji to be used in a given context, as Mr. Jack Halpern notes on his web site, foreigners will almost certainly select a kanji that all Japanese will agree is inappropriate.


...yep.

[I know, I suck at wind-ups.]

Something to look for in my next trip to Kinokuniya. Though the only 使い分け辞書 I've seen there in the past are the ones with definitions in Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean, and I don't want to pay for all that extra paper that is useless to me.
elwen: (thought!)
[Halfway done with mock trial. Was decompressing by reading flist, but after this quick post it's back to refining my opening and cross and trying to remember the new parts of my direct.]

A really bad post in [livejournal.com profile] japanese reminded me of another bad post. [The latter being bad in that the content is appalling, whereas the first being bad in that the poster is appalling.] That reminded me of the comments in my post about the bad post, particularly the ones about whether you could really make an encryption system with kanji.

That reminded me of the Japanese puzzle recently posted by a [livejournal.com profile] japanese member at his new blog. The solution is pretty mind-blowing. I have no idea how I would ever have come up with that -- those Mystery Hunt people must be the most creative, non-linear thinkers ever. But yeah, it involves kanji, which is why I thought of it. I don't want to give away the solution more than that (although that's already a pretty big giveaway, I think). The full solution is in the next post.

It's not really encryption with kanji per se, but that's where my train of thought led. [I know, the post title is ridiculously cheesy. That should show you my current state of mind, after a day of mock trial.]

Now I want to make icons with quotes from the book, too. XD
elwen: (...)
This is the simplified Chinese character for "horse"? WTF?!



...I guess that's reason #63014 to hate simplified Chinese. x_x;;

For reference, this is the non-simplified character: 馬.
elwen: (facepalm)
To: Dan Brown

I don't know if I ever had any respect for you to begin with, but if I did, you just lost it.

This is kind of a nice complement to my previous post, I think. One is Japanese people screwing up English, and the other is English people screwing up Japanese. :P

ETA. )

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