Monday, June 28, 2010

Letter to Mom (Or, Cancelled Request for Automated Thought Transcriber)

Dear Mom,

Dr. Fahim, a friend of mine who gets paid by Google to make our world more ergonometric, recently asked me, "What technologies, if made accessible, would improve your life?" I told him, a device that transcribes my thoughts into my blog on command. He said he’d look into it.

But after spending the last few days examining my own thoughts, I now wish I’d answered differently. You see, for the most part my thoughts are formless, stupid, ungrammatical, and are constantly moving between two entirely unrelated linguistic systems.

To illustrate, I’ll transcribe the thought that just flashed through my head, exactly as it occurred. Incidentally, it was a memory from childhood.

You and the girl and we had become chummy over ten years from now.その時間からあなたの住宅に入ることのポイントに正常な人が何かから見る見る間に見ることのできない世界を導入する、何が来る?That time, I was the youth who still wears the boot. また世界ちょうどアメリカのすばらしい人の陰だったようである事実、ロシアの大統領も、この違反の状態を同時に書いた時、そして、今、私、私のよう な状態が低いところにある。また2人がchummyになった事実、非常にそれらのための独自性の種類の機会にthough it was safe and inviting in the villa that is your family and my family do the fireworks with everyone and/or swim with the river, it is to hide it is the cell in the forest, doing, gently tickling her breasts, that time it was pleasantly and truly is. 私達は偽りなく認める。Never mind the world is not thought enough even in the how-dream where am I who am born with afflatus or status can play with such a party, with you did not enter at that time unintentionally?
See what I mean? It doesn’t make any sense. No one would ever read it. So, Fahim, if you’re reading this, go ahead and scrap my request for an automated thought transcriber.

Your dutiful son,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Note from Neojaponisme

This just in from Néojaponisme's W. David Marx:
Dear Beholdmyswarthyface, Sally Suzuki, and the others,

I would love to join forces with you and the other Tōdai kids to start putting out more material more regularly on Néojaponisme. I don't know if you have felt it, but there is a general lull in online writing these days, so hopefully we can spur something to break it together. Please spread the word that we're looking for (good) contributors (who understand our style). Thanks, David

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More Writings by Mori Ōgai

This just in from Shirley "Little Bird" Boednest:
Hey Sally, it's me again, Shirley "Little Bird" Boednest. I just finished reading J. Thomas Rimer's Not A Song Like Any Other, a collection of selected essays, articles, reminiscences, plays, "unusual short stories," and poems by Mori Ōgai. I was hoping you could direct me to the originals. Thanks.
Sure, Shirley. Unfortunately only the following nine works are available on Aozora Bunko. Click on the titles for the original.

1. Ōgai Gyoshi to wa tare zo? 
2. Watakushi ga jūgo 

3. Hasegawa Tatsunosuke 
4. Safuran
5. Munaguruma 
6. Nakajikiri 
7. Nezumizaka
8. Yokyō 
9. Ōshio Heihachirō 

Mother Advises Son On How To Teach a Class

This just in from Mother:
Dear Beholdmyswarthyface,
So I heard you're going to be giving lectures. Great news. I wanted to send you a thought on how to teach literature at a college. I've been reading Delueze & Guatarri's Thousand Plateaus, which I highly recommend if you haven't read it already. Or at least read the translator's note and the introduction, "Rhizome." Aside from the philosophy, I'm also struck by how fun it is to read, and it's given me an idea for a way to teach literature.
The idea is to teach it backwards; in other words, begin with the references. I think a teacher should, more than anything, make it possible for the student to fully experience the work. This not only means they should understand the work but that they should experience the joy (jouissance?) that one feels when encountering art. In school, thought too often "gets combed out" (to borrow John Ashbery's phrase); in other words, I think teachers too often simply explain the work or show their enthusiasm and hope that it's contagious. Both of these are good, but they should also set up the curriculum so that the student can subjectively experience the text. I think there's something special about the first read. So you might want to start by studying/explaining the city, social structures, artifacts, allusions before ever mentioning the texts. Only after such preparation will the student be ready for enjoying/confronting the work. What do you think? -Mother
BMSF's response:
I totally agree. During my interview for the position, I proposed doing something similar. But they said that would take too much time, and that for an undergrad class I shouldn't worry too much about explaining social/historical/political contexts. "That will come later," they said. "What's important now is to get students responding 'in a personal way' with the texts." I think they might be right.
I haven't read Deleuze and Guatarri's book, but I have read the Routledge book on them, and there's a long section about their rhizome idea. From what I remember, an intriguing concept. I think Zizek attacks it somewhere, though.
And again from Mother:

I read your tentative syllabus: sounds interesting. I particularly like the theme of the interdependency between jitsu and sou.

Here are some of my feelings about the specifics. 20~30 min presentation in groups? While it sounds good, this could turn out to be a disaster: confused kids who may or may not have read the book trying to explain literary theory does not sound fun to listen to. If you insist on having them do presentations, I suggest you keep them brief and be very specific. Perhaps you could assign each person of the group a particular topic, like social structures / political context, etc. The group explanations should provide the context, while the in the class discussion students can try to analyze the ideas presented.

Being a survey course, I understand you have to cover a lot, but it would be nice if there were certain "landmark" texts to help the students navigate. Maybe you could assign 3~5 books that are covered in depth, to which other works can be quickly compared. This will also give you more time to spend on the books you actually know and have something to say about. (Actually I re-read your syllabus, and I see you have both primary and references texts, so OK.)

You may want to read Nabokov's account of when he started teaching. At the time he was still learning English, so he wrote out all his lectures word for word and simply read them in class. I don't recommend that for today's students, but you should prepare quite a bit to say for each of the works you'll cover. 

But I would say overall it looks very interesting and promising.

As for the lectures, just get up there and entertain them for an hour . Channel Grandpa Cigar. And of course, know your stuff inside and out.

As for Deleuze and Guatarri, their work is sort of beyond critique, partly because it stands in opposition to and tries to undermine what would normally be considered critical analysis, and also because it is borderline art.

To illustrate here's a small exerpt from Deleuze's small publication "Dialogues" :

"The art of constructing a problem in very important: you invent a problem, a problem-position, before finding a solution. None of this happens in an interview, a conversation, a discussion. Even reflection, whether it's alone or between two or more, is a not enough. Above all, not reflection. Objections are even worse. Every time someone puts an objection to me, I want to say: 'OK, OK, let's go on to something else.' Objections never contributed anything."
Having said that, I don't doubt that Zizek takes issue with him; while both parties are certainly revolutionary, Zizek is authoritarian and Delueze is the more laid-back child-of-1968 type, like me, your mother.

Best regards,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Question from reader re: Watsuji Tetsurō entry

This just in from C. Johnson, Ph.D. student at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa:
Dear Beholdmyswarthyface,

I would like to contribute your encyclopedia entry for Watsuji Tetsurō. As it stands now, the entry is missing the English publication of part of his Ethics in 1996, which is a pretty big oversight. So you could just fix that part. On the other hand, how detailed of an entry are you looking to have? I could write a couple thousand word article on his life, major works, and philosophical evolution relatively easily, but would that be out of keeping with the scale of the encyclopedia entries? Let me know how I can best contribute.

-- C. Johnson
Ph.D, student, Philosophy Department
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
And Sally Suzuki's response:
Carl Johnson,

Thank you for the mail and for your interest in our BMSF Encyclopedia of Modern Japan project.

Since in this case a fairly decent entry already exists (courtesy of Encyclopædia Britannica), I don't think there's any need to rewrite the whole thing, especially with so many other entries that remain to be written. If you'd like to add a sentence or two about his Ethics, I could perhaps weave that somewhere into the existing entry. As the entry is already quite long, I don't think we should add much more.

What we do need, however, are people to help with the yet unwritten/unedited/unpolished entries. It would be great if you or your colleagues could help out with some of these.

Sally Suzuki, BMSF Media Director

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Swarthyface Now on Twitter

This just in from Sally Suzuki:
Just in case our "This just in" postings weren't current enough for you, you can now follow our minute-by-minute updates on Twitter:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ishikawa Jun: A Comprehensive Bibliography

This just in from Burt "JLANDER" Haliscaster:
Hey Beholdmyswarthyface & co. For whoever is interested, I'm putting together a comprehensive bibliography of books and articles related to Ishikawa Jun. I will continue to expand and reorganize the list in the coming weeks. Hope you find it useful. -Burt "JLANDER" Haliscaster

Kurodahan Press Goes Non-profit

This just in from Kurodahan Press founder Edward Lipsett, who has recently expressed interest in contributing to our Aozora Bunko Translation Project:

As I mentioned regarding your Aozora Bunko project, a number of people are talking seriously about forming an NPO to take over the work of Kurodahan Press (KHP). KHP already has about two dozen books in print, mostly translated from Japanese, and another dozen or so in various stages of production. If you are interested in knowing more, or even helping us get it up and running, please read the latest news item here.
A discussion group has also been set up for interested people; if you want in please drop me a line.
-Edward Lipsett, Kurodahan Press

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Topics in Japanese Literature

This just in from Sally Suzuki:
I've been informed that Beholdmyswarthyface will be teaching an undergrad course in modern Japanese literature at Sophia University this fall. At his request, I put together this tentative course syllabus and class description, which I plan to revise several times before sending in. Have a look and tell us what you think. Thanks, Sally Suzuki.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Historical Literature of Mori Ōgai

This just in from Shirley "Little Bird" Boednest:
Hey Sally, it's me, Shirley "Little Bird" Boednest. I just finished reading the two volumes of historical literature by Mori Ōgai, which I really liked (some stories more than others). I was hoping you could direct me to the originals. Thanks.

Sure, Shirley. Here they are. Click on the title for the original.

1. "Okitsu Yagoemon no isho" 
2. "Abe Ichizoku"
3. "Gojingahara no katakiuchi" 
4. "Sakai jiken" 
5. "Sanshō dayū" 
6. "Rekishi sono mama to rekishibanare"
7. "Gyogenki"  
8. "Jiisan baasan" 
9. "Saigo no ikku" 
10. "Takasebune" 
11. "Kanzan jittoku" 
12. "Sahashi Jingorō" 
13. "Yasui Fujin" 
14. "Tsuge Shirōzaemon" 
15. "Kuriyama Daizen" 
16. "Suginohara Shina" 
17. "Saiki Kōi"