金曜日, 8月 27, 2004

I'm Bored, But Fighting It

    Only a week until I start teaching again. It will be good to start doing something useful for a change, even if it's just playing word games with shy teenagers. In this entry I'll tell you how I'm fighting the boredom of summer vacation now that I'm back from China.

    Last night:
    After work, I went to Tokyu Hands to look at their selection of board games. I was surprised to see that they have several German board games in now. Cool. Today I'll look them up at boardgamegeek.com to see which one I want to buy. I can't read German so I couldn't read the backs of the boxes, but they come with Japanese rule books. I might host my gaming group again soon, and I have nothing good to play. I want to play "Tigris and Euphrates" or "Sid Meier's Civilization, the Board Game" (I love the PC game Civilization III!) - but they are impossible to find in Japan, and so expensive to ship from elsewhere (the price of the game instantly doubles when you ship it.) If you have any information about finding games like this in Japan, PLEASE tell me. I have a collection of the suckiest board games ever, having inherited some old ESS club standbys from departing JETs. Must get better games.
    While in Sannomiya, I got a keitai mail from my pal Takashi who was also there on his day off, so I met up with him at Logos Cafe. It was good to talk about my trip with an actual friend, not just a coworker or student. Some of my friends are still away for the summer, so it's been kind of lonely for a first week back. Tomorrow, though, I'm going to the BBQ party of a good friend of mine, so that will be great. I'm just nervous about cooking the Chinese food I said I'd bring. Sure, I can cook vegetarian Chinese food...I took a cooking class in China...no problem...right? This morning I made Chinese-style scrambled egg and tomato like we had almost every morning for breakfast there, but that doesn't require a lot of skill. I just added a little sugar and soy sauce, and some green onions to the tomato and egg as I was cooking it. Yum.

Currently Reading:

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. At the recommendation of imagimancer. Cyberpunk sci-fi with a Victorian motif, it's set in a futuristic Shanghai. I'm curious to see how these disparate elements come together.

Recently Read:

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman - I read this in China. I bought the rest of this critically acclaimed children's fantasy trilogy and had them shipped from Beijing, along with some other books (i.e. Chinese novels in English translation). I wasn't disappointed by The Golden Compass. It's stylish and appealing, original fantasy.

The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde - I read this in China too. It was so funny. Yesterday a teacher at my school demanded to know what I'd read while I was gone (HE has read over 20 books, he told me!) and I tried to tell him about this, but I had to go on the Internet to find the Japanese title - まじめが肝心. I'm unsatisfied by this translation of the title, because the whole play hinges on the pun between the name "Earnest" and actual earnestness. Without using the name Earnest in the title, I think the charm is lost.

The Lady or the Tiger - a short story by Frank Stockton. I read this on the Internet the other day. If it were me, it would be the lady, because love that is that jealous isn't really love. It's murderous. Jealousness isn't benign. I think you have to let people be, especially if you love them.

Ordinary People by Judith Guest - I finished this yesterday. Because it's mostly dialogue, it's a quick read. I bought it because it's in English and I'd heard of it, not the soundest of reasons for reading something, even if it's cheap. The author let the characters, who were totally out of touch with their own emotions and inarticulate about expressing them, do all the talking. If you're going to let your characters' dialogue dominate the book, at least let them have a clue about how they are feeling instead of always saying "I don't know, man" and "Let's not talk about it right now."
    I did sympathize with Conrad, the depressed teenager at the center of the novel. He was getting over his brother's death and trying to reintegrate himself with his old life after a suicide attempt and a stay in a mental hospital. I could feel his pain, but the problem was that he couldn't express himself at all, normal perhaps for a depressed teenager, but annoying to a reader who wants to know what's going on. The author decided to cheer him up by throwing him a perfect romantic relationship with a beautiful girl (how often does that happen to suicidal teenagers in real life?) -sure, lucky for him, he falls in love and everything is happy again, except that his mother is still a cold evil monster for liking a clean house and traveling. Horrors! I don't understand why the author thought liking to travel is so sinister. Like everything would be okay if only she didn't want to take the family to Europe or Florida. Apparently her taking the family to Florida for Christmas last year was to blame for Conrad's suicide attempt! At the end the author just conveniently got the mother out of the picture without EVER showing her side of the story at all. The writing style was also coarse and stupid, with a lot of swearing and '70s slang.
    I did like the novel Mrs. Bridge, which has a similar sort of theme ("ordinary families are sick") - because the writing was more poetic and elegant, and it was like the surface of a still pool, with hidden depths. On the other hand, it occurs to me that Ordinary People is a famous novel that may have influenced a whole generation of psychological novels about characters with repressed emotions. I think the best examples of that genre are The Prince of Tides (I like the movie too) and Susan Howatch's novels. Ordinary People just proves to me that characters can be annoying if they are too uncommunicative.


  • At 10:39 午後, Blogger Matt said…

    "I'm unsatisfied by this translation of the title, because the whole play hinges on the pun between the name "Earnest" and actual earnestness. Without using the name Earnest in the title, I think the charm is lost."

    Yeah, but you can't really translate a pun like that, unless maybe the title character's name were changed to "Majime" or something.

    LanguageHat linked to an article not long ago which briefly discusses that very title in various languages:


  • At 11:36 午後, Blogger butterflyblue said…

        The book "Importance of Being Oscar" by Michael MacLiammoir was translated into Japanese as オスカーであることの大切さ.
        The translator of "The Importance of Being Earnest" is assuming that Wilde meant the quality of earnestness to be the important thing in the title. But of course he also meant that it's important, in this silly play, to be named Earnest. The fact that Earnest means serious is just a joke, an added bonus - which could easily be explained in a footnote or in the translator's introduction if the title was translated as エアネストであることの大切さ. But
    まじめが肝心 is shorter and catchier in Japanese, and kind of funny in its own way, since clearly the opposite is meant. It's a cute title, I just feel like something is missing without "Earnest" in katakana in there somewhere.
        The titles in European languages in the article you mentioned all had Earnest-sounding names, even if they didn't all have the right meaning. I can tell they're names because the words that sound like Earnest, like "Ernesto," are capitalized. The Japanese title makes no attempt to suggest that there is a name there. Therefore, I think the Japanese title is the farthest from the original title.

  • At 11:42 午後, Blogger butterflyblue said…

    Your suggestion about a character named Majime would also work. I think Majime is a male Japanese given name, right? (Or am I thinking of "Hajime"?) But then all of the characters' names would have to be changed into Japanese names. Then, for it to make sense, the setting should be changed to Japan. It could be very funny that way!

  • At 9:33 午前, Blogger Matt said…

    Maybe we're both thinking of "Hajime", but I think it'd make a good boy's name too. Come to think of it, I bet there has been a Japanese version of this play. That whole "to lose both parents sounds like carelessness" humour would transfer across pretty easily, I think.

    I see what you mean about wanting the guy's name in the title -- from my perspective, the main thing about the title is the pun itself (and apparently there's a whole nother pun-layer about gayness in there that I'm not 19th-century enough to get). Lose the pun, which you must almost inevitably do, and I don't care whether you keep the name or the adjective. Taste issue, I guess.

  • At 4:33 午後, Anonymous 匿名 said…

    I hated Ordinary People when I read it many years ago. It was way overhyped when it came out...I'm not sure why. Kind of an 'emperor has no clothes' thing, because there wasn't really much to the book. It was so simplistic as to be stupid. I resented that book because I thought 'Sense of Belonging' was more complex.

  • At 8:27 午前, Blogger butterflyblue said…

    I agree. I was expecting something deeper when I read all the rave reviews, but it was very shallow.



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