January 14th, 2011

politics

Delicious LiveJournal Links for 1-14-2011

  • Not sure if I agree with all of this: "Most western and northern European countries grew out of kingdoms or federations whose people gradually coalesced (more or less) as nations, gaining unity through common identity. Belgium, by contrast, emerged from a different regime of sovereignty, one in which territories passed among rival multinational dynasties, through war or marriage, with no regard to local desires or ethnic boundaries. The Belgian identity that began to develop after independence in 1830 was always precarious, and is now being shattered through regional resurgence made possible by European integration."
    (tags: belgium)
  • "Every day, before leaving the office, save a few minutes to think about what just happened. Look at your calendar and compare what actually happened — the meetings you attended, the work you got done, the conversations you had, the people with whom you interacted, even the breaks you took — with your plan for what you wanted to have happen. Then ask yourself three sets of questions: * How did the day go? What success did I experience? What challenges did I endure? * What did I learn today? About myself? About others? What do I plan to do — differently or the same — tomorrow? * Who did I interact with? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Ask a question? Share feedback?"
    (tags: work)
  • Jobs going at my employers: 1) Media Advisor to be based in New York, 2) Intern to work with me in Brussels.
    (tags: work)
  • "Of course ordinary French and German taxpayers are going to be angry at lending their money to an insolvent state with lower tax rates than their own. Why wouldn’t they be? Of course ordinary Irish taxpayers are going to be angry at having to pay for high interest loans designed to bail out foreign banks. Why wouldn’t they be? And while ordinary Europeans get angry with each other, with unpredictable political consequences, capital walks away scot free."
  • "In a blog post which has gathered a certain notoriety, Paul Krugman recently sent the Estonians his condolences. I will send them, not my condolences, but my congratulations, and these not for the somewhat dubious honour of being allowed to join the Eurozone, or even for having carried out a highly successful “internal devaluation” (this outcome is still in doubt), but rather for their stubborness, courage and tenacity. These are indeed hard (and enduring) men and women. "
    (tags: eu economics)
  • "Imagine that your task for the day is to localize a piece of software -- and luckily for you, the only output the program emits is two messages, like this: 'I scanned 12 directories.' 'Your query matched 10 files in 4 directories.' So how hard could that be?"
    (tags: languages)
body paint

January Books 8) Ōoku: The Inner Chambers vol.2, by Fumi Yoshinaga

Having greatly enjoyed the first volume of this manga series, I am glad to say that I thought the second kept up the standard. It is the start of what may be an extended flashback to the 1630s, shortly after the plague that killed most of Japan's men.

The young noble monk Arikoto, presenting his respects to the shōgun, is detained and learns to his horror that he is to become one of the shōgun's catamites; but of course, the shōgun is actually a young woman, her father having died though this has been kept secret. It is an intense tale of sexual violence, secrecy, and intrigue, and of flawed human beings overcoming awful personal histories. I will be interested to see where Yoshinaga takes it in future volumes.

I am slightly disappointed that this revolutionary situation isn't used to examine the broader societal impact of the altered post-plague sexual politics; of course the title of the series is explicitly "Ōoku: The Inner Chambers" so I guess we will continue with the focus on the ruling household. Perhaps the shōgun Yoshimune, introduced in the first volume, will use the knowledge gained from the flashbacks to show us the rest of Japan. Even so, it seems to me odd that the feminisation of the ruling elite is accepted by all (including, so far, the author) as a matter of deep shame, that must be covered up at all costs.

On the other hand, I have been genuinely shocked to see complaints in other reviews about the use of archaic English to translate certain Japanese forms of address. I know little of Japanese, but I know enough to realise that this is a Big Deal, and therefore a big challenge in terms of catching nuance for an English translation. Faced with this problem, the translator, Akemi Wegmüller, has done a fantastic job. It really annoys me when people get this wrong, but she has got it completely right.

I did not take careful note, and an open to correction on this point, but I think that this volume of Ōoku fails the Bechdel test. Arikoto is the central character, and in most of the scenes where he is not present, he is the topic of conversation. But I may be wrong.