Saturday, May 10, 2014

Logic is so relaxing

Recently I had occasion to recall the logic class I took over winter break during my sophomore year of college. I loooooooved it. Really loved it. I loved it so much I regretted taking it over winter break, because the winter break version didn't go into as much depth as the normal semester version did.

I recalled it again today while reading a basic book on philosophy. I guess I've read simple versions of arguments for and refuting God's existence, but to see them all lined up in a row like this is somehow really calming. Just the feeling of, "I see what you mean," where I genuinely really do see exactly what you mean because of the logic flowing your your argument, is so incredibly beautiful to me. It's really powerful and I wish I could have thought that far on how I responded to logic (fireworks in my brain; I will never forgot taking that exam) back when I was taking the class in 2004/5…ten years ago.

You see, rather than despairing, I'm going to just keep marching straight into the future. Everything will be fine and then I'll die.

There's something I forgot to mention about Korean the other day. Phonics. Alphabets. Oh. My. God. Spelling is so difficult! I had mostly forgotten. Kanji is a blessing and a curse, but in this case it's a blessing. You don't even have to know how to pronounce it to know the meaning half of the time. You can often guess. A word written in an alphabet, it has no meaning until it's sounded out, right? I wonder if there are people who have written on this topic; there must be. Alphabets just feel crazy to me now. I fully appreciate the utility of displaying characters for sounds — you need so many fewer than for meanings; it's so much more manageable, but to actually try to sound out words on a page in a new language after dealing with kanji for so long is a real trip. Another reason I'm happy to be embarking on this Korean thing, even if I'm to keep it on the casual side.

I've gotten the study bug again. Of course, the ever-present idea of grad school shimmering in the upper right-hand corner of my brain, but also this weird pseudo-academic existence I try to build for myself mostly unsuccessful and alone. Been trying to think if there are places in town I can attend some lectures or something. Of course, I will check out schools, but I know there are one-off talks. I should just go check some out. Hearing people talk is such an interesting, though. Should never forget it. I guess in the era of TED talks on the Internet plenty of people are appreciating it all the time. I want to discuss more, too, though…

By the way, this neighborhood has been great for me. I'm so happy I moved here. The cafe I've been hanging out at lately continues to be a wonderful place and I'm meeting some more people bit by bit every time I go. I just have to try to remember their names...

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Korean Day 11?

In a few minutes I'm leaving to meet a Japanese coach. Part of the reason I say "coach" and not "tutor" is that I honestly dunno what we'll do together. She may end up being more support than actually teaching me stuff, but who knows. As long as I pass the N1 by the time I'm 30, I guess it doesn't matter.

As for Korean, I did end up picking up the first できる韓国語 book. If we use them in class, great, if not, it'll be an excellent supplement, and since I gave up on KoreanClass101 due to their questionable security practices (sending me plain text password in a sales email), I was hoping to find one.

Observations about Korean so far:

LOTS of cognates (can you call them cognates?) with Japanese, I guess due to Chinese. Honestly, I find this makes it harder. It's like katakana in Japanese. "But I know this word in English!" No, you still have to pronounce in Japanese. So no matter how much 여유 sounds like 余裕, say it in Korean or perish.

The times 오 sounds like 우 remind me of the issues of pronouncing Portuguese o when you're used to Spanish. Dunno if anyone else has had that experience. I don't think it's actually the same issue or not, but whenever I heard see 오 and hear 우 I'm not sure how to feel.

Been mostly learning Hangul so far, so my vocab is still almost zero. Trying to distinguish between certain kinds of sounds is extremely difficult. You think you understand the pattern (maybe ch becomes j when [x]?) but then you just don't hear that, no matter how much you want to. You start to wonder if Korean people themselves, or at least the ones doing the listening exercise recordings, don't distinguish as much as they think they do lol, but that's just slightly ridiculous. Anyways, maybe once classes start I'll get a better feel for it. Dunno when that will be, though…

I started listening to this podcast called まったり韓国語 and I am doing it in true まったり fashion, by not actually studying along with it at all. Basically I'm using it as Japanese listening practice while just letting whatever random knowledge about Korea and the language filter into my head as it manages to. The lady who lives in Seoul explains stuff about the city and Korean culture. For instance, the other day I learned about Black Day. That is totally useful and easy to remember. If I even get a few factoids out of it, then why not listen? Is basically how I feel.

Now and then I also just listen to Korean news podcasts, understanding nothing. It's pretty relaxing to understand nothing. Maybe "Hello" and that's it. Like a good reminder to just take it easy. When I listen  to Japanese news, I'm always trying to understand, but when you have absolutely no chance, you can just let it flow through your brain and chill out.

Except…I gotta run to my Japanese lesson now, lol. Not so chill after all.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

A brushing of the teeth

And so it came to pass that I really could not put off going to the dentist any longer. In fact, I was already there, trying simultaneously to gaze at the moisture on the surface of my eyeballs and also, out of some sense of duty to posterity (or of future dentist recommending), the cleanish and white-seeming waiting room, those patients shuffling through it. To be honest, part of the reason I picked this particular establishment was the sanitary mood, but not because I was taken in, but because it reminded me vaguely of the description of a dentist's office in a novel by my (very) favorite author.

In a fit of constructive multi-tasking, NHK news through headphones. (There is no music on my phone, the extent of which fact's full sadness had not wormed its way into my mind until recently insinuated there most likely near-unconsciously by a phantom.)

Name called, headphones removed, I sulk, resign into a chair where it is directed I may recline without even removing my shoes. A paper cup is placed in a technologically advanced circle which calls forth some diluted formula of mouth wash from a faucet when (no doubt by science, not magic) it is perceived said cup as near empty. I lost count of how many times I was instructed to rinse, but there were at least two occasions in which it was not the volume but viscosity of my spit that prompted the imperative.

What most impressed me about this visit besides the real-world oral hygiene advice given via brushes and mirrors, was the application of a solution whereby various manners of disease and decay-causing organisms colonizing the teeth may be seen in electric, shaming pink. It brought to mind a news piece I once saw about the amount of bacteria growing on mobile phones, where some similar chemical caused a handset's coat of normally invisible germy slime to appear yellow. Alas, a relative of that growth was flourishing along especially the interior wall of my still somehow and thankfully cavity-free incisors et al. This was mildly (for both related and unrelated reasons I was thenwhile endeavoring to arrest emotional reactions so as not to suffer unnecessarily wet eyes or inconvenient stuffing of the nose) alarming as I had (so I thought) been putting particular care into tending these hidden regions at home.

However, soon enough we had showed the bacteria they were unwelcome, and another paper cup of mouth rinse later, I was stumbling back into the world with sore gums and a secondary appointment two weeks hence. If you were to ask me why I needed to go twice for something as simple as cleaning I can only blame myself and say that perhaps if I had wanted to get as clean as possible in one visit I should have gone at a customary six-month interval and not waited over a year.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Korean Day 0

I started learning Korean this week (on Sunday, actually). The idea is to try not to take it too seriously, but knowing me I'll be ripping my hair out within a month and think I need to quit it plus half of the other things I do in order to recover. (No.)

I thought about not talking about any of this at all, but I actually feel like recommending the apps below.

Anyways, here are some starting observations...

Hangul is cool. I don't want to blindly praise King Sejong only for Hangul before I learn about whatever else he did, but dang, Hangul is easy to learn, especially compared to Japanese writing (or Chinese).

I need to learn the keyboard SOON. I guess I might get some stickers to help. I can't deal with romanization.

KoreanClass101 has the best lessons I've seen so far. I might sign up when my free trial ends. I've been watching Hana Hana Hangul and Korean in 3 Minutes. UPDATE: The only thing is that I'm nervous about their sales methods and the fact that they send passwords in plain text. I sent some feedback about that.

The apps I am using for Hangul.  (These are not the only ones I tried/looked up, but the ones that survived the cut.)

This one - One thing I like is that it introduces the names of the letters as well as the writing and pronunciations. Lots of vocab collections, too, but the vocab is not gonna stick unless I start learning some grammar to go with it.

Kambu Hangul Games - No, I never know what they are saying to me outside of the pictures, but it's still fun and eventually I will. Bonus is that the theme song is really cheerful. I mean, the words could be anything, but….the music and the kids singing make me happy. The characters are cute, too.

Here is my Korean Twitter account. I'm only going to speak Korean on it, so it'll be pretty quiet to start, but…yeah.

Today I looked at the Korean section of a big bookstore and was considering the 出来る韓国語 series, since it seemed easy-to-use and some people said nice things about it on Amazon, but as it happens a friend of mine has a friend who is starting private lessons soon. The group can be up to three people, so they are going to let me in. Seems like Saturday afternoons will be spent in Korea Town. (Now that I look again, I realized the school we're going to uses those books, so it's highly possible I'll end up getting them.)

I made a deal with myself that I could only study Korean if I study equal time in Japanese. I kind of want to get a JLPT coach and shoot for 1 in December. Maybe everything will come together after all.

Well, probably not everything…

Trying to not become completely scattered

First just let me respond to the list of "upcoming things" from the previous post because it seems unfair to leave them hanging.

- Asymptote Journal translation contest results (Really crossing my fingers for even an honorable mention.)

This didn't pan out for me, but maybe I can see why. The experience of doing it was still great and getting permission from the author meant more than anything.

Manga Translation Battle results (Already a finalist so that is pretty cool! Would be great to win in my category.)

My friend and I did actually win in our category. That gave me a smidgeon of confidence and has led to other opportunities.

- Seeing the 有頂天家族 stage play on the 19th. (You can imagine how excited I am about this!)

The play was great, although it reminded me of the anime "The Tatami Galaxy" (based on a novel by the same author) in that everyone talked a thousand miles a minute. Super demanding performances, but the music kept it fun and the staging was really creative.

- Will I be giving English lessons again? It's a possibility. (You know I would have to have a really good reason.)

I don't know.

- Taking a course called "The Modern and Postmodern" online.

I dropped immediately because with work and everything it would have been impossible.

- Accompanying a Japanese director to the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival to promote/hopefully accept awards for this.

He won Best Animation. I didn't do as much interpretation as I thought I would, but that is fine since I'm not an interpreter anyways.

Honestly my brain seriously feels like it's full of fog half the time. I'd like to blame the Internet, but it's how you use it that matters.

Yeah, maybe you can tell I've been stuck in a negative quagmire. Things are actually going good but I am never satisfied with myself. There has to be a way to be better or know more or—wait do I even really want to know? But how can I [x] if I don't know [y]? I'll never stop feeling like a poser.

Lately there is so much thinking I want to do, but I feel like I can't do it alone. I guess since I am alone, I should blog, but it just highlights how by myself I am in my room. Also, I love listening and discussing. I think better when I'm listening and asking questions than trying to say something. So yeah, I guess that means I should read more, and asks questions to my blog. I don't know.

Here are common themes lately...

Pointlessness of life: I can't remember exactly when the bottom dropped out of everything and my sense of purpose was plunged into a vat of existential crisis acid below, but maybe about a month ago. A little over a month ago? I feel better than I did for a while, but I still struggle to see how anything really has meaning. The key is to be happy enough that you don't realize. I guess the friction of superficial struggle (When in my life has anything been really hard or bad? Never.) has worn through my emotional flesh till the bones of despair started poking through. My underweight soul? I guess in that sense you could say I gave it a sugar rush the past couple days, but of course I knew it was going to crash...

The main outcome of this acute consciousness of my steadily approaching of death is that I really want to read and understand philosophy to see how other people think the meaning of life is and what you should spend your time doing. I do still want to translate, but I don't know what else I should do or if I should even actively engage in ANYTHING because I "should" do it. I can start to feel really motivated for totally questionable reasons (Love? What is that anyways?), but things like, say, my self-preservation instinct, are feeling kind of dulled. (I made a dentist appointment today, though. Pretty happy about that.)

My shrink ray vs. the world: I said this a little bit in Japanese on FB in Japanese and some people read it and いいね'd but no one engaged on the topic at hand even of the people who did (Thanks, those peeps!) comment. Actually, why don't I just translate ("restate in more fluent English") what I said. It was only 4 days ago. "At some point it seems like it became unacceptable to think about things that aren't Japanese. The reason for this is ostensibly that I won't be able to specialize if I don't focus, but it's not like I've actually been focusing or specializing anyways (*cry*). It just seems like I've made my world really small. It's quite vexing. But there's also a good chance that's a symptom of my recent existential crisis, and it seems like I'm kind of wandering. Anyways, when it gets to be summer, a lot of things will change, so even if I make huge efforts to figure things out now, all I'll be doing is consuming energy…is a convenient excuse I can make, so at least there's that (lol). Yes, I would much like to postpone this existential crisis, except…apparently…I am my greatest obstacle…"

But no, so there's a little more to it than that, too. Just basically, focusing on Japanese to the extent that I actively avoid things that aren't Japanese, is toxic. It's like I've 鎖国'd myself up in some weird Japan dreamworld but the stress of it makes it so I'm not happy or focused anyways? On the one hand if I am genuinely not interested in something that is fine, but the guilt I feel for wanting to see a movie in English or study another language is not. I guess it's partly because I want to keep improving at work (translating, writing) so anything that is not related to further those goals seems like the enemy, but I gotta get a step back from that. Like a hundred steps. I dunno. Honestly this train of thought is like a cancer lately and it's also kind of tied to…

Get your country out of my face: The next time someone says to me, "Wow, you must really love Japan," I kind of want to say "no." I think it's honestly true, though. Do I "love" Japan?!? Really? The country, Japan? No. My current answer is that I love Japanese. That is actually true. But it's not JUST Japanese. I picked Japanese as my working language because I happen to like anime, manga, Japanese lit, Japanese movies, etc. So to some extent, I enjoy Japanese media, but does that mean I LOVE Japan? Maybe if "People who love Japanese love Japan" were a correct premise, but I don't think it is.

If I sound angry, I'm not. I'm just stressed. Also, I don't love ANY country. I just want to focus on people. And try not to feel so negative.

Korean: I started learning Korean. The unfortunate (and therefore funny) thing is that it looks like this is directly tied to all the stuff I was just saying. It's not. At most it's a coincidental dovetail. It stems from completely different questionable motives, rest assured. More on this later, since I want to blog about how embarrassingly painful it is to start learning a language from 0.

Upcoming things…

Golden Week: I actually had the day off today—what the hell. I went to the office and it was locked. This used to happen a lot on holidays but today was not even a holiday; that's why I was surprised. I guess because this week is so Golden. Tomorrow I have to work. Saturday I'm working and then hanging out with a friend. Sunday I'm going to see a couple plays. Monday I'm going to a poetry event. Tuesday I imagine I have to work as normal, but that is fine with me.

Work: No kidding. No, but specifically… I've been at the newspaper for a year now, which normally you would like celebrate or something, but instead I quit. For good reasons, not bad reasons. This is actually the first time I'm saying that in public, but I don't think there's any reason not to? More on my new job later. Basically the next couple months are a big transition. I need to try to just let it happen and not fret so much.


Wisconsin: Well, since my sister is getting married I have to plan a trip home in October. Actually, what's awkward (in terms of my life in Japan) is that I have to really go in September. I guess I just have to accept there is nothing I can do about this and relay it to my various bosses who are generally  understanding.

In general I'd say I feel like things are pretty intense. I need to try to be more patient, open, and positive, especially when I'm with other people.