live blogging the liveblog

03Jun09

My friend Damion Searls just dropped me a line directing me to Daniel Morales’s fantastic and utterly entertaining liveblog about spending the weekend translating Haruki Murakami’s new novel, 1Q84. I had so much fun reading Morales’s account that I decided it needed its own mini-liveblog.  So here it goes:

Condition: Just had dinner.  No booze yet (I have some eight-year old Awamori scheduled for later tonight), but a mighty fine cup of coffee under the belt.

“Yes we パン!” is just about the worst/best pun I’ve ever heard!  I actually make my Japanese friends groan all the time with these crossbred English/Japanese 親父ガグ (‘old man puns’) as they’re known in Japanese.  Basically, パン is ‘pan,’ meaning ‘bread’ (from the Portugese).  I think you can figure out the rest of the horribleness from there.

8:52 Mark it, dude. Page 25. Girl with strange ears.”  I’d probably be annoyed about this writerly tick of Murakami’s if it weren’t for the fact that, um, I also kind of have a thing for strange ears.

10:24 Ahh, reading the first few pages of Chapter 2 is like slipping into a Murakami time capsule. Digging the memory/mind theme. My first memory? Snow at my uncle’s house somewhere in New Mexico. I must’ve been 3 or 4.”  Weirdly, snow in New Mexico is one of my first memories too.  I have no idea how old I was, but I went walking out in the New Mexico desert in the snow with barefeet.  It might have been my first experience of snow, and I was probably too excited to notice how cold my feet were getting.  I didn’t stay out long, however, because underneath one of the layers of snow was a spiny cactus leaf.  Ouch.  That sent me back in quick.

12:03 Ah, Green Goddess, you never fail me. 軽侮 = contempt.”   One of the professors I used to work with (he retired) used to work on dictionaries for Kenkyusha, though I’m pretty sure he never did any work on the GG.  In his farewell talk he reminisced about several of his favorite phrases, my favorite of his favorites being “going to America to take a pee,” a phrase that originated when foreign travel was super high class in Japan.  People would brag about having been to America, etc., but really they were only there for a couple of days for a business trip or something, i.e. just about as long as it takes to empty your bladder.  I wish I knew how to say it in Japanese, but basically he was the only one there who was old enough to have encountered it anyway.

22:12 Music from Chapter 5. Nat King Cole’s singing “Sweet Lorraine.” That version is great – it features the Oscar Peterson Trio and Coleman Hawkins. There are more versions on YouTube. Definitely worth a listen.”  Daniel is wrong for the first time.  YouTube is never “worth a listen.”  It might be worth a ‘peek,’ but it has some of the most ungodly sound quality of all time.  Music should not be experienced that way.

22:40 Cutty Sark siting – pg 105.”  My brother, Cain, was almost named “Cutty Sark.”  I’m not joking.

“10:03 Hard kanji – 憂鬱 (ゆううつ). It means “melancholy, depression, gloom.” That second character has 700 strokes.”  Well, the fact that the second character has 700 strokes certainly explains the gloom.

“I can’t get 抽斗 to 変換 from ひきだし for the life of me. (If you can understand that last sentence, you are awesome, too.)”  Not that awesome.  It just means he can’t get the computer transliterator to slip the phonetic spelling into the kanji.  Anybody who’s every used a computer to write anything in Japanese already knows about this.  Throw in a bit of Rikaichan and you can actually get through a lot Japanese surprisingly easy.  Of course, knowing what it actually means is a different matter.

“12:11 Two more characters introduced in Chapter 7. Interesting stuff. Being hit by a wave of tiredness. Time for rally sushi. (Also known as 割引すし from the supermarket last night.)” — I was totally bummed when I got the translation for the word he provided in this bit.  I totally thought I was learning the Japanese term for “rally sushi,” but in fact 割引すし just means ‘discount sushi.’

“Done with Chapter 12. No topics on the Aum yet, but religion does come up. Will be interesting to see where he takes it. One question I’d like to see someone answer (maybe someone at Mutantfrog?) is why do so many houses in Japan have signs with Christian quotes on the side? I haven’t seen too many in Tokyo, but they were all over the town where I spent three years. Always the same color pattern – dark brown with yellow lettering. They said things like “The blood of Christ forgives all” or “He died for our sins.” Can’t seem to find a picture anywhere.”  — Um.  Perhaps it’s because there are actually quite a few Christians in Japan?  (Yeah, yeah, I know — there’s a lot more to these specific signs, but still, it’s not hard to find all kinds of stuff related to Christianity in Japan).   Here’s a link to a shot I took that incorporates one of those signs.  The text-only sign says “Christ is coming soon.”  The joke here is that the political poster stars Prime Minister Aso, who is more like the anti-Christ.  Aso also isn’t very good at reading kanji, so it’s a good thing the sign is in katakana.

And I guess that’s as good a moment as any at which to wrap up my own little liveblog of a liveblog.

p.s. I hope none of this sounds overly snarky.  Morales has managed to implement one of the few intelligent sites about Japan/Japanese that doesn’t fall into the awful ‘weird Japan’ trap.  And his Japanese is approximately 1.734 million times better than mine.

Click here for more of How to Japonese.

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3 Responses to “live blogging the liveblog”

  1. 1 Daniel

    Ha, great stuff. Thanks for the link! Awamori – so good, so dangerous.

  2. 2 traned

    Daniel — Thanks for the fantastic liveblog experience. I wish I had the ability/time to read Murakami’s new work hot off the presses, but I’m afraid I’ll have to wait for the English translation. However, I really do like your site and I’ll definitely stop by from time to time to eke out a few insights. By the way, where in New Mexico did you grow up? I only visited my grandparents and great-grandparents there — variously in Albuquerque, Bernalillo, and Placitas. Placitas is where I stepped on the cactus, but there were no suburbs there then. I have multiple “first snow” memories from New Mexico, and a couple from NYC as well. And a few from Japan now too!

  3. 3 Daniel

    No problem. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    I grew up in New Orleans, but my uncle lived in…Los Alamos? I know he lived there at some point, but I can’t remember offhand where the snow was. I remember trying to make a snowman but it being soooo cold. Also remember going sledding.


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