Friday, January 29, 2010

Mother's Rhyme

I was trying to remember the finger game Mother used to play on my face so as to ease my anger when as an irritable child I sulked. I checked the rhyme on line but found only a Kyoto version; Mother was Edokko (Tokyo born).

子供の頃, 怒りん棒のあたしの苛立ちをおさめようと母が指先で顔をなぞって遊んだ時の唄を思い出そうとしてオンラインで調べた所、京都の唄が見付かりましたけど、あたしのとは少し違います。。母は江戸っ子でした。

愛宕山に参って(あたま)   あたごさんにまいって
下谷に寄って(ひたい)     たらたら道おりて
はなひとつつんで(はな)    毛虫にさされて
ほうぼうで叱られて(ほお)   花屋へよって
いけのはたまわった(くち)   花一本ぬすんで
無念なことよ(むね)      方々で目もろて
腹立つことよ(はら)      口おしや 腹立ちや 無念や
おへその下で茶を沸かせ。    音羽の滝の白糸さん

最後の所でおなかをくすぐって笑わせるんですけど。中途の一、二行どうしても思い出せないわ。

In Mother's version, she tickled the stomach to make me laugh at the end, but I think I'm missing a couple of lines in the middle.

東京の姉に手紙で聞いて,思い出せなかった数行教えてもらいました。下記の通りです。
I wrote my sister in Tokyo to ask, and I learned the few lines that I could not remember. Completed, it goes as follows:

愛宕山に参って (あたま) 
下谷に寄って  (ひたい)
花一本摘んで  (はな)
池之端を廻って (くち)
碁石を拾って  (は)
方々で叱られた (ほお)
無念なことよ  (むね)
腹立つことよ  (はら)
おへその下で茶を沸かせ。

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Epigram

I am better at writing epigrams than extended expositions. Following Michel de Montaigne, I developed a taste for brevity; after all, I come from the land of haiku. But I also chose to be tutored by those literary women like Lady Sei Shônagon and Madame de Sévigné who elevated mundane observations into a literary genre, and for wit and irony I aspire to copy myself after Wilde and Shaw -- however feebly.

Death

There is nothing in life as certain as death. Everyone dies sooner or later, and everyone knows this. But there is nothing in life as uncertain as to when and how one meets death, and there is really no preparing for it. It is useless to be obsessed with it but it is futile to ignore it totally. Such a thought passes one's mind reaching the age of 77.

ずいずいずっころばし

ずいずいずっころばし

ごまみそずい
ちゃつぼにおわれて

どっぴんしゃん。
ぬけたぁら、どんどこしょ。

たわらのねずみが

米食ってちゅう、

ちゅうちゅうちゅう
おっとさんがよんでも、

おっかさんがよんでも、

いきっこなぁーしよ。

いどのまわりで、

おちゃわんかいたのだぁーれ。

Friday, January 22, 2010

Carmen - Garanca/Alagna

Hot flames but no spark. This was my impression of the
Carmen at the Met last night, featuring Elina Garanca
and Roberto Alagna, both of whom sang passionately. But,
curiously, they didn't collide. My heart didn't palpitate.

History

History is fiction in the cloak of facts, because
history, strictly speaking, is not events but writings
about events. Many forget this, or disregard it.

歴史とは、事実の衣を着た作り事ですね。なぜかといえば、歴史は起こり
事ではなくて、それを書き綴ったものでしょう。これは忘れる人が多い。
無視しがちです。

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Puccini's 東天紅

I was at the Met to listen to Puccini's Turandot. All my life I thought he used Japanese and Chinese tunes indiscriminately in it. But I wondered about it. I knew that he took the tunes from the music box that belonged to a diplomat who spent years in China. So, finally, I looked into the matter on my return home. The boys' chorus in Act One sings "Là sui monti dell'Est la cicogna cantò," (On the mountaintop in the East a stork sang). On a Japanese website I learned that this <東天紅>(Crimson Eastern Sky) derives from the <茉莉花>(Mo Li Hua/まつりか/Jasmine Flower) and the tune was already known in Japan early in the 19th century and subsequently well acclimatized in Japan and therefore sounds Japanese to the Japanese ear, like <やーまのおてらのかねがなる> from <夕焼け>. Hmm.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Cat Qif

Oooh, so comfy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Street Scene

View across the street from my 3rd floor apartment window


Street Scene

My street is incredibly quiet, and it's in the middle of Manhattan. Cars go by only in certain hours, and there are long stretches during the day when there is no traffic at all. Pedestrian traffic is also low, except in mid-afternoon when students and school children walk by in small groups. I see the sky, a tree, and a row of handsome facades,
which, when the sun is out, deflects the reflection and, despite the northern exposure, brightens my apartment.


Monday, January 18, 2010

習得 − Acquisition

一度身に付けた事は、忘れても思い出せる。
知らないことは、何時迄も知らぬが仏。

What's been acquired and lost
can be remembered.
What's never been learned
ever remains unknown.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

喜寿

今月30日で、77歳、喜寿だわ、と思ったとたん、
あらっ、本当は数え年できめる筈、
そんなら喜寿は、去年のお元日だったのね。

米寿の時には、気を付けようっと。

いねむり - Snooze

年をとったせいか、近頃やたらと昼間から居眠りがでる。
目が覚めたとき、殊に夕暮れだと、寂しくてたまらない。
でも、若い頃も、大学時代、仕事が多くて居眠りしたけど、
目覚めてこう寂しい事はなかった。
 
Because I'm older now,
I doze lately often, even during the day.
When I wake up, especially at dusk,
I feel shrouded in loneliness.
I snoozed, too, when I was younger,
from overwork in college days.
But I didn't wake up lonely, like this.

Friday, January 15, 2010

いろは歌(Iroha)

いろは歌の英訳を試みてみました。
I attempted a translation of the Iroha Poem, dating from Late Heian Period, 10th-11th century.

いろはにほへと ちりぬるを
わかよたれそ つねならむ
うゐのおくやま けふこえて
あさきゆめみし ゑひもせす

色は匂へど 散りぬるを
我が世誰ぞ 常ならん
有為の奥山 今日越えて
浅き夢見じ 酔ひもせず

Colorful and fragrant, flowers scatter.
Nothing in this world is forever.
I cross life’s rugged mountain today.
This is no dream. I am ever sober.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wit

Anyone who fails to distinguish between ”joke” and ”wit” proves to be a nitwit who will surely see no wit in what is said here.

Teaching Adults

Good teaching is not only a matter of the substance of the subject taught. Equally crucial is the pedagogics -- the way the material is dispensed and delivered. In order to assure that the material dispensed is efficiently received and absorbed by the students, it is essential that the teacher recognizes their character. The best teaching situation is therefore the Socratic method, and the ideal format is one-on-one dialogue. The teacher adjusts the material according to the capacity and propensity of the student and makes sure step by step that what has been said was fully understood. The principle applies to teaching a group, large or small. The teacher must reorganize the material and rethink its delivery whether the class is a group of mechanics, ballet dancers, school teachers, or the mixed audience. The teacher's task become more complex and challenging with a heterogeneous group. Teaching a class of college students is one thing; teaching a group of adults is another. Moreover, adult learners, even those uninitiated in the subject taught, are much more experienced in all aspects of life, more broadly read in various subjects, and more eager to learn. Replicating the college class lectures may be adequate for a course taught in a LifeLong Learning Program; but a pedagogic reconstruction is essential for the teaching to be better than adequate. So I think, and that's what I do.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Visual Text

Art History teaches works of art. In teaching art history, objects constitute the text. Those in the humanities who teach literary texts don't readily understand this elementary fact; some are incredibly dim-witted about it. Students studying Dickens are expected to come to class having read the assigned novel, and the professor gives them her ”explication de texte” consisting of the work's historical context and the diverse interpretations based on secondary sources. With older literature like Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Beowulf, and foreign literature in the original, the professor will have to go over the primary text together with the students first. Students studying works of art, left on their own, can get little beyond its general impression, something comparable to the summary plot of the assigned book. Literary material in art history is exclusively secondary sources, and close reading of the visual text -- objects -- must precede the critical discussion. Work in the art history class, therefore, compresses the exegesis of the visual text with that of the interpretive texts much more than is the general practice in literary courses. Relevant secondary sources are accordingly more effectively assigned after the particular work had been dealt with in the class. There are still such incurable idiots who think showing slides with a running commentary constitutes art history.

Slush

Slush wet and gray gleams
under the Manhattan sky
like mother-of-pearls.
02.01.05

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy New Year

Snow falls silently -
everyday is New Year's Day
for my sleeping cat.
01.08.10

おめでとう

外は雪
猫は毎日
寝正月。

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Catching Terrorists

War against terrorism. I don't understand this. We've had war against poverty, war against crime, war against drug traffic, war against cancer. War is waged between two bodies -- between nations, between cities, between religious bodies, between individuals. Not only is the term misplaced; the metaphor is warped; the concept is wrong. A war is resolved by victory of one body over the other; there is the victor and the vanquished. The victor decimates the vanquished or the latter surrenders to the former and allows it to be incorporated, swallowed up, enslaved. Or else, a truce is drawn and the warring parties agree on a compromise. No society ever succeeded in eradicating crime; sickness and poverty, no less than drug use, will ever vanish from modern society. There is no victory over terrorism. To claim it as a goal is a deception. To believe that a potential terrorist can be screened and caught anywhere is a delusion. Terrorism can be dealt only as a crime, not as a war. The best we can do is to contain and abate it. But, of course, what do I know.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Full Body Scans

There is much debate on the full body scans at airports at a great expense. I'm surely not the first to say this but a simpler and cheaper solution is neither a full body scan nor a full strip search but a full strip down for all. Have the passengers go aboard the plane fully naked, and if all are publicly and democratically naked there is no invasion of privacy. The airline will supply towels and sunglasses for those who will spend the flight in the tanning section of the plane. At the destination you pick up your clothing on a conveyor belt before walking out in the sun, clothed or naked, according to the individual's whim.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Back to Teaching

When I retired from teaching at Swarthmore College in 2001, I meant retirement in no uncertain terms. Unlike some of my colleagues who retire in steps by teaching part-time for a few years and then one course now and then before quitting completely, I quit cold turkey. I broke my vow in 2005, however, at the request of a good friend, and taught a course on Michelangelo at the American Ballet Theatre in the Extension Program of the Long Island University. In the meantime, since 2001, I have been under pressure to contribute to Swarthmore's LifeLong Learning Program given in New York. I resisted. But last summer, having given up the house in Swarthmore and moved to my pied-a-terre in New York full-time, I capitulated and agreed to do a course on Michelangelo. So, I start teaching on 18 January, once a week, from 6:45 to 9:15 p.m. My primary concern: when am I going to have dinner?