Starting today (Tuesday, February 23), some of my work will be on display here in Tokushima, Japan. It’s a very small, informal group show for Shikoku University’s Calligraphy Department research students (all three of us).
My contributions amount to two pieces of mediocre calligraphy, and about ninety pieces of original art from Tonoharu: Part Two. Here are the deets:
Dates: Tuesday, February 23, 2010—-Friday, February 26, 2010
Time: 9am to 5pm
Location: The second floor of Shikoku University Kouryuu Plaza, Tokushima, Japan
See you all there!
What’s that you say? You live on the wrong side of the planet and I haven’t given you enough notice to book a ticket to Japan? In that case, here’s a few images of what you’re “missing”… Continue reading
Sometimes I run across things that most people understand instantly & intuitively that I just can’t keep straight.
You know those faucets that just have one big handle in the middle? The left half is red to indicate hot, and the right half is blue to indicate cold. I’m guessing most people intuitively “get” which way to turn the handle to get the desired temperature. But not me. I always just turn it at random, and if I get the wrong temperature, turn it the other way.
If I took a second I could figure it out without resorting to trial and error. I get the design theory behind single handle faucets. Since the left side is red/hot, turning towards the left side means you’ll get hot water.
I think the reason it doesn’t click for me on an intuitive level is because by turning the handle towards the left, you move the red side out of your line of vision, and the blue side in. So to get hot water, you need to position the faucet so all you see is blue. It just doesn’t feel right to me, dammit!
Another simple concept I can’t intuitively get relates to blogs. Most blogs show the newest 10-20 entries on the front page, and you can click a link to see older ones. When you get to the bottom of the second page, you can either continue on and read even older entries, or return to the front page.
Now: when the links say “newer entries” and “older entries” or something like that, I’m fine. But oftentimes, it just says “Next” and “Previous”, and I can never keep them straight. “Next” takes you to a new page (which has older entries), and the “Previous” takes you to the page you were on before (which has newer entries). So if you want to see previously written stuff, you don’t click “Previous”, you click “Next”. I always click the wrong one, and end up on the wrong page. I’m dumb.
Whenever we meet someone from, say, Thailand, we do our best to simulate the native pronunciation of their name. The Thai way of saying it is considered to be “correct”, and when our English-speaking tongues are unable to faithfully recreate the sounds, we sheepishly apologize for our substandard approximation.
I was surprised to learn recently that this idea, that people’s names have an absolute “correct” pronunciation, isn’t universal. I was talking to a Japanese grad student named Ms. Kawai, who had recently returned from a year abroad in China. During the course of our conversation, she mentioned that her Chinese friends and colleagues called her Chuan-He. When I asked why, she told me that Chuan-He is the way the characters that make up her name are pronounced in Chinese.
Apparently, “translating” Japanese names into the Chinese pronunciation is not at all uncommon. This speaks to underlying differences between English and Chinese.
The English written language is tied to sounds. The letter “M” doesn’t mean anything, it simply represents an “mmm” sound. Only by stringing letters together do we get words that have meaning.
The Chinese written language, on the other hand, is tied to meaning. Each Chinese character intrinsically represents a concept.
Pronunciation in Chinese can vary wildly depending on what dialect you’re speaking. Someone who grew up speaking Mandarin Chinese wouldn’t understand a word of Cantonese Chinese. In fact Mandarin and Cantonese are different enough that they would probably be called different languages (rather than just dialects of the same language) if it weren’t for the common writing system. Pronunciation isn’t absolute in written Chinese, meaning is. So rather than struggle with the Japanese pronunciation of a Japanese name, they just say it the Chinese way.
Isn’t that interesting?