Happy New Year!
It’s a bit late, yes. I spent my holidays this year back home in the islands, which was excellent and rewarding, except for the nasty bout of influenza that was going around infecting all of my family right after new years day, myself included. After that nasty cough I was sporting for about two months, It was not the best experience ever, but I can say now that despite being a little chubby (thank you, father dearest, for that comment) I am back to proper health now.
I am also proud to announce that I now have a Dan in Japanese calligraphy! I was surprised when I went for class as usual after break and finding that they’d advanced my level despite me being on the verge of crying every time I wrote that particular piece, which had about nine characters (twice the amount we usually practice) and being written in the beautiful yet very difficult “gyosho” style, which is like cursive but with kanji. I didn’t expect it, so I was so happy when all my hard work from these past few years was recognized. According to my teacher, this is just the beginning, as there are higher dan to aim for. Now, I am regularly writing the six-letter monthly piece, no longer able to send in just four like before. It’s harder now because it requires a lighter touch, which I have a hard time channeling through my brush. However, I’m starting to really like kanji lately. There’s just something about how aesthetically and intellectually provoking they are.
I meant to study more kanji while I was home, but there were so many things to do that I just ended up reading instead. Here is my book roundup for late December to February.
Box! – Hyakuta Naoki- Strangely, I read this one after watching the movie first. I enjoyed the movie, which I watched a while ago. It’s a story about a weak but intelligent kid with an extremely strong friend that boxes, and is encouraged by this friend, bullies, and his crush on his teacher to join the boxing club. I really enjoyed it because I really like sports movies and manga (tears and training and getting strong for the right reasons!) There’s a lot of technical descriptions of boxing, along with drama to keep it running along. It helps that I myself have been boxing now, so it made it much easier to get through the technical parts. I got a good rundown of the Japanese high school boxing situation, and I’m impressed with Hyakuta because he’s also the writer of Eien no Zero, that book about Kamikaze pilots I read a while ago, and those books are like oil and water. He’s writing about a lot of diverse topics, from the other titles of his I’ve seen at the bookstore.
Ed Sheeran: A Visual Journey, Ed Sheeran and Phillip Butah– I went to Barnes and Noble in Maui when we were visiting grandma for Christmas, (We no longer have any bookstores in my hometown) and this is one of the books I found there. First thing about it, its neon green hardcover caught my eye. Noticing how nice the design was and how much Ed Sheeran I’ve been listening to lately, I bought it. It’s an art autobiography of sorts, it was nice to read about his musical influences and life while enjoying Butah’s art. One thing I noticed when reading it: Ed Sheeran swears a lot, wasn’t very great at school, but had very supportive parents and a love for music, along with a positive get-to-it attitude which led to his success. As for his songs, I’m digging Drunk, The A Team, and Small Bump, in that order, the most.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, Malala Yousafzai– Yes, she’s an amazing person. We should all strive to be like Malala. She is much wiser and writes better than me, so I’ll just take my favorite quotes and introduce this book that way:
“I am only human, and when I heard the guns my heart used to beat very fast. Sometimes I was very afraid, but I said nothing, and it didn’t mean I would stop going to school. But fear is very powerful and in the end it was this fear that had made people turn agains Shabana. Terror had made people cruel. The Taliban bulldozed both our Pashtun values and the values of Islam.”
“Education is our right,’ I said. Just as it is our right to sing and play. Islam has given us this right and says that every girl and boy should go to school. The Quran says we should seek knowledge, study hard and learn the mysteries of our world.”
“When someone takes away your pens you realize quite how important education is.”
“The Taliban is against education because they think that when a child reads a book or learns English or studies science he or she will become Westernized. But I said, ‘Education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow.’ Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”
“Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don’t be afraid–if you are afraid, you can’t move forward.”
2BRO2B, Kurt Vonnegut- From my experience, Kurt Vonnegut’s writing feels like like he’s slicing up your heart with a cleaver. This particular story is a short story, just a few pages, but it’s about some dystopian future where population control is a thing, through a government supported suicide hotline (for inducing it, not stopping it) and birth regulations where you need to find someone to die if you want your child to live. It’s chillingly scary, and was really uncomfortable to read.
Divergent, Veronica Roth– My cousin is all for this book, and I watched the movie with her during the holidays, but to me it just sounded like a cross between the Hunger Games and Harry Potter, and reading the book kind of didn’t make it any better. It was well written, but I kind of didn’t appreciate the overly religious tone of it near the end and the simplistic logic of most people only having one of the five characteristics they were being sorted into…in real life, wouldn’t almost everyone be divergent? I couldn’t stop thinking about that, and will probably not be reading the other two books in the trilogy, sorry.
Alice’s Tale, Tadanori Kurashita – A compact Japanese story that was one of the winners of the light novella translation contest I entered. Of the three stories, I helped translate another one, but this one was really nice, and the translators did an excellent job. It’s a story set in a very futuristic world, about a successful stockbroker who works with Alice, his AI who he calls his ‘partner’ and is the peak of technological advancement in the future. The story reads like a hardboiled detective novel, but has a few neat twists and very perceptive comments on the future of technology and the relationships between humankind and technology.
Lastly, here are my goals (I refuse to set myself up for failure with resolutions) for this year:
1) Pass level 2 of the Kanji Proficiency Exam.
2) Get back to around 50 kilos, weight-wise, in a healthy and sustainable way. Also, if I can’t lose the fat, at least be fit and chubs.
3) Don’t chicken out on turning in translation contest submissions (You gotta start somewhere! Just do it and turn it in even if it looks awful!)
4) Write and send letters to all the friends I’ve been neglecting. (Sorry guys!)
5) Stay healthy and sleep well to do so.
6) Blog more often so I don’t do super long posts like this one.
7) Get more flexible, physically.
…And that’s about it.