Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

Tasting Notes 14
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steepholm
Wasabi crispsCollapse )

Wasabeef CrispsCollapse )

Tortilla chips - Japanese styleCollapse )

Two is the Beginning of the End
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steepholm
In today's Awfully Big Blog Adventure I muse on the joys of unconsciousness and compare childhood to a panopticon. Also hidden away in there is a phrase that I think would make the perfect title for an Adele album, should she ever stop using numbers for that purpose. The only a prize for spotting it is a glow of satisfaction.

Coming out to a ZX81
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steepholm
This image has been floating around Facebook recently: "Aren't you thankful that your childhood happened before technology took over?"

I can see what they're getting at, of course. This LJ has contained many a fond reminiscence about the 1970s, and I don't suppose I'd have liked being for ever available at the end of a mobile phone then any more than I would now. But for LGBT kids and other people who might find themselves isolated (as I was) in small-town and rural communities, with little information available and no visible* peer support, the internet in particular has been transformational. Don't expect me to yearn for the days when the only way people like me could find out about ourselves was by reading the two or three vaguely relevant books in the local library, all of which assured us that we were mentally ill, evil or both. (That, admittedly, wasn't just a technology problem.)

In fact, it occurred to me the other day that although I first came out to another human being only ten years or so ago, I came out to a machine a quarter of a century earlier. That was when I bought my ZX81, with its colossal memory (for the time) of 1kb. (I would later go to London especially to buy an expansion pack that took that up to a mind-blowing 16kb.) While I was teaching myself BASIC, I wrote programs that allowed this computational behemoth and me to have affirmational conversations on these lines:

Me: Am I a girl?
ZX81: Yes, you are a girl.
Me: Really?
ZX81: There's no doubt about it.


It was nothing sophisticated, as you can see, and of course I'd written the code, so in a sense it was no more than talking to myself; but it was very comforting to see those words outside my own head, appearing in someone/thing else's "voice". I was careful to delete the programs afterwards, of course.

Yes, I know it's sad (in more than one sense), but in 1981 that was as good as it got. I'm glad to say that things have advanced considerably since then on quite a few fronts.

* I stress "visible", because it turns out that a large percentage of the kids in my year were in fact gay, and desperately hiding it. Witch Week was my classroom!

Tasting Notes 13
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steepholm
My friend Chiho has sent another box of snacks! This time the emphasis is on crisp-like substances - which in Japan appear to come in rather large bags, even as their sweeter snacks come in rather small ones (by UK standards, anyway). Anyway, once again it is my pleasure and privilege to blog the experience of eating them.

My daughter ably assisted me with the first four. We start off with these cheerful onigiri rice crackers.

OnigiriCollapse )

AerialCollapse )

Shittori ChocoCollapse )

Goendou sayaCollapse )

Japanese Diary 31: Japanese and non-standard English
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steepholm
I've got a headful of ideas for posts at the moment, all half-formed, but I just have time to dash this one down quickly. It arises out of, but isn't really about, my Japanese studies. Recently I learned the verb "shimau", which has a couple of meanings, but the one I'm interested in here is the addition of a sense of regret to some other action. For example:

watashi wa kare no tanjoubi wo wasuremashita = I forgot his birthday
私は彼の誕生日を忘れました。

could be more idiomatically rendered:

watashi wa kare no tanjoubi wo wasuremashite shimaimashita
私は彼の誕生日を忘れてしまいました。

The translation for the second sentence is the same as the first, but now with a sense of regret! There's no simple way of conveying this in standard English, without adding a word such as "alas" or "regretfully", which seems a bit clunky. However, it occurs to me that you can get much the same effect in some southern US dialects by use of the word "done", as in: "I done forgot his birthday".

Non-standard English is also helpful sometimes with pronunciation. Japanese has many words that are rendered in romaji with a double consonant (signalled in hiragana with っ). Hence for example:

shippai = しっぱい = 失敗 = failure

In English double consonants typically affect the pronunciation of preceding vowels rather than the consonants themselves ("hopping" vs "hoping"), but in Japanese a double consonant is marked with a small pause, which I've seen described as quite a tricky thing for foreigners to master because it has no equivalent in standard English pronunciation. It does, however, have an equivalent in Yorkshire dialect, in phrases such as "There's trouble down t'mill." So, when I was learning this bit of Japanese I just channelled Geoffrey Boycott. Very useful.

Anyway, that last example was just a digression. What I really wanted to ask was, what other shades of meaning are available through the pronunciation or grammar of non-standard varieties of English, that aren't available through standard ones?

Note, I'm not asking for items of vocabulary, fascinating as they are: obviously there are whole dictionaries full of terms for the kind of mist you only see off Bamburgh when there's an 'r' in the month. I'm specifically after elements of grammar or pronunciation that carry meaning.

One more example. Standard English doesn't have a plural second person, whereas lots of non-standard Englishes do, from "You all" to "Yous" (sp?). Obviously the non-standard Englishes are here conveying shades of meaning not available to the standard variety.

I'm sure there must be many other examples of the same kind. But what are they?

Rhodes and Knights
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steepholm
So, Oriel College has decided to keep the Cecil Rhodes statue, as "an important reminder of the complexity of history and of the legacies of colonialism".

The key word here is "legacies", particularly those that the College's present-day beneficiaries had threatened to withhold if the statue were removed. The more general debate however centred on the proposition that removing Rhodes would be a kind of "airbrushing of history" or even an abridgement of free speech (though if putting up a statue is a speech act, assuredly removing one is too). If Rhodes were to fall it would be a first shot in a revolution that would see dubious statues torn down across the country. People would grow up in ignorance of the past, statue-gazing now being (thanks to prudent cuts in library budgets) the primary method of historical education in Britain. The umbilical connection to our heritage of rapine and murder would be irrevocably severed, to everyone's spiritual impoverishment.

These arguments make a very neat distinction between putting a statue up to someone (which is and always has been a mark of approbation) and maintaining it - which is parsed as merely an act of historical curation. I wonder at what point a statue moves from one role to another? Perhaps there should be some kind of ceremony, like the desanctification of a church, so that everyone's clear on the point?

Some have gone further, though, and suggested that maintaining the statue forces us to confront uncomfortable truths about our past. The bad things Rhodes did happened, and shouldn't be denied. We may decry Rhodes's racist exploitation of Africa now (though we've hung on to the cash), but we shouldn't forget that he was once honoured and admired; the statue is a salutary corrective to moral complacency.

And yet, and yet... When Jimmy Savile was posthumously stripped of his knighthood, who protested against that? What salient difference is there in the two cases? Both men were dead, and couldn't be hurt by the dishonour. Both had been loved - even fawned over - by the Establishment. Both had raised large amounts of money for deeds that came to be seen as vile and exploitative, and in which that same Establishment colluded either actively or passively. If taking down Rhodes's statue would have been airbrushing history, so was taking away Sir Jimmy's title. In some ways Savile's is a more heinous case, since the people who had arranged for him to be honoured benefited from the removal of that awkward public reminder of their past folly (or worse), whereas those who paid to honour Rhodes are themselves long dead.

Elbe Room
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steepholm
I wasn't going to write anything about The Danish Girl here, because it's all been well said in various other places, but since I had to give a little impromptu talk on it the other night after a film showing and was subsequently asked to write it up for a newsletter, I may as well put the summary here too. (I'm not going into the details of the plot, as the circumstances of the talk made this unnecessary.)

tl;dr I"m ambivalent, but mostly disappointedCollapse )
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Japanese Diary 30: Anal-ology
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steepholm
I learn by analogy. I suspect most people do, but I also suspect I lean more on that way of learning than the average, because I have a certain facility for it. Which isn't to say it's always the best option.

In Japanese, then, I'm always looking with varying degrees of self-consciousness for ways of understanding the language in terms of English, and indeed Japan in terms of England and/or Britain. (On which note, let me digress just long enough to link you to British Hills, a little slice of Britain tucked away in the fills of Fukushima. I linked to it on FB yesterday, but I put it here for a permanent record. Do look round - it's worth it!)

A while ago I wrote a post called "Cow Readings and Beef Readings", drawing an analogy between the role of Chinese in Japanese and that of Norman French in English. It probably wasn't an original observation, but I got there by myself, at least. There are other analogies too: I referred to in the same post to that between katakana (Japanese) and italics, as being both a holding pen for a quarantined foreign words and a way of adding emphasis.

No analogy is perfect, though, for all their siren allure. If two things resemble each other in A, B and C way, it's hard resist the suggestion that they'll also resemble each other in X, Y and Z way. Renouncing that "almost instinct almost true" is part of the nun-like discipline of scholarship.

So, on to the analogy du jour - that between kanji and English spelling. Each is widely touted as one of the hardest aspects of learning the respective language, and with reason. The Japanese learner has to master 2,200 kanji (and those are just the everyday ones) - which sounds tough but manageable until you realise that most of those kanji can be read in at least two different ways, depending on context - a context that has to be learned. For example, "to go" is iku, written "行く". But the "行" kanji, which is here pronounced "i", can also be pronounced "kou"- as for example in the word for travel, which is "旅行", or "ryokou". How annoying is that? (Some kanji have many more than two readings, too, which all have to be learned separately.)

But hey - English spelling is pretty weird, too, right? We have homonyms like "lead" (the metal) and "lead" (the verb), for example - spelt the same but pronounced differently.

As well as homonyms, Japanese has lots of homophones - unsurprisingly for a language with relatively few phonemes. For example, the word "kami" can mean either god, hair or paper. But in written Japanese you can distinguish them because each uses a different kanji: 神, 髪 and 紙 respectively. Again, there are analogies with English: for example "hair" and "hare". Again, just as the kanji come to the rescue in Japanese, so weird spelling does in English.

Kanji and weird English spelling also have a similar function in preserving the histories of words. You can look at an English word much like an archaeological dig, and use the spelling as a clue to its history and origin. Similarly, kanji (pictographic in origin) hide within their shell-like structures the sound of their histories' sea.

Thus far the analogy holds good. And it is good - but it isn't perfect. For example, there are some things you can do with kanji that you just can't do with English spellings. Take the word "au", for example. It means "to meet". But in Japanese there are two kanji use to write this word:"会う" (au) means "meet" in a neutral sense, but "遭う" (also au) means "meet" with an unpleasant connotation - perhaps nearer to the English "encounter". Their conjugation is (as far as I know) the same. They are pronounced the same. They have nearly the same meaning. But the kanji makes a distinction that's invisible to the spoken language.

This phenomenon isn't entirely unknown in English: think of "discomforted" and "discomfited", for example. But in Japanese it seems more systematic, or at any rate more common. Which may be to do with the lack of homophones mentioned above, or its long unbroken literary history, which has allowed more time for scribal ingenuity. (English has been written for about the same length of time, but it went through a couple of centuries after the Conquest when it effectively ceased to be a literary language.) Either way, it's where the analogy with English spelling runs into the law of diminishing returns.

Our Stars and their Faults
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steepholm
Allegations are swirling around the world of tennis that several British players have regularly been offered large amounts of cash to win matches. The shady practice of offering so-called "prize money" has been an open secret in professional tennis for years, but its existence was unknown to British fans until recently.

An anonymous source, known only as "Tim H", has revealed: "They kept offering us more and more money, but I'm proud to say that we all resisted the temptation. Until that bastard Murray broke ranks."

Founding Fathers
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steepholm
I've written here a couple times about my great*4 grandfather Weeden Butler's correspondence with the American planter and Constitutional Convention delegate for South Carolina, Pierce "no relation" Butler, whose son was a pupil at Weeden's Cheyne Walk school in the 1780s. They wrote to each other over a long period, and much of the correspondence is collected in When the States Were Young, which I've read, though it's a slightly frustrating volume for me as it concentrates very much on Pierce's half and I'm more interested in what was going on in London. Anyway, somehow I'd nevertheless managed to miss the fact that in October 1787, having just signed off the Constitution of the United States, Pierce wrote to Weeden:

"a Copy of the result of Our deliberations ... is not worth the expence of postage, or I wou'd now Enclose it to you".

Which is how my family came not to own a contemporary copy of the US Constitution, and is a nice insight into what Very Important Events can look like close up.

Tangentially, the whole page I linked to above is quite interesting on Pierce's involvement with slavery, which he probably felt obliged to justify given that Weeden's was a very much an abolitionist family. The way he tells it, he'd like nothing better than to get rid of his slaves, but they just won't go, knowing that they'd be worse off on their own. (It doesn't seem to occur to him that he could not only free them but give - or rather, pay - them some land/money so that they could be independent.) I feel a little cynical on the point, since it was Pierce Butler who introduced the Fugitive Slave Clause to the Constitution, which doesn't seem like the act of an abolitionist manqué, however keen the folks back in SC may have been on it. I wonder though whether it was a figure such as Pierce described himself as being whom Weeden's son (also Weeden) had in mind when he portrayed the "good" slave owner Wilmot in Zimao the African (1800). Sadly, none of them is around to ask.

Anime Round-up Part 2
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steepholm
Where's part one, you may ask? I realize that I actually posted it back in July, so this one's a little tardy. Apologies for that, and for the fact that I will pay far less attention to each anime than it warrants, because a) I haven't the time to do more, but more importantly b) I've forgotten the details in many cases.

So... in the order I watched them more or less (though there were some overlaps):

My Little Monster

Nothing supernatural in this one. It's a study of a friendship between two high school students, each intelligent but unsocialized: she’s a swot with no time for people, he’s a disaffected dropout too quick to use his fists. It’s a short series, but I got a little bored with it by the end. It's grown on me more in retrospect than it did at the time: I suspect I just wasn't in the mood.

Psycho Pass

This was (I think) the next thing Gen Urobuchi wrote after Madoka. It’s a heavily Philip K. Dick-influenced dystopian story, in which people’s propensity to commit crime is read by scanners and (if certain thresholds are crossed) they are pre-emptively locked up, or even killed, by the police. We join a new recruit to the police (naïve but the top of her class in the academy), as she works with the force’s ‘hunting dogs’, made up of those who are considered criminal in terms of their Pass but who have been offered this work rather than prison. It’s a complex story, culminating in a showdown with a complex hero/villain, who wishes to bring the pernicious system down but is happy to murder his way to that goal. Urobuchi is very free with the literary references: Gulliver’s Travels and Heart of Darkness are all namechecked by the villain, quite apart from Dick. Our naïve heroine never quite disappears from view, but the story transforms into a Death Note style game of wits between a clever supervillain and a cop-turned-hunting-dog who becomes his nemesis, two people who are much smarter than everyone else around them. I enjoyed it in Death Note and I enjoyed it here. Shame about the heroine.

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni

This seems at first to be a very cutesy anime, following the adventures of a young boy who has just moved to a rural village and is getting to know the (female) children at the small village school. They goof around, play games, go exploring, and all looks fairly idyllic, until - well, let's say something happens, and the story is brought to a bloody conclusion...

... only to be rebooted, with the same characters in slightly different combinations...

... and again...

... and again.

Everything revolves a local shrine, the god of which is mysterious but evidently bloodthirsty. This series ticks a lot of my boxes, with hints of The Wicker Man and even The Owl Service in its compulsive repetitions. It lacked The Wicker Man's charm, but made up for that in brutality. Not for every taste, but I enjoyed it.

Tokyo Ghoul

This was a very enjoyable watch while it lasted, but I remember little of it. There are ghouls in Tokyo (duh), feeding on humans and feuding with each other. Our protagonist is a kind of semi-ghoul who has to deal with his own cravings for human flesh, but there are moral quandaries aplenty for everyone involved, with a side of ribs.

Kiniro Mosaic

This is a charming slice-of-life school comedy about a group of schoolgirls. I believe it was based on a four-panel strip cartoon, and each episode is constructed from a series of brief vignettes, with only the sketchiest connecting plot very often. And that’s fine: it’s a ‘healing’ anime, apparently, intended to coax a smile and lift one’s spirits a degree or two. For me, of course, a large part of the charm lies in the fact that two of the girls are English, and so we get not only occasional glimpses of England itself (specifically Cirencester and the Cotswolds) but stumblings in both Japanese and English by people whose first language they are not.

Blue Exorcist

This was the first of two animes I watched back to back with a strong Christian element. This tells the story of a pair of brothers: one hardworking, self-controlled and dutiful, the other a delinquent. Both however are (quite literally) the spawn of Satan, and have been raised since they were small babies by a powerful exorcist priest. In the opening episode, however, said priest is sucked into a hell-mouth, and the boys go off to learn exorcism – in one case through a dutiful recognition of it as his vocation, in the other driven by a desire for vengeance for his adoptive father's death against his real father - the Devil. Thereafter it’s a magical high school drama, but with demons to battle. The head teacher is called Mephistopheles, but no one seems to think this is odd...

A Certain Magical Index

One aspect of Blue Exorcist is the implication that the Catholic Church and specifically the Pope himself are in thrall to demonic powers. Here it's the Church of England that falls under suspicion. Index is an Anglican nun, whose mind has been made the repository of much magical and arcane lore, and who is consequently being chased by magicians and similar types. Unfortunately, in order to make room for the lore it was necessary to rid her of most of her common sense, which renders her rather vulnerable. She winds up in a city devoted to science, where she is befriended by yet another delinquent, in this case a boy cursed with terrible luck but blessed with a hand that can defuse any kind of magic.

This starts off intriguingly, but soon turns into a kind of harem anime in which the initial impetus of the plot is dissipated by the hero's having to sort out the various problems of other girls who run across his path. Index herself stands on the sidelines for much of the time, which is a shame. I still await the day when someone will make Pretty Petra Pope for real.

The Irregular at Magic High School

I saw this on Nextflix, where the description had it as being about the tensions between an ace student and her inadequate elder brother when they both attend magical high school. This is in fact totally wrong, since the brother - although assigned to a lower "stream" on a technicality - is super-awesome in every respect, a brilliant engineer, peerless fighter, magic user extraordinaire, etc. And the sister is (as younger sisters so often are in anime) besotted with him.

I kept waiting for something to come up that would provide a serious challenge to her 'Onii-sama', as she always addresses and refers to him, but none ever did. There are all kinds of bad types wanting to wreak havoc in the school and beyond, but the brother is always one step ahead, and defeats them easily. In fact, the show had so little tension, and so little character development, that it ought to have been dull - but when I watched it I found the predictability of his omnicompetence rather soothing, and always looked forward to it. Whether that was the intention, I've no idea.

Mushi-shi

I watched this is dribs and drabs. It's an excellent show, though, set in some nameless Edo era time (though for some reason the main character wears an open shirt and chinos), where a mushi-shi - someone gifted with the ability to see the elemental spirits of nature, and learned in their funny ways - wanders round the countryside sorting out the mushi-related ills of the people he meets. It's beautifully drawn, rather wise, and slow of pace. I don't want to see it every day, but there are days when it's just what I need.

Last time, many people suggested I try the second and third parts of Revolutionary Girl Utena, and accordingly I've got hold of part two, and have watched a few - but I'll say more about that when I've finished my current series, which has the unwieldy title Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works, and shows a number of Japanese school children and their familiars fighting for ownership of the Holy Grail and, hence, the world itself.

What's not to like?

"Not I"
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steepholm
I want to find out about the extent to which school pupils and university students are discouraged by English teachers/lecturers from using the first person pronoun in essays.

Does anyone know whether recent-ish research has been carried out on that topic - or where might be a good place to look for it?
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Japanese Diary 29: A Few of My Favourite Things
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steepholm
None of these is obscure to anyone who knows any Japanese, but here are three rather random things I like about the language, ranging from the incidental to the fundamental.

1) They have a single word for "the day after the tomorrow", and another for "the day before yesterday"! Once you've tasted the joys of asatte and ototoi you'll never go back. (Except you will, because people won't understand you otherwise.)

2) Like Latin - and I wish I knew enough about Latin to make the comparison intelligently - Japanese is a very concise language. However, where Latin packs things like mood, aspect, etc. into word endings (or such is my impression), Japanese simply leaves things out if they're obvious from context. For example, supposing I want to tell you I am happy, I might say the Japanese for "Am happy!", or even just "Happy!" If it's obvious from context, there's no need to give that sentence a subject. When it comes to longer sentences, this confuses the hell out of Google Translate.

3) Lastly, though this is a bit perverse perhaps, I rather like the way the word order is so different from English, and the mental gymnastics necessitated thereby. I got a taste of this learning German ("Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth" - so true), but Japanese takes it to a different level. For example - and not a particularly convoluted one:

"I want to study Japanese with the woman who gave me a book."


becomes

"As for me, me-to-book-gave-woman with Japanese study want is the case."


No doubt there are similar pleasures in learning any language, but I've found great solace in starting to wrap my head round this one. (As I said to my mother the other month, "If I'm going to be mildly depressed it's better to get a language out of it than cirrhosis.") Which isn't to say that there aren't also annoying things about Japanese - and perhaps I'll make a separate post about those at some point soon.

Trident Tested
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steepholm
I asked this on Facebook yesterday, but so far haven't had any substantive replies, so I thought I'd try my luck here. Though I suspect that in both cases my friends lists may not be the ideal targets for the question.

If there's anyone out there who thinks that renewing Trident is a good idea, I'd love to know what the arguments for it are. The only three I can see are a) it provides employment - which I'm fairly certain could be done in more cost-effective ways, b) it provides a pretext for the UK having a permanent place on the UN Security Council, and c) it means the French haven't got one-up on us. The last two are pretty specious, surely?

So, what are the other arguments? And specifically, what are the arguments that apply to the UK but not to other constitutional democracies that might also wish to have an independent deterrent, and are as threatened if not more so than the UK? Like, shall we say, South Korea? Unless you think S. Korea should have the bomb, in which case feel free to say so.


Two riders: a) note that I'm asking not about NATO membership, but about Trident specifically; b) even if you don't believe in the arguments, if you know what they are I'd still like to hear them.

A Mysterious Case
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steepholm
My mother's maiden name was Isobel Bowman, not a particularly common one (in that spelling). So she was rather taken aback today to be told by a friend of the existence of a film titled Stolen: the Mysterious Disappearance of Isobel Bowman (2010). Here's the trailer...



It's about right for period, too, and the grandfather's mysterious memoirs are of course intriguing - but where can I find the film for which this is but a tantalising teaser? IMDb tells me little other than that it is written and directed by one "David Thring", an obvious pseudonym, not to say anagram. It works out as:

"Dr Night - a vid..."

Shorthand for Internationalists
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steepholm
bm0004

What is this beautiful, flowing calligraphic script, I hear you ask? Perhaps you are murmuring in self-reply, "It looks like shorthand - but it's not like any shorthand I've ever learned." If so, have a cookie.

The thing is...Collapse )

Kuhny Tunes
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steepholm
I've long been a fan of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, so I was interested to read (via andrewducker) this interesting LJ entry which notes that "[Thomas] Kuhn's book is no longer regarded quite so highly, in part because there are a whole lot of scientific advances to which it doesn’t apply – modern day science still doesn’t undergo radical changes rapidly and easily, but it does so far faster and easier than Kuhn predicts".

This prompts me to wonder whether the explanation might be that the people doing science today (and, perhaps more importantly, those with influence over its dissemination, publication, funding and acknowledgement) have grown up reading Kuhn, whose seminal work after all came out over 50 years ago? Was Kuhn predicting, in fact? Or did his description of the way that science appeared to have developed up to his own time admit the possibility that it might work differently in the future - a kind of meta-paradigm shift?

I've been thinking about Kuhn, because I was recently informed that in order to earn a 4-star rating in the next REF it was expected that research should qualify as "paradigm-shifting". It seemed to me that this was the kind of demand that could only be made by people who hadn't actually read Kuhn, and therefore hadn't realized a) how infrequently paradigms get shifted, b) that a lot of good science - as in, the vast majority of it - gets done under existing paradigms, and c) that (more interestingly) an exercise such as the REF would be unlikely to recognize a truly paradigm-shifting work because it would - more or less by definition - be defined in terms of metrics generated according to the previous paradigm.

(Whether the humanities and sciences are at all comparable in this regard is of course yet another question.)

So, coming back to my original question. Can sensitivity to and encouragement of paradigm shifts be built into scientific or any other intellectual practice? Are institutions and conventions capable of exhibiting that kind of reflexivity without ceasing to be useful as institutions and conventions? Answers on a microchip, please.

Round on the End and High in the Middle
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steepholm
Good. My mission to squish Work and Fun together into a kind of beige doughy lump called Firk (aka Life itself) continues apace, as my proposal for a paper at this year's Children's Literature Association conference on the theme of Animation has been accepted.

My title? “Shoujo versus Seinen? Dual Address and Misdirection in Puella Magi Madoka Magica (2011).” Well, it was never going to be anything but Madoka, was it? Now I just have to write the bugger.

The conference takes place in Ohio from 9-11 June, and I'll do my best to get some kind of stopover in Boston en route so that I can see any MA friends who happen to be about. (For some reason 80% of the Americans I know live in Massachusetts. Why that?)

Tasting Notes 12
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steepholm
I've been using a scanner to get the pictures in these tasting notes, but today's snack didn't come out too well, not being flat enough. (It was definitely one to be counted by the -hon rather than the -mai...)

ramune0002

Sorry about that - but you can find better pictures here. Anyway, this packet of sweets is called Ramune, after the well-known Japanese fizzy drink. The drink tastes a bit like lemonade, which isn't surprising, because that's what it was based on when it was invented in the nineteenth century, as it happens by a Scot who was living in Kobe at the time. It's famous for having a glass marble inside the bottle to act as a stopper - a feature once common in fizzy drinks (and, as it happens, invented by an Englishman), but now a novelty. This sweet bottle's shape copies that of the iconic drink.

The sweets are quite (though not completely) round, and have the slightly chalky texture of Love Hearts, but rather softer. They're not fizzy, but they do taste of lemon, and are surprisingly moreish. Of course, I was only going to have one or two, but I ate them at a sitting.

I don't feel guilty.

The Origins of Literary 'Analysis'
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steepholm
When did critics start using the word 'analysis' in connection with the discussion of literature? My feeling is that it's virtually absent from pre-1900 work, though if I'm wrong I'd be grateful to be told so. A. C. Bradley introduces it in Shakesperian Tragedy (1904) with some misgivings, fearing that it may be antithetical to imagination, and in the case of some characters - such as Ophelia - even a 'desecration', but believing too that its potential benefits justify its use:

[Lovers of Shakespeare] do not need, of course, to imagine whereabouts the persons are to stand, or what gestures they ought to use; but they want to realise fully and exactly the inner movements which produced these words and no other, these deeds and no other, at each particular moment. This, carried through a drama, is the right way to read the dramatist Shakespeare; and the prime requisite here is therefore a vivid and intent imagination. But this alone will hardly suffice. It is necessary also, especially to a true conception of the whole, to compare, to analyse, to dissect. And such readers often shrink from this task, which seems to them prosaic or even a desecration. They misunderstand, I believe. They would not shrink if they remembered two things. In the first place, in this process of comparison and analysis, it is not requisite, it is on the contrary ruinous, to set imagination aside and to substitute some supposed 'cold reason'; and it is only want of practice that makes the concurrent use of analysis and of poetic perception difficult or irksome. And, in the second place, these dissecting processes, though they are also imaginative, are still, and are meant to be, nothing but means to an end. When they have finished their work (it can only be finished for the time) they give place to the end, which is that same imaginative reading or re-creation of the drama from which they set out, but a reading now enriched by the products of analysis, and therefore far more adequate and enjoyable.


What I'm mostly interested in is the domain or domains from which the term leached into literary critical usage, becoming central to it from the 1920s on. There's psycho-analysis, of course (though note that Bradley at least is a pre-Freudian); but there are also mathematical, philosophical and scientific varieties, and perhaps others besides. My sense - perhaps biased by the fact that it fits the argument I want to make - is that literary critics took up the term so enthusiastically because of its quasi-scientific cachet, wishing to be seen as doing to texts much what biologists did to living material (note Bradley's 'dissect') and chemists to things in test tubes.

Does that seem wildly off-kilter?
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