Japanese of the Week

分かる (wakaru) v5r,vi. - (1) to understand; to grasp; (2) to know; to realize

This is one of those great words, because it's so easily applicable. "Wakaru?" or "Wakarimasu ka?" (varying the formality level from lower to higher, there), for "Do you understand?" The rejoinder would be "Wakaranai." (often slurred to "Wakannai.") or "Wakarimasen." if you don't understand.

Global Warming? Please, Think Of The Children

The obligatory link: Global warming worries keep children awake at night

Let it never be said that I haven't advocated something for the good of the children. Here's what I'm advocating: Stop teaching about global warming as a man-made effect that's killing the planet. Give the kids back their childhood while the scientists of the world spend the next twenty-plus years hashing this out. Then, if they've actually managed to prove such a thing conclusively, you can start poisoning the imaginations of the next generation. Until then, hasn't science proved that children need quite a bit of sleep? Won't you think of the children, and not spread unfounded stories designed to give them nightmares, thus disrupting their fragile sleeping patterns? Please, think of the children.

Now, if you'll pardon me, I think I may need surgery to get my tongue dislodged from my cheek.


Geoff Reviews - Rozen Maiden (v.1-2)

Title: Rozen Maiden (volumes 1-2)
Media: Manga
Text: English (translated)
Story: Peach-Pit
Art: Peach-Pit
Publisher: Tokyopop (originally Gentosha Comics)

Let's see, a story about dolls with supernatural powers who have to fight it out in order to become some kind of perfected conception of a girl so they can meet their creator. Off the wall? Sure. Fun, though, particularly since during their downtime, they tend to make the main human character's life into something akin to a living hell.

Surprisingly, volume one doesn't suffer nearly as much from the general slow pacing that introductory volumes normally do, which is a nice change of pace. When just getting to know the characters is downright fun, the writer is obviously doing something right.

I'll admit right now that my gripes with the second volume are cosmetic translation issues. Please make allowances for my linguistic nerdishness while I complain for a moment.

First off, every time they referred to "Lil' Strawberry", I about lost it. Sure, it's technically a fair translation of what was probably "Ichigo-chan", referring to Hinaichigo, in the manga, but here's the kicker: I kept expecting to turn the page and see the rest of the dolls' names translated as well. I wouldn't have gotten very far against characters called "True Red" and "Mercury Lamp". (I'm about three keystrokes away from breaking my rule against emoticons in the blog at the moment, because this is just begging for a sweatdrop.) Still, in deference to Tokyopop's choice not to use the original Japanese honorifics, though I still say the text loses flavor without them, since the English "equivalents" don't carry nearly the level of attached meaning, I can understand this one. Not approve, but understand.

Next up, impish. Yes, impish. A word that has connotations that don't come even remotely close to a) what the character was trying to convey in the original text, and b) what the word that was actually used really means. (Rejoice, you get a freebie Japanese of the Week!) The original word in question is: 禿び (chibi) n. 1) small child; pipsqueak; small fry; 2) (vulg) short person; midget; dwarf; 3) small animal; runt; 4) worn down. In this case, we're looking at the first or second definition (context in the manga). Now, here's what Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary has to say on the word impish: Impish adj. 1) of, relating to, or befitting an imp; especially : MISCHEVIOUS

Okay, laying those aside, the last one is one of those thing that Tokyopop will never get right until they relax on allowing actual Japanese into their translations. Part of Suiseiseki's character is the misuse of "desu". To get out of this without a minimum three page explanation of the proper usages of the word, please take my word for it that "desu" does not end every sentence in normal speech. Unfortunately, it's one of those things that just doesn't translate well, and since in Tokyopop's translating religion, leaving the language alone doesn't fly, Suiseiseki's idiosyncrasy just kinda... disappears.

Taken For Granted: Freedom Of Speech

The obligatory link: Egypt blogger jailed for insulting Islam

Living in the free world, it's so easy to forget that things like this can and do happen. Think about it. I'm fully capable of holding forth on just about any topic in this space, short of such things as calling for physical violence against people (and beyond that, anything I may not be able to conscience personally). But at the same time, half a world away, a man is being jailed for doing essentially what I do here... weighing in with my own opinion on topics of interest.

In addition to any kind of an outcry we can raise on the issue of Egypt's appalling behavior, I'd ask that we, both bloggers and readers, keep this in mind: We have this freedom, and others like it, because those who came before us fought and died for it, and because many now still do. Being able to say what you think may be one of the most undervalued freedoms we have going, but consider for just a minute what it would be like to lose it. After that, ask yourself the following question:

If an Islamic country is willing to jail one of its own citizens for speaking his mind, what do you think will happen if we fall under the rule of their laws here in the west?

What we stand to lose is dearer to us than we realize, and the possibility that we will lose it grows every time we turn our backs.

Incomprehensible Pricing

This is one of those things that cuts in favor of the reader, so don't think that I'm trying to complain here. I just don't get it, that's all. Anyway, to the meat of it.

In the U.S. marketplace, a volume of manga generally runs between $8 and $11 (some on the higher end come out around $13-$14), depending on publisher, size, and so on. As with any product, brought overseas and translated, the cost compared to the cost in the country of origin goes up for a variety of reasons (licensing, cost of translation, etc). In this case, that roughly doubles the price (400-800Y, ~$3.50-$7 as a rough estimate).

So, here's the thing that gets me: Translations of light novels (essentially, novels with a couple of pages of illustrations) are only running around $8 over here, while they're at 600-650Y (~$6) in Japan. All I can think is, companies are getting relative steals on licensing light novels, because I can state unequivocally that the amount of time needed to translate 300+ pages of full text is significantly higher than the amount needed to translate 190+ pages of occasional text, particularly when the art involved often lends clues to the translation effort.

Global Warming Inceases Fevers - Women And Children Hardest Hit

The obligatory link: Fever claim on global warming

Setting aside the fact that the title of this post is based on a joke, that's essentially what the article is trying to claim. In a nutshell, that rising temperatures correlate with higher incidents of fever and stomach flu, so global warming is going to send more people to the emergency room.

Now, I'm not trying to take shots at children here. I'm just trying to figure exactly why global warming is getting dragged into an otherwise unrelated field of study, since the research itself, while it does need additional study to "add strength to the findings", according to the quoted Doctor, seems that it may bear out.

But, then again, I do know... It's from the same school as, "If you need to hammer a nail, and you don't have a hammer, use a wrench." And, of course, the obligatory "it's for the children" meme.


Washington On The Citizen Military

"When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in the happy hour when the establishment of American Liberty, upon the most firm and solid foundations shall enable us to return to our Private Stations in the bosom of a free, peacefully and happy Country." - George Washington

Wrap Your Mind Around This

The obligatory link: 9/11 attacks 'an incident'

So, yeah, there's a politician in France who's spouting off about how the deaths on 9/11 are equal in number to the number of deaths in Iraq per month. What's sad is that he got off on a decent footing: "...in an interview published on Wednesday with the Catholic newspaper La Croix during which he praised Islamic leaders for condemning the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon." But no, he had to get his digs and attempted belittlement in. Any surprise, really, from someone who "was convicted of Holocaust denial after he declared in 1987 that the gas chambers used by Nazi Germany to exterminate Jews were a "detail in the history of World War II"."?

Frankly, I feel bad even giving additional forum to something like this, but it's worth knowing about.


Brushing Up On The Constitution (part 3)

Up today, we have procedure, and rules regarding holding office (also known as Article One, Sections Five and Six). Previous entries in the Brushing Up On The Constitution series can be found here (part one) and here (part two). As usual, the text of the Constitution can be found on the Library of Congress site here, or on Wikipedia here. That said, let's move right along, shall we?

Sect. 5. Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualification, of its own members, and a majority of each shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner, and under such penalties, as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.

Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secresy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

Neither House, during the session of Congress, shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

A1.S5.P1 - Each house are supposed to pay attention to whether or not the people who have been elected to serve in them are actually qualified to do so (in other words, that they meet the requirements set forth in sections two and three of article one). Also, a majority of members of either the House or Senate is required for them to go about their business (note that not all members are required, just 50% plus one), but fewer than that 50% plus one are required to end business for the day, or to summon members not attending. Now, I'm not certain, but my best guess is that the majority of that 50% plus one would be required to end business for the day. (In other words, with a minimum majority attending, 51 members in the Senate, 26 would be required to adjourn. Like I said, best guess.)

A1.S5.P2 - Very straight-forward. The House and Senate get to decide their rules of operation (further restrictions placed upon themselves beyond what is mentioned in the Constitution), and punish their own members for breaking any of those rules. Also, the House or Senate can expel members upon the agreement of two-thirds of their members.

A1.S5.P3 - Both the House and Senate must keep a record of their proceedings, and these records must occasionally be published and made available to the public. However, they can choose to seal any records that they feel should be kept secret out of necessity. Also, if at least 20% of members request it, the votes of all members in attendance must be entered into the record.

A1.S5.P4 - Neither the House nor the Senate can choose not to meet for more than three consecutive days without the agreement of the other. (If the Senate wants four days off, the House has to agree to it, and vice versa.) The same rule also applies if either body wants to meet somewhere other than their primary meeting place.

Sect. 6. The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the treasury of the United States. They shall in all cases, except treason, felony and breach of peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any speech or debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other place.

No Senator or Representative shall, during the time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil office under the authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been encreased, during such time; and no person holding any officer under the United States shall be a member of either House, during his continuance in office.

A1.S6.P1 - The members of the Senate and the House will be paid for their work from the U.S. Treasury. Unless they commit specific crimes (as listed, treason, felony, or a breach of the peace - this last seems to be open to a rather wide interpretation), they cannot be arrested during a session, or on their way to or from a session. Also, they cannot be brought into an court on charges relating to their speeches in the House. (This ties into the concept in section five that the House and Senate can place additional strictures on themselves and punish their own members.)

A1.S6.P2 - No member of the House or Senate may be appointed to a newly created position, or one including an increase in pay, during their span in office. Also, no one serving in another office is eligible to become a member of either body while they hold that prior office.

Next up are Bills, and then it ought to get interesting with the section on the Powers of Congress.

Whatever Happened To Spiral?

I sat down last night to try to solve that mystery. A little background: Two years ago, I received a web notification from the manga Spiral ~Suiri no Kizuna~ stating that, "I'm going to be published by Tokyopop. Please take care of my 4-koma." And with that, it disappeared without a trace. (For those who don't get it, go here and scroll down to the third paragraph after the title and author information section.)

No, seriously, in 2005, Tokyopop announced that they had licensed the manga of Spiral, and were planning to release it. Well, of course they were planning to release it... they're not like ADV, who just stop in the middle of things because they were bleeding money. But an interesting thing happened on the way to publication: Spiral vanished, and for a long time I had no idea where it went.

Having recently renewed my interest in the story, and since it's so incredibly text-driven that an English translation would be a wonderful aid, even though the Japanese volumes do have furigana, I set out looking for it. I suppose I could regale for a bit with stories of the death traps avoided (fan pages with less information than I already had), but the bottom of the mystery is this: Apparently, there exists some licensing issue between Tokyopop and Square/Enix, still unresolved to this day. The alternative is that Tokyopop has actually lost all hold on the rights to an English translation of the story, though they haven't admitted such.

The unfortunate truth is this: English-translated Spiral manga isn't coming our way any time soon. If you've watched the anime through to the end (the ending is around volume six of the manga, and follows a different path, since the manga storyline that it was loosely based on did not end until volume eight, if I'm recalling correctly), start brushing up on your Japanese and see if you can get hold of the tankouban, because that's the only available option.

Now, to end on a light note, I should mention that Spiral Alive has resurfaced in serialization (I forget which monthly it's running in at the moment), and there are a couple of vague hints at a Spiral movie in the future as well.

If It Ain't Broke...

The Obligatory Link: Should Maryland Sidestep Electoral College?

The quick answer to that question? Not if they ever want to see a presidential candidate outside of their primary week ever again. Though, with how early everyone seems to want to get started this time around, they'll probably still be sick of it by the time the election happens anyway. There seems to be the thought, though, that this would bring candidates back to states outside of the "battlegrounds". Trick is, though, they go to those battleground states because that's where the outcome is actually in doubt. States that trend steadily one way or another are generally known quantities, and thus would be harder to shift (even for popular vote numbers), even if the candidates did put in more appearances. In other words, a time-versus-money kind of thing.

Really, the whole of this is that people are natural tamperers. To mesh a couple of old sayings together, even though the mousetrap ain't broke, they want to try to build a "better" one. All it would do is scale up the numbers involved and make any potential recount even longer and more arduous. (Think about that idea for a second: A national recount. That's scary, innit?)

Self Defense With A Stick

A friend of mine linked me to this the other day, and I thought I'd pass it along, for the amusement value, if nothing else.

Self Defence with a Cane (part one) (part two)


What Passes As News

Okay, so last week, we had the death of whatever that lady's name was, and that was good for a 48-hour news cycle or so. Yes, I really can't recall it without looking the name up, and I feel no inclination to do so. Now, we have somebody else (whose name I do remember, but don't feel like typing... and yes, this aside is significantly longer than her name) shaving her head, and that counts as news, too.

Meanwhile, I'm just sitting here and asking, "Why?" I had the same thought a week or so ago while listening to Constitutional Public Radio, when it was brought up in a segment that some second-in-line-to-dictator thug was interviewed, and the news outlet had a list of what was on his iPod. Isn't there enough going on in the world that's actually worth reporting on?

I'm quite sure that there are people out there who care what some celebrity had for breakfast this morning, but even I, young as I am, can remember a time when that kind of story was relegated several sections back in any given newspaper. In other words, the real news actually sat on page A1, instead of vying for space and headlines with Arts&Entertainment. What this tells me, and mayhap I'm just reading too much into it, is that the desire of a significant portion of the population to be entertained is at least as great as their desire to be informed... In fact, it's probably greater, but the newspapers haven't really caught on to that fact yet.

Now, I'm not saying that a person can't be both informed and entertained. What I'm trying to get at is the perceived equality of the celebrity story of the day versus, say, what's going on in Washington, or Iraq, for that matter. One of these things, as the saying goes, is not like the others.

Some Humor To Brighten The Lunch Hour (or any other time of the day)

The following is a rather amusing video... more so if you are musically-inclined, but it's not a requirement. Anyway, it's a stand-up comic holding forth on why he "hate(s) Pachelbel's 'Canon in D' with a passion". Language warning applies, though he's certainly not as foul-mouthed as some comics I could name.

And yes, when you stop and think about it, they really are all named Johann... (Well, mostly.)