Ryu Murakami – Tokyo Decadence

The other Murakami, Ryu Murakami (村上 龍), is hard to compare to the more famous Haruki. His collection of stories reflects the dark sides of Tokyo, far removed from the happy world of AKB48 and the like. Criminals, prostitutes, depression, loss. A bleak image onto a bleak society.

This collection of short stories is a consequent deconstruction of happiness, love, everything we believe to make our lives worthwhile. The protagonists are idealistic students loosing their faith, office ladies on aberrations, drunkards, movie directors, the usual mixture. But the topic remains constant – the unfulfilled search for happiness and love.

I felt I was beginning to understand what happiness is about. It isn’t about guzzling ten or twenty energy drinks a day, barreling down the highway for hours at a time, turning over your paycheck to your wife without even opening the envelope, and trying to force your family to respect you. Happiness is based on secrets and lies.Ryu Murakami, It all started just about a year and a half ago

A deep pessimistic undertone is echoing through these stories, and the atmosphere and writing reminds of Charles Bukowski. This pessimism resonates in the melancholy of the running themes in the stories, Cuban music. Murakami was active in disseminating Cuban music in Japan, which included founding his own label. Javier Olmo’s pieces are often the connecting parts, as well as lending the short stories their title: Historia de un amor, Se fué.

The belief – that what’s missing now used to be available to us – is just an illusion, if you ask me. But the social pressure of “You’ve got everything you need, what’s your problem?” is more powerful than you might ever think, and it’s hard to defend yourself against it. In this country it’s taboo even to think about looking for something more in life.Ryu Murakami, Historia de un amor

It is interesting to see that on the surface, the women in the stories are the broken characters, leading feminists to incredible rants about the book, see the rant^Wreview of Blake Fraina at Goodreads:

I’ll start by saying that, as a feminist, I’m deeply suspicious of male writers who obsess over the sex lives of women and, further, have the audacity to write from a female viewpoint…
…female characters are pretty much all pathetic victims of the male characters…
I wish there was absolutely no market for stuff like this and I particularly discourage women readers from buying it…Blake Fraina, Goodreads review

On first sight it might look like that the female characters are pretty much all pathetic victims of the male characters, but in fact it is the other way round, the desperate characters, the slaves of their own desperation, are the men, and not the women, in these stories. It is dual to the situation in Hitomi Kanehara’s Snakes and Earrings, where on first sight the tattooist and the outlaw friends are the broken characters, but the really cracked one is the sweet Tokyo girly.

Male-female relationships are always in transition. If there’s no forward progress, things tend to slip backwards.Ryu Murakami, Se fué

Final verdict: Great reading, hard to put down, very much readable and enjoyable, if one is in the mood of dark and depressing stories. And last but not least, don’t trust feminist book reviews.

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I. J. Parker – The Dragon Scroll

Very enthralling and entertaining criminal story set in the 11th century Japan, the starting point of a series of novels around Sugawara Akitada (菅原 顕忠), a fictional official/scholar in the Heian period who solves several difficult cases using his great balance of knowledge and common sense.

Akitada is sent to the far north (nowadays around Chiba) to check what has happened to the last three tax convoys that never appeared in the capital. He pokes around and unravels a involved plot to overthrow law and order. A few love stories, dead ends, and lots over wandering around brings the story to a wild finish.

The first book in the Akitada series reads very smoothly and quickly, never boring. It gives nice fews onto the society as imagined by the (scholarly) author, and somehow manages to transfer the feeling of living in this area to the reader.

For those with interest in criminal stories and Japan, it is a very recommendable book.

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John Oliver and news in Japan

Yesterday evening I was enjoying several features by John Oliver, mostly about the upcoming election in the US (Scandals), but also one of the best features I have heard from him on Guantánamo. It sadly reminded me of the completely different landscape in Japan.
news-around-the-world

Not only since the unprecedented warning to close down “biased” broadcasters by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, but ever since Abe is building up his more and more totalitarian control over the country, the freedom of press has been on shaky grounds.

Even worse, newspapers and TV outlets restrict themselves to “save” topics, which means: stupid talk shows, food, and above all praise of Japan and how good, how lovely, how great it is (Make Japan great again!). All this despite the fact that there would be a lot to rumble upon: covering up the truth around Fukushima, mountains of scandals around Olympia 2020, police brutality in Okinawa, the list is long.

Only thinking about having something remotely similar to John Oliver on TV in Japan is as unthinkable as Trump donating all his money to a charity for immigrants. Sure enough, John Oliver is one great example out of tons of rubbish in the US, sure enough, but this one example is missing in Japan.

What remains are Japanese media stations that crawl into the *** of the government, what a sad state.

(Photo credit partially due to Über Arschkriecher)

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Farewell academics talk: Colloquium Logicum 2016 – Gödel Logics

Today I had my invited talk at the Colloquium Logicum 2016, where I gave an introduction to and overview of the state of the art of Gödel Logics. Having contributed considerably to the state we are now, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to give an invited talk on this topic.

cl16-preining

It was also somehow a strange talk (slides are available here), as it was my last as “academic”. After the rejection of extension of contract by the JAIST (foundational research, where are you going? Foreign faculty, where?) I have been unemployed – not a funny state in Japan, but also not the first time I have been, my experiences span Austrian and Italian unemployment offices. This unemployment is going to end this weekend, and after 25 years in academics I say good-bye.

Considering that I had two invited talks, one teaching assignment for the ESSLLI, submitted three articles (another two forthcoming) this year, JAIST is missing out on quite a share of achievements in their faculty database. Not my problem anymore.

It was a good time in academics, and I will surely not stop doing research, but I am looking forward to new challenges and new ways of collaboration and development. I will surely miss academics, but for now I will dedicate my energy to different things in life.

Thanks to all the colleagues who did care, and for the rest, I have already forgotten you.

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Yukio Mishima: Patriotism (憂国)

A masterpiece by Yukio Mishima – Patriotism – the story of love and dead. A short story about the double suicide of a Lieutenant and his wife following the Ni Ni Roku Incident where some parts of the military tried to overthrow government and military leaders. Although Lieutenant Takeyama wasn’t involved into the coup, because his friends wanted to safeguard him and his new wife, he found himself facing a fight and execution of his friends. Not being able to cope with this situation he commits suicide, followed by his wife.
mishima-patriotism

Written in 1960 by one of the most interesting writers of Japanese modern history, Yukio Mishima, this book and the movie made by Mishima himself, are very disturbing images of the relation between human and state. Continue reading

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吉本ばなな:デッドエンドの思い出

吉本ばななの短編集「デッドエンドの思い出」は人間のつらさの話する。吉本氏は後書きに下記のとおりかいた:

私はばかみたいで、この小説集に関しては泣かずにゲラをみることができなかったですが、その涙は心の奥底のつらさをちょっと消してくれた気がします。

なるほどと思った。一人旅間にこの本を読んで、何回も悲しく寂しい夜を過ごした。人間のつらさ、とこのつらさを超える話を読んで喜んだ。素敵な本だと思う。
Deadend Omoide - Banana Yoshimoto

いずれにしても神様は何もしてくれやしない。

この短編集に5つの短編が含まれてる:「幽霊の家」、「おかあさーん!」、「あったかくなんかない」、「ともちゃんの幸せ」、と短編集の名前に与える「デッドエンドの思い出」。1つつ静かな話だ。話は早くないし、人間関係と人間感覚に集中してるし、とっても好きな本だった。昨日の晩友人と深夜まで話す時、パウロ・コエーリョの「アルケミスト」という本が出ていたけど、比べたら吉本の本は測れないほどの方がいいと思う。その考えの理由は吉本は教えたくない、教えていない。そのかわりにコエーリョの本は宗教的な教科書みたいだ。でも、「De gustibus non disputandum est!」

吉本の短編の中に一番好きなのは、「ともちゃんの幸せ」と「デッドエンドの思い出」かもしれないけど、本当に決めること難しい。この二つの短編のなか、人間関係のつらさとその解決・回復方法をすごく上手に書いてあると思う。男性の僕なのに、たまに涙でるほど感動した。

遠くに光る夕焼けみたいにきれいな、私の、一回しかないこの体に宿っている命のことを。

とってもおすすめの本だ。大好きなスタイル、大好きな話題(友川のつらさの歌!)、そのうえ、日本語の学生の僕のためちょうどいいレベルだった。

最後に吉本氏の後書きの言葉:

さらにばかみたいだけど、私はこの中の「デッドエンドの思い出」という小説が、これまで書いた自分の作品の中で、いちばん好きです。これが書けたので、小説家になってよかったと思いました。

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パン屋 NiOR

パンというもの、本当のパンというのが大好きな僕は、いつも美味しいパンを探したり、すべての新しいパン屋を試してみる。野々市に住んでる場合は、ジョアンというパン屋さんは一番人気だと思うけど、僕の感覚の中、ジョアンはパン屋ではありません。ジョアンはペストリー、お菓子を作ってる。商品の9割りは変わったことだ。よくとっても美味しいペストリーを作ってるけど、パンではありません。

最近うちの近所にできた「NiOR」というパン屋は全く違う。神様から送ってもらったみたい。パンを作ってるパン屋。
pan-nior1

これから幸せな生活が始まります! Continue reading

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Osamu Dazai – No Longer Human

Japanese authors have a tendency to commit suicide, it seems. I have read Ryunosuke Akutagawa (芥川 龍之介, at 35), Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫, at 45), and also Osamu Dazai (太宰 治, at 39). Their end often reflects in their writings, and one of these examples is the book I just finished, No Longer Human.

Dazai_Osamu-No_Longer_Human

Considered as Dazai’s master piece, and with Soseki’s Kokoro the best selling novels in Japan. The book recounts the life of Oba Yozo, from childhood to the end in a mental hospital. The early years, described in the first chapter (“Memorandum”), are filled with the feeling of differentness, alienation from the rest, and Oba starts his way of living by playing the clown, permanently making jokes. The Second Memorandom spans the time to university, where he drops out, tries to become a painter, indulges in alcohol, smoking and prostitutes, leading to a suicide attempt together with a married woman, but he survived. The first part of the Third Memorandom sees a short recovering due to his relationship with a woman. He stops drinking and works as cartoonist, but in the last part his drinking pal from university times shows up again and they return into an ever increasing vicious drinking. Eventually he is separated from his wife, and confined to a mental hospital.

Very depressing to read, but written in a way that one cannot stop reading. The disturbing thing about this book is that, although the main actor conceives many bad actions, we feel somehow attached to him and feel pity for him. It is somehow a exercise how circumstances and small predispositions can make a huge change in our lives. And it warns us that each one of us can easily come to this brink.

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TeXworksとptex2pdfの自動設定

TeX Live 2016は最近リリースされたから、日本語の環境によく使われてる「ptex2pdf」に対応してる設定を自動にTeXworksに入れてることになった。したがって、これまでに必要なTeXworksの設定は自動に更新されている。

texworks-edit

というのは、ptex2pdfのパケージが更新されてる時、下記のチェックの上、設定を変更されてる: 続く

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