Friday, November 12, 2010

Peter's first video blog. Aren't we so 21st century.

So, just thought I'd try "vlogging" as its called. Sorry the recording quality is so iffy. Still getting used to the video thing. I like the medium, though, so I might try it again soon. In any case, expect to see more media in future updates.

I may have forgotten to mention in the video - my favorite thing about the rice paper walls is the glow in the morning. Waking up to light rather than sound is a good thing, in my opinion.

Side notes:
The okonomiyaki was actually rather good. Very interesting blend of textures between the softness of the eggs and the crunch of the cabbage. Kind of like a cabbage pancake... but way better than that sounds.

Katakana is, by the way, one of three Japanese writing systems, all in current use. That's right. Three. No complaining about 26 letters in the alphabet, kids!
The three writing systems are:
Kanji - Chinese pictographs. One for every word. Often very small differences between two very different words. Great way to fit a lot of information into a little text. Not a great way to have a highly literate populace. The fact that the Japanese are generally literate speaks both to the abilities of the mind and to the Japanese Educational system. If you want to try to imagine how difficult it is working with a writing system in which every word is one symbol, think about doing math in a system in which every different number has a different number (9 is nine, 99 is quibble). Thanks to the Borges story "Funes, his memory" for the idea.

Hiragana - what I mean when I say Katakana in the video. Hiragana is to Japanese what the Alphabet is to english. Except the Japanese one is phonetic. So instead of a b c d, you can fa, pa, da, ga, ka, etc - each used combination of consonant-vowel is a symbol (not all are used, obviously). And there are some symbols for just a vowel, and for things like a "repeat consonant"

Katakana - Finally, a separate alphabet used mainly for words from other languages. That's right. It's also phonetic. Never mind that much of the Japanese language is actually borrowed ancient Chinese. Never mind that civilized languages borrow words all the time. They need a whole different phonetic alphabet for other people's words.
Grace argues that this is a good thing - it allows one to see which is foreign.
I say that's a horrible thing to do to a poor language, what did it ever do to you?

Imagine. Just imagine if Shakespeare had to spell every word he borrowed from French or Latin or Greek - even every neologism from those languages - in a different alphabet. Imagine if Chaucer had to do the same. Our language would be much less varied and beautiful, I assure you. Before you jump to the defense of the Japanese with "oh, but the west is so different from the east! Chaucer using Latin and the Japanese using english, two different things! Okay, what about me being able to type "sayonara" or "assassin" or "anime" or "bonsai" or "karaoke." or "pariah". Brainwashing wouldn't be a concept without the flexibility of the English phonibarri.  Oh, and "Gung Ho" which is a particularly delightful phrase. Also, Rudyard Kipling never would have written, and I'm particularly enjoying his "Kim" right now. (which I highly recommend, along with the touching short story "The Celestial Omnibus" by E.M. Forster.

The point I will say is redeeming about the Japanese language is their love of all things onomatopoeic. It's more than any language I've heard before. Even the word for defication is a onomatopoeic - "ucchi" if you must know.

Others, graciously supplied by Mark Baldwin:
"Barabara" the sound of crunching something up, which becomes an adjective for "all messed up"
 "Jiiiiii..." the sound of someone staring. That's right. They have a sound. For someone staring silently.
"Chokon" is the sound of being small and quiet. Because quiet things make sounds all the time....

So yes. Lots of text for a 21'st century post... but that's me, I suppose.


  1. have you learned the names for animal sounds? those are fun!
    Okonomiyaki! LOVE IT. And I love the sauce. It is one of the things I miss most - sitting in the teeny tiny restaurant across the hot "grill" from "mama-san" as she'd make my okonomiyaki! I took mine with pork every once in a while.

  2. How durable are rice paper walls? I think I will look for how these are made.

    Very pretty. thanks for the tour.

  3. Don't forget that "shin" is the sound of silence, I like that one. ^_^