Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Book And A Movie

This past weekend, I both finished a book I've been reading and watched a new movie. The book was "Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants" by Robert Sullivan and the movie was I am Legend.

"Rats" was about the history and present state of Rattus norvegicus in New York City. Integrating science, history, and travel, this was a very interesting book that I could still put down for a few hours between chapters. This is important to me in a book since I either cannot put it down ("Battle Royale" in less than a day) or get bored and wander off before the third page (C.S. Lewis' "Abolition of Men").

The movie, I am Legend, is about a virus that gives humans rabies-like symptoms. The main character is the only man left on Manhattan without the virus due to his natural immunity.

So I'm sitting in the theatre watching the colonies of half-humans living in dark and coming out to eat only after the sun goes down thinking about rats. Who wouldn't draw a comparison? There was even a "Rat King" amoung the rage-oholics. (Alright, so Sullivan says Rat Kings are myths, but so is a rabies-like virus that makes you shed all your hair and act like one of the infected people in 28 Days Later.) Unfortunately for the movie, I did not like the ending and it lacked the historical depth of the book.

So, I recommend the book if you're into that sort of thing and recommend the movie if you're bored.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Greetings!

In the spirit of the old, here is a holiday letter to recap the last 12 months. Since this is my first time I went online to get some tips on how to go about composing a "holiday letter" and the following is the result.

24 December 2007

Dear friends,

Please forgive this mass letter. Actually, it is only a mass letter if a massive amount of people read it. Since I doubt that will happen, please consider this personalized. I'm so glad you've taken the time to read this letter I wrote just for you! Let the news begin: This past year I have not given birth, died, or gotten married. These three seem like the big themes in holiday letters and I didn't want to keep you in suspense. We'll just have to wait and see what happens next year. My mom's dog, Ruby, did die however.

Some warm memories from this past year include, but are not limited to: Susan, a college roommate of mine, baking me a Rainbow Brite themed birthday cake and how I didn't get pregnant once. Bad news is isolated to an unfortunate incident over spring break that involved a bunch of beer and me breaking a bone in my ankle. A humorous anecdote from this year is easily the following story:

My grandma was getting knee replacement surgery and so I was living with her and my grandpa to help them while she was recovering (trust me, this is funny). Anyways, the day of the surgery, I'm there at the hospital with my grandma and my aunt waiting for the doctors to do their thing. We go in for the initial appointment and everything is good, the surgery is on, my grandma is feeling good and so does the doctor. The doctor leaves and my aunt turns to me and says, "Is it just me or was that doctor hott?" I agree and so does my grandma. So, for the rest of the day, my aunt, grandma, and I (not so much my grandma since she spends most of her time doped up) are checking to see if the doctor is married or not. He's not wearing a ring, but he's a surgeon so maybe he can't wear it in the surgery. He has a voice like butter, but that doesn't really say if he's single or not, just that he has a voice like butter. Finally, my aunt asks him the best way to contact him if anything bad should happen to her mother during recovery. At first, she gets the number to the hospital's orthopedic surgery wing. Upon pressing him further she gets the number to his clinic. Finally, and who knows how she did it, she got the number to his pager and gave him her own (she too is a doctor) in case anything should go wrong. And that is how you get digits while in a hospital.

Not funny? You wouldn't know humor if it came up and licked your forehead. Moving on, I'm told I'm not supposed to brag about all the great things I've accomplished this year. Since I've done nothing that hasn't been done before I feel I can avoid bragging, but, just so you know, if I had done something worth bragging about I'd be writing about it in this section. Right about here people start loosing interest in most holiday letters so I was going to give you my cookie recipe, but then you'd stop buying Toll House chocolate chips. I cannot do that to so noble a company. Instead I'll tell you that you can watch all your favorite Adult Swim cartoons on their website, Also, you will notice a photo on this post. This is to remind you of what I look like. I'm the one on the right. Feel free to print it out and keep a copy on your desks at work and home.

Thanks and I hope you have a lovely holiday season,
genny with a g

Monday, December 17, 2007


To follow up on my last post, I thought I should quickly give you a definition of culture. As an anthropologist, and a cultural one at that, this word holds a world of meaning. To use the most basic understanding, I could argue that culture is the result of a group of people sharing most if not all of the following traits:
1. language
2. religious practices and/or spiritual beliefs
3. moral or ethical system
4. social practices and rituals
5. consuming practices
6. understanding of symbolism and symbolic meanings

Caution must be used when comparing cultures, especially when people begin to use the term "civilization" and the word's other forms (civilized, civil, civility) since these can be used to indicate a form of ethnocentrism.

Battle Royale

Dear my loyal readers,

I too am a loyal reader. I am a loyal reader of many things: books, pamphlets, signs, warning labels, etc. Last night I picked up my brother's copy of Koushun Takami's "Battle Royal" translated by Yuji Oniki. Having just finished it about ten minutes ago, I can tell you is was really very good. No, maybe not my favorite book, but definately in the top three.

Despite being a translation and therefore automatically losing some of the linguistic references (for example the kana characters used to spell some of the names are discussed a few times, an aspect that looses meaning when the language switches to the English alphabet), I think Oniki did a wonderful job with this book. I rarely noticed problems with the language while I was reading and when I did, as I said, it was due to problems in translating meanings from one language to another and not really Oniki's fault. If you wrote "a stitch in time saves nine" in hiragana, I'm sure the rhyme would fail to carry over and therefore the alliteration would be lost.

As for Takami's plot and characters and the lot of that literary mumbo-jumbo, A+. I'm not given to finding deeper meanings or reading into text, but I totally dig books on the dangers of giving governments too much power. When government begins to dictate culture rather than being a facet of culture, things always seem to verge on the chaotic. At least they do in books. I think they do in real life too, but I can't really prove that right now. Anyways, just like "Farenheit 451," it is the epiphany of the characters that maybe the system they buy into isn't the good choice or, maybe more appropriately, that they have choice and their reactions are so interesting and exciting to me. It makes me feel like a cheerleader on the sidelines watching David decide he's gonna take on Goliath. Or maybe it's more like cheering for Saul? Wait, no, not really. It's like cheering for Nader during the 2004 presidential election.

To get back to my point, culture dictates government, but people dictate government. Actually culture dictates a lot of things, even science, but it shouldn't be used as an excuse for malicious or regretful actions. People will always be led by their own decisions and while cultural beliefs and norms may influence their decisions (i.e., church teachings, governmental laws, learned knowledge(To say there is learned knowledge implies there is innate knowledge. The existence of innate knowledge and it's breadth is a whole different bag of blog posts.)), their decisions in turn can help to transform culture.

Wow, I'm way off my original point now. "Battle Royale" is a great book. I'd love to learn kana so I can read it in the original language. I hear the movie is not so good and, having read the book combined with my natural disposition to dislike movies from books, I'd say read the book first. The build up to the final pages is incredible. That is all.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Clothes Shopping in Japan

Yesterday morning I went shopping for some nice clothes for the holiday season, having packed none. Shopping out in Japan is difficult for me due to my height and size. I'm not saying I'm a fatty, but it can be difficult to find well-fitting clothes. I headed out to Machida and went right away to the Gap. Because the Gap is a familiar store, I easily found an appropriate dress in the appropriate size. My problems began only after I bought the dress and realized that now I would need undergarmets as well.

Buying tights in Japan somewhere other than the PX is impossible. I know that there are tall women in Japan. One of my students is 5'10", but how they can find stockings with a crotch that goes past their knees is a mystery to me. As for slips and camisoles, well, I know that these sorts of things are out-dated. I also recognize that I'm a bit of an undergarment nut and that the majority of women my age somehow manage to wear skirts without slips and without feeling naked. I'm not one of those women. I walked around Machida and Sagamihara for hours looking for a slip, resorting to going into stores obviously geared towards the geriatic consumer before finally finding ONE slip and it was PINK. Not cool. Oddly enough, the other week in Tokyo I spotted a young woman on the train platform wearing a slip as a skirt. Either she couldn't realize it was an undergarment or she was staging an homage to 1980's Madonna.

Finally I broke down and went to the PX. They didn't have any slips either. What is the world coming to? We can still buy skirts that stick to our stockings and are so transparent every down-there curve is visible, but we can't buy the proper undergarments to keep us from self-conciously tugging at our hems and avoiding well-lit areas? Do people even remember what a camisole is?