One

1.
There is something to be said about linguistic determinism, and in particular relativity. Linguistic relativity says that the form or structure of a language influences the way people think, or world-view. The often quoted example is the Inuit people and the words for “snow”. Whereas in English we have snow (and perhaps sleet and slush) the Inuit have at least nine different words for different types of snow. Because of this the Inuits have a “greater” understanding and knowledge of snow and their conditions.

But is this absolutely necessarily true?

The idea that language reflects your thought is better described as relative rather than absolute. If the relationship is absolute then all people of a language will think in exactly the same way.  But this is not true. A talk to two people from the same culture will quickly reveal that people do think differently. And you would be hard pushed to even say there are two people who are exactly identical in their way of thought. Even biological twins who are genetically the same are different in their thoughts and likes. Experience from a first-person or one-person point-of-view will guarantee that we will be different no matter what.

2.
English is a language which takes pains to highlight “one over many”. It is one of the languages which have difference morphological form for the singular and the plural (or not-singular). Is it natural to give the singular priority? Arabic has forms for “one”, “two” and “plural”. And Japanese does not differentiate between singular and plural at all.  Nor does Chinese for that matter. So grammar is really a creation of the mind, of people, to make communication possible. The rules are not set in stone or in the mind as some would like you to believe. As humans we make do with what we have – the physical world – to do things like communication.

In fact all we can do is ‘make do’. But it is important to see that making do with something does not mean it is the only way to the same thing. There is no reason for ‘one’ to be given priority over not ‘one’ … except for may be it is the first thing in an order.

heaviness of rain

more than white noise
the drone continues
through the night

in dark sleep
the overflow gutters
my one exposed ear
until light reveals
the heaviness
of the rain

frogs frolic wetly
green suits shining
and birds shelter
in the eaves
leaving reluctantly 
at my presence
as warnings come
over the air waves

midnight

peak of darkness
the largest hour

the sun
is at its lowest
hidden beneath
the earth
seemingly
under ground

the stars
pinhole the sky wall
the half-moon
noticeably crawls
across the black

and the air
falls upon me –
my ominous blanket
that keeps me cold

Beyond dialogue

With post-Periscope here we now have what can be considered not dialogue but what I shall call plura-logue

Conversations no longer static or deferred but dynamic and immediate. It is also dialogue with one and many simultaneously. 

How to set up and use iPhone VoiceOver for Periscope

Do you want to drive and Periscope at the same time but feel it is unsafe (let alone it being illegal in some places)? Well, there is a solution. It is called VoiceOver.


1. Set up VoiceOver
Firstly, go to
Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut
and check VoiceOver


2. Start a broadcast
Now start a Periscope broadcast as you normally do. Once you have set the orientation triple-click the Home Button. Tap once where the comments usually appear on the screen. All comments should now be read aloud as they appear.


3. To stop a broadcast
When you want a broadcast, stop VoiceOver by triple-clicking the Home Button. Then exit as you normally do.


Bonus – To tweak VoiceOver
You can change the voice and speed of the VoiceOver in
Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver

Ben Crystal lectures in Japan

I heard Shakespearean actor, Ben Crystal, talk today. My interest in Shakespeare – which had wained with my miscomprehension or un-comprehension of it in my youth – had returned with the revelation that what I had been watching until now had been inauthentic. Ben had pointed out that modern performances had tended towards Received Pronunciation (RP) even though most of The United Kingdom (98% in fact) do not speak like the Queen. English is not the English of Lawrence Olivier. It is the English of ordinary folk. So watching Shakespeare done in RP is like watching it in another language altogether.

Modelled performances by Ben during the talk in the more natural pronunciation of English in Shakespeare’s time according to Ben meant a return to rhyme (lost in modern pronunciation of words), in a more natural tempo and rhythm (sounding more like the vernacular we recognise as native speakers), and engagement (actors spoke directly to the audience).

Some recent productions I have seen online have tried to return to these values (probably due to Ben and the Globe’s performances from 2005 onwards). These values, though, have always been there. You can still see it in the ordinary non-Shakespearean theatre of English. But the values were taken away (stolen as it were) by a small group some time in the history of the English stage performance. This revision and return is absolutely necessary if we are to appreciate Shakespeare on this day of all appropriate days – Shakespeare Day (23rd April) – once more. Bravo and thank you, Ben.

Published international research low by Japanese

Compared to the world growth in publishing at eighty-percent Japan is falling behind at just 14%. 

Figures given this morning showed exchange to America has fallen from the peak of over 47,000 students to under 19,000. Furthermore, money put into research has dropped dramatically. 

If Japan is to compete academically it will need to increase spending in exchange and research

Philip Roth’s advice to (academic) writers

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” (1979)

Should it have been called ‘Brexit’?

As someone who works with words and like words I am always scrutinising it wherever I look. So I was curious as to why the referendum in the United Kingdom for whether to stay in the European Union or not was christened as Brexit, a portmanteau for ‘British Exit’ even before the vote had gone ahead. Does not the name assume that the outcome will be an exit?

Think half empty/half full.

Would the outcome have been to stay if the name bandied around was Bremain instead of Brexit?

Names, whether official or not, are important. They can change the perception of the object for not only individuals but entire societies as well. After all, language is a shared event. We used it to communicate firstly, and secondly, to consolidate our thoughts. So a term like Brexit with its posit-ive (as opposed to negat-ion) connotations will likely influence how one leans and then ultimately how one votes.

Extracurricular sports in Japanese schools still too much, doing damage to education/future

1.
Did you know in Japan some students formally train everyday for a sport? And they do this for much of their junior and senior years (12-18 years of age). A 10,600 student survey revealed that 20 percent of students do not have a single day off training (they go to school even on weekends), because in Japan sporting achievement is considered important in building good character.

According to an article in today’s The Japan News the Government has trying to implement changes to lower club activity hours to have at least two days of rest and  weekend training limited to maximum four hours. On top of this, there was a call for outside instructors to be employed. At present, teachers are entrusted with training and taking students to and from meets. This means teachers as well are kept busy. There is no parent or outside involvement at this level.

2.
Most Japanese do not know what club activities are like overseas. In Australia where I grew up, a sport is played and trained for during the season only. For example, I played soccer (football) for eight years. Each Autumn I would go for try-outs, play for three or four months in the winter, then rest from spring onwards. Training at the younger age group were once a week for 2 hours. we had training twice a week for three hours in the last three school years. Every weekend we had a match. Parents were responsible to take their own children to the games or else carpool with other parents. Furthermore, parents were the coaches. I was lucky to have a good coach. I had an ex-Scottish second division player as coach for most of my eight years.

I also played other sports during the summer. Cricket (baseball-like sport) for 2 seasons and basketball for one season. Being free to join and leave club activities on a year-by-year basis meant I can try many other activities. Apart from sport, I joined the chess club, the choir, the percussion ensemble and the debating team. All of these experiences were important to me, making me who I am today.

3.
The Japanese people I tell to about my school experience are surprised but also skeptical of the system. Students in Japan are expected to join a club for the duration of the three years they are in junior or senior high school. They also cannot imagine not training for even a day or not training in the off-season. And students who leave a club halfway through are looked down upon.

The culture of club activity is hard to break. The Government has been implement changes for 20 years now with little effect. Resistance is strong with old habits hard to break. As a parent of two children living under the Japanese education I can only hope.