Thursday, December 27, 2012

[Rant] Gender in Japanese Language

English is a fairly gender neutral language. There's not much difference between how men and women talk except from perhaps inflection and word choice. In Japanese, however, women and men speak differently in casual situations. Of course, in formal situations, you use formal language, which is not gender specific.

Some examples:
Men have the option of ending their sentences with -dayo, dane (moderately masculine) or -zo, -ze, (strongly masculine). Women have the option of saying -no (moderately feminine) or -wa, wayo, etc. (strongly feminine)

Also, there's more than one way to say "I." 
watashi- polite - used by both males and females, though it's considered more feminine
watakushi- super polite - used by both males and females 
asshi - used by old men (geezers)
boku- used by boys, men, and tomboys
ore- This one separates the men from the boys. *strikes manly pose* 俺はみんな殺すぞ。
ora- a redneck version of ore.
atashi - a valley girl version of watashi *twirls hair* あたし、全然分からないわよね。
atai - rich girl

So even how you say a simple word like "I" is gender specific. There are also different ways to pronounce the same words. Young men will say, for example, urusei instead of urusai. Both mean "loud; noisy," and is a way of telling someone to shut up. If you watch anime and listen to how, say, Kurosaki Ichigo or Naruto speak, you'll know what I'm talking about. Instead of pronouncing things with the standard -nai, they say -nei. I actually really like the way they talk. They sound kakko ii (cool) and, because I'm a dork, I try to mimic them. However, if I talked like this to a Japanese person they'd probably just shake their heads and think I'm ignorant. They would think I didn't know how to talk properly, rather than realize I am purposefully trying to talk like a teenage boy.

I've read using such gendered language is on the decline, however. Younger men and women rarely use strongly masculine and strongly feminine endings. And women will use moderately masculine endings (though I suppose only homosexual men would use feminine endings). However, older women often still speak in strongly feminine ways. But in movies, anime, and comics, the language each character uses is oftentimes exaggerated in order to create certain character identities.  

For some, it's still seen as vulgar for a woman to talk like a man. Despite this, I oftentimes like to use the male endings instead of the female. In fact, I will never use the female endings. I had a discussion once with a guy friend in my Japanese class and he asked me why I didn't want to talk like a female. He thought it was weird I'd prefer speaking like a man. (He even went so far to say if I was with other girls, it was okay to talk like a man, but if I was in mixed company, it would be awkward if I talked like a guy. I should have told him to go [expletive] himself.) I said it was because I didn't want to sound soft and demure, which is exactly how women sound if they talk like that. Their way of speech lessens the impact of what they say. Kind of like how you add a smiley face to the end of your texts when you don't want to sound too mean. 

"You're stupid. :)" 

I don't like the idea of being limited to only women's speech. And I don't think men should be limited to speaking masculine-ly. I'm blunt when I speak in English and I'm going to be blunt when I speak in Japanese. I'd rather my speech sound more forceful and aggressive than weak and docile.

I'm curious, has anyone else encountered this in other languages? Can you think of anything similar to this in English? Or in your writing? Is there a difference between how your female and male characters talk? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

[Review] Stardust - Neil Gaiman

Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Published: October 28th 1998
Rating: ★★★

Young Tristan Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria--even bring her the star they watch as it falls from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient barrier that borders their tiny village. And beyond the safety of the Wall, strange things can happen to a determined lad chasing his heart's desire into a magical world of wonders and perils--where anything that can be imagined can be found. 

The beginning is pretty slow. The author starts with a lengthy description of the village the main character is from, and I'm not one for paragraphs of description. I need action to keep my attention, so, at times, the novel kind of drags on. Also, I guess I was thinking there would be a more innocent tone to the novel, so I was thoroughly shocked when I came across the first sex scene. It wasn't terribly graphic, but I could have done with out (like with all sex scenes).

The main character, Tristran Throrn, bothered me with his pathetic lovesick self. But I suppose there wouldn't have been much of  a story if he hadn't been so stupid. Men who do anything for the woman they love are definitely not attractive. Grow a spine, man!

The ending was a bit disappointing as well. [Spoiler Alert] I was assuming there would be this huge battle with the witch, as there was in the movie, but the star and her just end up talking. I mean, it works. It's just a bit anti-climactic. I also kind of dislike it when the author describes the rest of the main character's life. I don't like seeing the main character's grow old and die. That's no fun!

It's been a while since I seen the movie, but if I remember it correctly, I think I liked it fairly well. It was pretty funny. I would even go so far as to say I liked it better than the book, though I would have to watch it again to confirm it.

Overall, a pleasant read. Definitely liked the fairy-tale aspects to it.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

[Review] The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Beddor

Author: Frank Beddor
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2006
Rating: ★★★★

When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape the murderous aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!

Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss' story and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions surrounding mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.--Goodreads 

Ahh! This book was awesome. Jam-packed with action and death. I loved it. My only issue would be that it was sometimes hard to picture the many different devices and characters. Maybe it's just my lack of imagination, but I felt like the author could have expanded more. I couldn't figure out just how advanced Wonderland was either. 

Redd makes an excellent villain. She's so crazy! I think if I were to rule the world, I would use her as my inspiration  Also, the Cheshire cat as a deadly assassin was pretty badass. I liked Alyss better when she was a child. She was more feisty. Then she grew up in Victoria England and lost a bit of her spunk. Ah, well. I loved the inclusion of Lewis Carrol, and I never realized he had such a stutter.

Overall, a wonderful revision of a classic. I'll be going out to buy the next book as soon as the holiday is over. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One Down, Four To Go

One of the paintings that inspired Uday Prakash's
"Warren Hastings and His Bull."
Yesterday was the last day of class at the U of MN for the fall semester. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a relief that is. However, I still have two finals and two essays to complete by next Tuesday. But at least I am completely done with my South Asian Literature class!

[expletive] yeah!

I hated every second of that class. For starts, I don't have much of an interest in South Asia. My studies and my interests are concerned primarily with East Asia (you know, where all the sexy men are), but I took this class because it counts toward my major and I love literature. The class actually wouldn't have been that bad had the teacher not come off as pompous and arrogant. She would ask for people's interpretations, their opinions, and tell them they're wrong. Also, she's  one of those literary snobs who wouldn't touch a fantasy or a sci-fi book with a ten foot pole. And that, of course, automatically made me dislike her. Also, she likes to call on people and put them on the spot. If you don't give her an answer, then she likes to make you feel like a complete idiot. So during class, I was constantly afraid she was going to call on me. To the point where I was shaking.

Damn social anxiety.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

[Review] Pathfinder - Orson Scott Card

Author: Orson Scott Card
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Published: 2010
Pages: 662, hardcover 
Rating: ★★★★

Rigg is well trained at keeping secrets. Only his father knows the truth about Rigg's strange talent for seeing the paths of people's paths. But when his father dies, Rigg is stunned to learn just how many secrets Father had kept from him--secrets about Rigg's own past, his identity  and his destiny. And when Rigg discovers that he has the power not only to see the past, but also to change it, his future suddenly becomes anything but certain. 

Rigg's birthright sets him on a path that leaves him caught between two factions, one that wants him crowned and one that wants him dead. He will be forced to question everything he thinks he knows, choose who to trust, and push the limits of his talent . . . or forfeit control of his destiny. 

At first, I thought this was going to be a work of fantasy, which surprised me since Card is primarily a SF writer. We're first introduced to Rigg, who comes from a low technology environment and has seemingly magical abilities to follow people's paths. So I was completely taken off guard after we are introduced to Ram, who is a pilot aboard a spacecraft full of colonists looking for a planet to live after Earth is devastated by a comet hitting the moon. Each chapter begins with a snippet of Ram's story and then proceeds to Rigg's and his friend's tale. It's an excellent juxtaposition of the past and present. 

I love the main character Rigg. He's smart, witty, and totally in control. He reminds me a bit of Artemis Fowl at times, only less evil. I only wish we had been given a clearer description of what he looks like. Perhaps I missed it or forgot, but I don't think Card went into depth with any of the character's descriptions. But, anyway, the characters are all lovable and the banter between them cracked me up. 

Rather than ignoring the time travel paradox, Card embraced it. I have to admit, I none too smart, so the whole time traveling thing just hurt my brain a lot, but it's definitely an intriguing plot and I can't wait to read the next in the series, Ruins. Fans of Ender's Game will enjoy this. I certainly did. Speaking of Ender's Game, who's excited for the movie?! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

[Review] I Have the Right to Destroy Myself - Young-ha Kim

Author: Young-ha Kim
Genre: Adult Fiction (Korean)
Published: 1996
Pages: 119
Rating: ★★

I don't encourage murder. I have no interest in one person killing another. I only want to draw out morbid desires, imprisoned deep in the unconscious. This lust, once freed, starts growing. Their imaginations run free, and they soon discover their potential . . . They are waiting for someone like me. 

A spectral, nameless narrator haunts the lost and wounded of big-city Seoul, suggesting solace in suicide. Wandering through the bright lights of their high-urban existence, C and K are brothers who fall in love with the same woman--Se-yeon. As their lives intersect, they tear at each other in a struggle to find connection in their fast-paced, atomized world. 

I like the idea behind I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, but there were so many scenes in the novel that just made me incredibly uncomfortable, so I can't say I liked the book. Call me a prude, but I don't like explicit sex scenes. Especially when they're super bizarre like they were. My eyes felt violated when I was done.

The nameless first-person narrator searches for his clients (who some would call victims) and seduces them into killing themselves. For a fee, he assists them. When the job's done, he goes on vacations to Europe and  writes about his clients. Death, to him, is a form of art. Though a lot of my classmates thought he was an evil serial killer, I thought of him as a dark hero. He puts people out of their misery and genuinely believes he's ending their suffering. I truly enjoyed his character and wish the novel focused solely on him, rather than the characters C and K.

Maybe I think of the narrator as more of a hero than a villain because I felt little sympathy toward his clients. They're all women who have been sexually abused or objectified at some point in their life, which is, of course, a serious matter. I feel bad for them in that sense. But it's the fact that they end up being so damaged and flaky that bothers me. I like down to earth characters, not the crazy "artistic" type that some of them turn out to be.

The novel is more translatable than the other Korean books I've read for my class. You don't have to know about Korean history, politics, or social issues to be able to make a meaningful connection with the book. In fact, there are more references to Western culture, especially Western art. The author begins his novel by describing the painting below, which really sets the tone of the book. 

The Death of Marat
Jacques-Louis David 
Overall, I give it two stars. It's an interesting read and I would recommend this book to anyone who likes bizarre, messed up stories. There's not a lot of violence in this novel (disappointing, I know), but you have to be able to stomach weird sex scenes (which I can't).