Manga in Japan

Yui_and_Shinji.jpgThe Japan Times has an English article about manga (Japanese comics). Apparently manga constitute almost 40% of published material in Japan each year. And this is after five or so years of declining sales!

Manga and anime are amazing and versatile art forms. They aren’t simply for kids (as most animation in the US is), and the vast majority are not the grotesque and sexual spectacles many Americans seem to think they are. The latter conception puzzles me a bit. An interesting thing about anime is that it encompasses virtually every genre of film, so it is not confined to one age group, gender, or whatever. Maybe that’s why many Americans are a little wary of it.

Anyway, if you want to learn more about manga, check out this article. It looks like it was written by a guy who may be American (certainly western), so it has an interesting perspective. It’s amazing how thorough a presence manga has in everyday Japanese life.

“Comic culture is serious business”

I hope to have more posts about anime in the future. It’s very interesting. I plan to review my favorite TV series (and its attendant movies), Shinseiki Evangelion.

Goings-on — March 24th 2003

Here are some articles, editorials, and sites that have caught my eye.

“Paris war protest turns anti-Semitic” (Worldnet Daily)

“Arab nations want emergency UN meeting and vote to end war” (Ha’aretz Daily)

“Ishihara calls for Japan’s rearmament to counter N┬áKorea” (Japan Today)

“Shame on You, Mr. Moore! Shame on You!” (Time.com)

“More Australians support war” (The Australian)

“Al-Jazeera Launches Site In English” (Yahoo Business)

Al-Jazeera in English

“U.S. pressures Russia over arms sales to Iraq”

War in Iraq

This post is primarily a regurgitation of an email exchange I’ve recently had with my dear friend Marina…

Until lately I really have not come down on either side of the debate about the war, but now that it’s happening, I am glad. Saddam Hussein is an evil, evil maniac. The things he’s done to the poor people of Iraq… This sentiment was further established in my mind upon reading these articles:

“Iraqi villagers welcome U.S. troops” (CNN)

“‘You’re late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious’” (Guardian Unlimited)

Although the people in the cities we’ve been capturing (such as Safwan) have not been enthusiastic (they fear a repeat of ’91 when the Shi’ites of the south rebelled, thinking Saddam would be taken out, only to have been brutally repressed by the Baathist regime) it seems many have been glad to see our troops coming in. Seeing the picture with the CNN article made me a little misty-eyed. These poor people. The Guardian article talks of a woman whose son had been executed by the Iraqi regime and quotes her as asking the Americans “Where have you been all this time?”

Because of this, even if these Iraqis do not represent the majority (which I doubt), I do not give any credence to the argument that it’s none of our business. I was listening to NPR the other day and they were interviewing some Egyptians on the streets of Cairo and what they were saying really did not make any sense. They seemed to be mad at us because of our attack on Iraq, its citizens (rather than on Hussein, who seems to be pretty much despised by everyone). This conveys a sense that they feel solidarity in some way with the people of Iraq. And yet in the same breath they say that what goes on in Iraq is none of our business, that it should be dealt with internally. If this is the case, then I ask who? Who in Iraq will free these poor people? How could we as an international community have ignored this for so long? Screw the WMD debate. I’m still undecided as to whether there was enough of a reason to go in there simply because of that (but I think there may be many things that the US government didn’t feel they could tell the rest of the world). But the people! How they have suffered! Oh God, how they have suffered! How can we as the most powerful nation on earth be deaf to the cries? Did you hear about how Hussein’s evil sons have overseen horrendous tortures? I just saw an article today that mentions people who went in to Iraq to be human shields but have just crossed the Jordanian border totally changed – the Iraqi people told them how horribly their government has acted toward them. Some said they would commit suicide if the war does not change anything. Here it is:

“Lucky Break for Jordan” (UPI)

Throughout the world, particularly the Arab world, many see America as a religious country, a Christian country. Many Muslims (and I would assume people of other faiths) come to the conclusion that the characteristics of American society represent the characteristics of Christians. I strongly say that we are not a Christian nation. There are so many evils we commit at home and abroad. Despite our request in one of our most favorite patriotic hymns, our country may very well not be enjoying the blessings of God. But who is to say? Many people around the world are at this moment condemning us for what we are doing. Even people who may be religious or are familiar with Christianity and its influence on our nation damn us for our action in Iraq. What arrogance. I’m sorry, but how does the world say such things while letting such horrible injustice live on? I think the curse of God will rest much more heavily on those Levites who choose to walk on the other side of the road, rather than help their brothers who are dying.

This is a scary line of reasoning for me, but I feel compelled in this direction. I’ve always been opposed to “policing” the world, but who else has the power and determination? I don’t like meddling in the affairs of other countries, but what about the Sudan? what about the people of North Korea? There is so much evil and suffering. Are we, the richest and most powerful nation, supposed to sit idly by? I guess I used to think so, but now I am starting to wonder…

Here are some AP photos I’ve found.

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A US soldier gives some candy to boys in Safwan.

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These are bedouin. They don’t seem to mind our presence.

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I actually found this image several months ago. I can’t remember what article it accompanied. This is an Iraqi Christian boy. My heart goes out to him. I pray he is okay.

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A US soldier tears down one of the many posters of Saddam in Safwan. Allied forces tore down vestiges of the Hussein regime as a way to assure the residents that we are serious about removing their dictator. Many Iraqis are apparently hesitant to show their disdain for the mass murderer, because we left them in the lurch in ’91.

Pray for peace. If you are a Christian, pray for your brothers and sisters throughout the world. Pray for all of God’s children in Iraq.

For not from the east or from the west

and not from the wilderness comes lifting up;

but it is God who executes judgment,

putting down one and lifting up another.

For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup

with foaming wine, well mixed;

he will pour a draught from it,

and all the wicked of the earth

shall drain it down to the dregs.

But I will rejoice forever;

I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.

-Psalm 75.6-9

Tsaruch Shemirah!!

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HaShem has apparently sent a messenger to us in the form of a carp. On January 28th, Luis Nivelo (a Christian) was doing the usual stuff for his job at a Jewish fish market, clubbing carp fish so they could be turned into gifelte, when he came upon a twenty-pounder that began yelling in Hebrew.

His boss, Zalman Rosen, came and the two were apparently very terrified, so Rosen went at it with a machete-like knife. However the dag gadol wasn’t too happy and was flipping about (as most normal fish do when they are out of water) and caused Rosen to cut himself. Unfortunately, Nivelo, thinking this was the Devil, succeeded in killing the fish and selling it for Shabbat.

The prophet’s message, you ask? Read more Torah, of course! Oh yeah, and the end is near, so get ready.

For more details, check out these news articles:

Word is made flesh as God reveals himself… as a fish (Guardian Unlimited)

Talking fish story scores with believers (LA Daily News)

Fish Talks, Town Buzzes (NY Times)

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!

-Luke 13.34

Oh, The Books I Read

I have this horrible habit of reading several books at once. It is not intentional; I just seem to begin a book then see another, then another, ad infinitum. So anyway, I thought it’d be fun to put some of them up on the site. Maybe you’ll see something that sparks your interest. These are some of the books (the ones that I can think of!) that I have going right now. Oh yeah, and if you have the same problem I do and you pick up more books as a result of this posting… it’s your fault and not mine!

So, in no order but that of our august alphabet and without further ado…

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Chobits, vol. 1 by CLAMP

I actually just finished this last night, but I wanted to put it up here anyway. Those of you who know me probably know that I love anime and manga. This is a manga (and I think an anime has been made out of it – I think). It’s pretty funny and cute (sorry about that expression). The story is about a nineteen-year-old guy who is sent to a juku (“cram school”) in Tokyo by his parents after failing to pass the entrance exams for university. Oh yeah, the computers in this story are all robots that look like humans except they have weird-looking ears (the female ones are really hot too!). The protagonist finds one of these “computers” one day and takes it home. It’s a great manga by CLAMP (a group of female artists that originally started out as a doujin group, pretty cool).

This manga is published by Tokyopop, a cool publisher because they keep the manga in the original right-to-left format. There’s a little bit of teenage male sexuality in Chobits (honestly, how do you avoid that in a story about a nineteen-year-old guy?), but nothing too bad. Highly recommended!

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Code of the Samurai by Thomas Cleary

This is an interesting book, a translation of Bushido Shoshinshu (try saying that five times fast!), a famous treatise on bushido (“the way of the warrior”). Bushido interests me for a couple reasons. My primary interest in this subject is actually in how it affects Japanese culture today. It seems like bushido, although it started with the samurai class, came to permeate the entire culture by the twentieth century. Although it is focused on warrior-like stuff, the Bushido Shoshinshu gives a glimpse into how and why Japanese people act the way they do.

This little book is published by Tuttle, that bad-ass publisher that puts out cool obscure stuff on Japan, like the really cool book Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn. The illustrations in Code of the Samurai could be better, but the book itself is nice to look at. I’m a real sucker for good-looking books!

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The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

This is such a cool book. I have the Autumn and Winter one, too. Phyllis Tickle, a columnist for Publishers Weekly, has made a trilogy of fixed-prayer manuals that are really easy to use.

My faith has taken a more esoteric turn (but not too sharp of a turn, don’t worry!), due in part to these books. For the first time I have discovered the very old practice of fixed prayer, which has really helped me to saturate my days with thoughts of and prayers to God. All the readings include excerpts of the Psalms, which have guides for chanting. I really want to learn how to chant the Psalms, and it sounds easy, but I think I need a teacher.

The cover of this book is very nice and it has a very handy ribbon in it, so you can keep track of what day you’re on.

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Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Sculley

This is a compassionate and passionate plea that we come to our senses and realize that the current way we treat animals, particularly animals we “harvest,” is evil. I’m not even half-way through this book yet, but I already resonate with the author. The state of our farm animals is atrocious, and it’s really maddening and discouraging to see so many Christians take part in and advocate the horrible mistreatment of our animals.

Sculley was an assistant to and speech writer for Dubya. It’s really cool, because this is essentially a call to reevaluate our treatment of animals coming not from some left-wing maniac, but a pretty sensible and somewhat religious person. Props to Philip Pascuzzo on the cover design of this book. It just really seems to capture what the book is about and attracts a second look from your average book-browser.

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A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor is amazing. If you have not read any of her stuff, you have got to pick up this book. Many of her stories are quite violent and feature characters that are less than likable. However, she was deeply religious and all of her stories have a deeper meaning. You could spend hours just trying to figure out one story! I love that kind of stuff!!

This was the second time I’ve read this book, and probably not the last. We just finished this book in the honors English class I am teaching. I’ve linked to this specific edition (Barnes & Noble) because that’s the one I read and it’s a really cool book – small and well-designed.

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Inferno by Dante Alighieri

This is a great book in terms of the plot, but it’s even greater considering it’s the first part of a huge poem (The Divine Comedy, of course)! The rhyme scheme is aba bcb cdc ded efe, etc, etc. The other interesting thing is that many of the translators (Dante wrote in Italian) attempt to retain the rhyme scheme in their English versions.

We are just beginning this book in my honors class. I’ve read it before, but I am looking forward to a second reading. The edition I’ve linked to, translated by John Ciardi, is the one we’re reading. It is designed well and has some notes. It is very compact and the cover is great! I’ve bought some other versions, which have the Italian and more extensive notage (you like that word?). One I would like to note in particular is the Oxford edition by Robert Durling. It’s pretty nice.

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Inner Christianity by Richard Smoley

This is an interesting book on esoteric Christianity. The author distinguishes between esotericism and mysticism in this way: “Esotericism is characterized by an interest in … different levels of consciousness and being. Mysticism is not quite so concerned with these intermediate states; it focuses on reaching God in the most direct and immediate way. The mystic wants to reach his destination as quickly as possible; the esotericist wants to learn something about the landscape along the way.” (p.3)

I am not very far into this book, but have found it intriguing. Although there have been several points the author has made so far with which I do not agree, the book is still very interesting. This interest arises in part from my fondness for the idea of finding spiritual significance in the act of seeking God and finding God. There are some very interesting views of gnosis in this book, particularly the proposition that gnosis (and the practice of seeking after it) never left the Church with the Gnostics; gnosis, the author seems to claim, is actually central to the Gospel. Although I think I have agreed with this idea implicitly, I’ve never stopped to really think about it. What does an orthodox “gnosticism” look like? What does it mean to seek the knowledge of God?

This will definitely be a book I will review on this site if and when I finish it. Unfortunately, this book was published by Shambhala Publications, which I have a certain dislike for, simply because of all the weirdo books they publish. That alone puts me on guard when I read this book. Interesting nonetheless!

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Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings edited by Marcus Borg

I’m not a huge fan of Borg; he’s a little out there. But I am a fan of arrangements of parallel sayings of any sort! Fortunately, Borg doesn’t say much. Instead, he arranges the striking parallels between Jesus and the Buddha. This book is actually really trippy. There’s a lot of overlap. Here’s an example from pages 114 and 115:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” -Matthew 5.8

“Anyone who withdraws into meditation on compassion can see Brahma with his own eyes, talk to him face to face and consult with him.” -Digha Nikaya 19.43

Although Jesus was totally unique in who he was, what he said, and what he did, there are many striking parallels to him in other noble religious traditions. It seems that anything that is good or wise has a connection to the one true God somehow. I was in Barnes & Noble the other day and saw another book, Jesus and Lao Tzu: The Parallel Sayings by the same publisher, and as I flipped through it I was shocked at some of the parallels. I will probably get it at some point.

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper

I got this at the Christmas Conference, but have just now begun reading it. It’s particularly appropriate for Lent, a time for meditation on the person of Jesus Christ.

This devotional book is very easy to read, and yet very intelligent and theologically advanced (in an easy to read way). People who do not know theology or are simply not concerned about it would probably miss the little things that indicate a very thoughtful and thorough conception of God. I really appreciate this because most devotionals just turn me off. They seem to require that the reader put the mind on auto-pilot.

One thing I do not relate to, however, is Piper’s seeming insistence on God’s absolute and thorough omniscience and foreknowledge. I am more inclined to an open theism kind of view of divine foreknowledge. This is a minor point though. This book is great and I like the author. I have also bought and plan to read The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God. The title alone is intriguing!

Serendipities

Serendipities by Umberto Eco

This guy is so awesome. He wrote a couple of other really cool books: The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before. I’ve read The Island of the Day Before and it was awesome – totally insane! The Name of the Rose is his most famous book, so I imagine it’s really cool too. That one’s on my to read list.

Umberto Eco is an Italian linguist and this little book is about weird phenomena in the history of language. It’s just a fun book for people who like to study and think about language.

The book cover (soft) and pages are very thick, giving the book a high-quality feeling. Very nice.

Wittgenstein's Poker

Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers by David Edmonds and John Eidinow

Although I had already been interested in Ludwig Wittgenstein, this book kind of started me down a path of investigation into this intriguing philosopher. I still haven’t finished the book, though, after a few months at least. This isn’t because it was not well-written or not interesting. It is both of those. I just got sidetracked to other books.

If you are a thinking person you have no excuse but to check out what Wittgenstein has to say. A very interesting man and called the greatest philosopher of the twentieth century by many. Something of a Christian, too.

Well, there are most of the books I’ve had my nose in. There are probably others, but my memory is not too good and, yeah… If you’ve read any of these books or just want to say something, please make a comment!

Sayonara!

Sunset

Of all the parts of nature, I’ve always liked the sky the most. You can go anywhere on the surface of the earth and still be able to behold its beauty. Today, the sunset was amazing.

I don’t see how someone could witness an event as amazing as a sunset and still choose to believe there is no God. I also think that “natural revelation” can be powerful and significant for us humans.

I took somewhere around fifty pictures! (Thank God for digital cameras…) I’ve posted a couple of the coolest ones below.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;

and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

Day to day pours forth speech,

and night to night declares his knowledge.

There is no speech, nor are there words;

their voice is not heard;

yet their voice goes out through all the earth,

and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,

which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,

and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

Its rising is from the end of the heavens,

and its circuit to the end of them;

and nothing is hidden from its heat.

-Psalm 19.1-6

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Birds

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