Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Museum Pizza

Last weekend I had a great opportunity to do research for Sister Soul. The LACMA had an exhibit on samurai armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection.

I'm not a good photographer, but here:

Many of these outfits weren't suited for war, but in the Edo Period (when part of my book takes place), the samurai weren't exactly fighting all the time. Most of them were busy making elaborate armor. And, apparently, Edo period armor was so beautiful that when armor from earlier periods is restored, the restorers often draw from Edo aesthetics, making useful armor less more brightly colored.

Prof. Luke Roberts from UC Santa Barbara gave a lecture about samurai lifestyles during the Edo Period, and that was very helpful as well. He is currently translating two sets of diaries from two samurai, and that will make for excellent reading when the projects are done, I'm sure.

Roberts is also translating some journals from samurai women, which will be particularly helpful for my book. So, please hurry, Dr. Roberts! He mentions that the calligraphy style and subject matter that the women use is so different from the men that he is having to learn it as if if were a whole new language.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Blue Apples and Spring Beans

I'm going on week 22 of my Japanese lessons, and we've been learning about colors. In Japanese, common color terms fall into two grammar categories.

One group, which includes red (aka) and blue (ao), acts like adjectives.

The red kimono.

The blue tea kettle.

The other group, which includes green (midori), pink (pinku), and orange (oranji), acts like nouns.

The kimono has orangeness, for example, though this is a bad translation.

As I was annoying my teacher with various philosophical questions about how the Japanese people might be categorizing these different color groups in their minds, someone volunteered that, in Chinese, green and blue were once both considered "blue."

In other words, people once saw the variation between green and blue to be smaller and not necessarily worth differentiating. Like the spectrum of musical sounds being broken into notes, we have used labels to categorize colors, and it's interesting how these categories have changed, and perhaps gotten more specific. The way the history of our perception is captured in language is fascinating too.

What's Peanut eating? Cucumbers.