mjj (flemmings) wrote,

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Mental soup, fever dreams

Friday night I wandered into the last half hour of The Whale Rider on TVOntario. Not sure why it left the sort of psychic hangover it did, but I was vaguely fantodded all weekend because of it. Whales. Cuddling whales. Aghhh... This was followed by Crouching Tiger, Houshin Engi the anime, a volume of Houshin Engi the manga in French, a Teletubbies tape, and the last five minutes of Temptress Moon wandered into *last* night on TVO. (Even from five minutes I can tell that this last is a classic slow-as-molasses must-avoid. Even though I normally like slow and arty, the colours and lighting look as though it was all shot during a Shanghai smog alert. Possibly it was.)

The result is complete mental soup, disconnected and unpleasant imagery bobbing about in my brain like the flotsam of a seawreck.

Not sure what to use as mental bleach on it though. FMA, maybe. A downer, but a straightforward shounen downer. Houshin Engi doesn't count, largely because of that French manga which uses the Chinese readings of the names for reasons that elude me. The anime by and large uses Japanese readings, so either the anime altered the names from the manga or the French translator did. Very weird, whatever, and giving me that vague sense of oppression and dread and horror vacui that written Chinese names do tend to give me.

No really, that does make sense. Perhaps it's how a Chinese reader feels coming across Japanese names. 'I know what this is in my own language but here it's all different. I don't know what it says!' The *relief* in whatever film it was at finding standard Japanese names in the credits. 'Oh, yeah! Tamamura Shouji! Okita Shigeru!' Feeds into the slight paranoia I have about reading this stuff at the best of times. 'You think you can read Japanese but you can't,' the demon whispers. 'Look- look at those kanji. You don't have a clue what they're saying.' I don't. Fifteen years of study vanished in an instant.

All this naturally gets reinforced by the occasional passage of Japanese that simply refuses to mean anything until I let go of rational thought, embrace nothingness, and watch the words suddenly come to life. If they do. I think I believe somewhere in my heart that meaning has an arbitrary existence and may occasionally vanish completely: or put more rationally, that dyslexia is always waiting to strike. The nightmare vision of a world where I understand the individual words but can't process the overarching message they express. (I was cold with horror when I first came across concepts like aphasia and dyslexia in freshman Psych. It seemed the final version of hell: one where words have no meaning.) Luckily I once had the same experience in English with Henry James: my Dutch friend came to me with a paragraph from The Ambassadors and asked What does this mean? I read it ten times and gave up. It didn't mean anything. So it's not just foreign languages, and I'm not entirely paranoid. Sometimes things really don't have meaning.

Maybe the long shadow of forgotten cultural assumptions come into it as well. Analogous to the people who believe Egyptologists can't /really/ read hieroglyphs because how could they, just from a parallel Greek text? Making it up, they are, and always have been. And round-eyes can't read hanzi because, you know, you have to be Chinese to read those funny squiggles and we aren't. We don't. We can't. Thinking otherwise is an hallucination and some day I'll come to my senses and realize I haven't a clue what they mean. 'Ha ha,' the demon says as I watch all the impenetrable three hanzi names scroll by, 'I was right!'
Tags: film, fma, japanese, language, manga_05, reading, rl_05

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