Saturday, May 01, 2010

There's something about U.K.

There's something about U.K. that resonates deep with me. Maybe it is the unpretending attitudes of people. Perhaps the spirit of understatement. In any case, although I come from a totally different culture originally, I find many things that are assumed and carried out here dear to me.

The newspapers, for example. This morning I was reading the Guardian over breakfast, having heard on the BBC news that they are now endorsing the Liberal Democrats.

Irrespective of the particular political point of view that one may adapt, the way the facts are presented, arguments are developed, and the tacit assumption of intellectual honesty and (for the want of a better word) "brutality" is something that I share deep in my heart. I suspect that it is something that are often "hidden" and "suppressed" in other cultures.

This morning, I would have liked to give a detailed account of my encounter with Mr. Ben Pridmore, the current World Memory Champion. Unfortunately, I could not finish the narrative. Please watch this space for some insights into how Mr. Pridmore has come to realize his enormous memory power.

Today I move to Cambridge.

Friday, April 30, 2010

After four essays and a prawn, I arrived in U.K.

On the plane to London Heathrow, I had to write several essay manuscripts. Theoretically, it was possible to do them after arrival, and make the deadline. However, I was in a mood to get done with them while airborne, wanting to be immersed in the U.K. atmosphere once I reach my "second home".

Thus, after food and wine I started to type, and took a nap. When I awoke, I continued my ordeal. Perhaps little people came to help me for being diligent. I could finish the four essays (three in Japanese and one in English), and still had time to watch the film "District 9" from the beginning to the end. The film is shot and edited in a refreshing documentary touch, rather reminiscent of the great British T.V. comedy "The Office" by Ricky Gervais. The protagonist starts as a very shaky and unconvincing man (delightfully played by Sharlto Copley), and through a process of transformations (one literally happening in his right hand) gradually become a convincing hero. The politically correct message is clear. I suspect (taking into joint consideration of the ethos behind the blockbuster film Avatar,) that simpleton films of "shoot the enemies up" mentalities are now out of fashion. Which is a good thing.

The film made me think of the word "prawn cocktail" in an entirely new light, by the way.

From Heathrow airport, I went to Nottingham. I passed through yellow fields. The close encounters with the color yellow persisted when a rubber duck family greeted me in the hotel bathroom. For supper, we went to the Indian restaurant Cumin. There, I had a delightful conversation with Ed and Paul. Paul told me interesting stories about his experience in reporting world affairs which made history, like the Berlin wall fall.

Yellow fields seen from the speeding van.

The rubber duck family in my bathroom.

Ed Wright and Paul Keyworth.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Not so fast, Mr. volcano!

The reader of this blog might recall that recently I was stranded in Munich for 4 days due to the volcanic ash cloud crisis.

Here I go to Europe, this morning, again. I will be flying to U.K. I hope the volcano would not make any sudden moves this time.
Not so fast, Mr. volcano!

The U.K. has become something like a second spiritual home for me. I was in Cambridge for two years, and have repeatedly visited the country before and since. Horace Barlow, my Cambridge mentor, is there. It is a country which produces lots of excellent comedy stuff that I love. The general election campaign is going, energized by such unexpected events such as the surge of popularity for Nick Clegg and the unfortunate (in many ways) gaffe of Mr. Gordon Brown. I have been following the moves with great interest. I admire the wisdoms of the English people, including the unwritten constitution.

So I set off to England with a lightness of heart. I shall return to Tokyo, volcano permitting, next Thursday.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

You understand these things from a distance.

When you are a child, there are many things that leave an impression on you. As you get older, you grow out of these things. But then one day, they would come back to you, with all the vividness and freshness of the one time experience.

When I was 4 or 5 years old, my father would often take me to the zoo or those places which hold dear values to an immature soul. We would take the train, and go through the stations. I remember how my father would suddenly disappear, while we are walking in the corridor. Naturally I would become desperate, and search for my protector. But I could not find my father. I go on the verge of crying, with water swelling in my eyes.

Precisely at that watershed moment, my father would appear from behind a column, smiling, teasing me, saying "did you think that I had gone somewhere?" and would hold my hands tightly. The warmth of the skin touch would invariably soothe me. I would stop short of crying out loud, having finished the ride on the emotional jet coaster.

I have been oblivious of these incidents for a long time. The enigma of the human mind is that you suddenly remember them out of the blue.

Looking back, I reflect on the state of mind of my father. Then, something extraordinary happens. Instead of reliving of my own trials, I sense as if in a delayed flash of realization the anxiety of my father. I think my father might have been projecting his own existential Angst upon me.

While teasing me by hiding behind the station columns, my father's heart must have been trembling. You understand these things from a distance.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Relative positions.

As I walk home at night, these days, I notice that the moon is getting fatter every day. What a dramatic change! To think that shifts in the relative positions of the moon, the sun, and the earth brings about this salient transition gives me a deep shudder. What marvelous manifestations of existence!

We tend to think that life occupies a privileged position in the universe. To some extent that feeling is justified. Ultimately, however, that is perhaps an deep-rooted ignorance, if one reflects on great alternations of things, like the moon shape change.
Life is about movement, and movement is about the passage of time. Entities in the space-time structure is never at rest. Life as we call it is only a subset of that great multitude.

The cherry blossoms bloom and then wither. A person is born and dies. The wind blows and is then dispersed. Change is the only certain fact in this world.

"We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end."
Blaise Pascal

Monday, April 26, 2010

Great book of the world

Even if a book sells a million copies, it would at best reach a very small proportion of the population. The same is true for a mega-hit film like "The Avatar". Thus, the worlds that are presented by these creative works by necessity remain a minority experience.

When we cast our eyes on the elements of every day, we find incredibly rich multitudes of experience that are the true "bestsellers" of life. Consider the sensation of flavor and taste as you sip your coffee in the morning. The joy of being immersed in the morning sunshine as you venture off into the wider world from your domicile. The swelling feeling of joy as you finally put your self at rest on bed after a strenuous day. These elements of experience are known to everybody, and shared by a true majority of people.

When one is young, one is often quite taken by a work of human creativity that one encounters. Because one is carried away, one sometimes even equates the weight of the adored piece with the whole world itself. One talks about the genius of the creator in a heated manner, enthusiastic on becoming an evangelist of the value of the work. One is then often disappointed by the more or less subdued reaction of the listener. One has forgotten that no matter how important a piece of creativity might appear to be, the experiencing itself remains in the minority.

Despite the disappointments, the young person soldiers on. One gradually rediscovers the common grounds for every breathing soul on earth. The simple joy of sharing those rudimentary elements of living must then serve as the foundation for communication. One leaves one's Dostoevsky and Murakami and starts to read the great book of the world once again, as one used to do as an innocent infant.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Memento contingency.

It seems like another job will take me Europe again within a few days. This time I will be flying to U.K. I have some trepidations naturally about it as the U.K. was the worst hit country by the recent ash cloud incident.

For some time I thought that the plan would be abandoned. However, with the air situation improving, it seems that the schedule will go ahead.

I am looking forward to seeing things that I love in England again, as well as to encountering new things. On the other hand I am in a hung state of mind as regards the ash cloud contingencies. I don't want to be kept in exile AGAIN.

I will try to gather information about the likelihood of yet another series of explosions of the volcano. At the end of the day, of course, things remain ultimately uncertain. No place on earth is completely safe from unexpected catastrophes (remember where the UFO hit in the film District 9?).

Contingencies strike at the most unexpected places. Memento contingency.