Quiet Mumblings

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Shaolin Reservoir

To even things out a bit between my two favourite countries, I thought I'd better post a recent Google Earth discovery of mine... This dam has the words 少林水庫 (Shaolin Reservoir) written on it, and is just a little way from the famous Shaolin Temple of Gongfu fame. The nearest town to the reservoir (and the temple) is just south of the dam, and is called Deng Feng. The Shaolin Temple though is more generally associated with the city of Luoyang (洛阳) - a wonderful city which was the capital during the Xia dynasty. Unfortunately both the temple itself and Luoyang are still not covered in high resolution on Google Earth.

The Shaolin Reservoir

You can also view it on Google Maps here.


I'm clearly in with the Japanese theme this week, although I promise that this blog is not always so specific in its subject matter... The quote above is from a song called "I love you" by a Japanese singer called Yutaka Ozaki. I first heard it when I was studying in Japan, in the form of a live version sung by the incredibly popular singer Utada Hikaru. It stuck with me mainly because it was the first time I ever actually understood the lyrics of a song - "only now do I not want to listen to a sad song". Initially, like many Westerners I attributed the song purely to Utada - she's sang the song plenty of times and kind of taken ownership of it, although I'm sure not intentionally.

You see, Yutaka Ozaki is a Japanese version of the River Phoenix legend. A handsome and rebellious pop/rock star, who lived fast and died young - in Ozaki's case at the young age of 26 of a pulmonary edema "after being found drunk and naked in a Tokyo alleyway" (Nippop). Of course, like all who die tragically and far too young, he has been elevated to the status of legend, and Utada Hikaru's version of one of his most popular songs is a tribute.

Japan, like any country, has its fair share of tragic celebrity deaths. However if Yutaka Ozaki is Japan's River Phoenix then Sakamoto Kyu is its John Lennon. Most famous for his song Sukiyaki (or in Japanese "Ue o muite arukou"), Sakamoto died in Japan's only major air accident, and the worst single air crash in history. To make the story even more tragically romantic, the flight took a while to crash, and he had time to write a farewell note to his wife. Apart from the massive and terrible loss of life and the death of a Japanese superstar the accident is also famous for one other remarkable footnote:

. There were four female survivors who were seated together towards the rear of the plane: Yumi Ochiai, an off-duty JAL flight attendant, age 25, who was jammed between a number of seats; Hiroko Yoshizaki, a 34-year-old woman and her 8-year-old daughter Mikiko, who were trapped in an intact section of the fuselage; and a 12-year-old girl, Keiko Kawakami, who was found sitting on a branch up in a tree.

Keiko Kawakami will be 33 now...


Yukio MishimaHaru no Yuki (春の雪 or Spring Snow) is a book by Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫) which documents a tragic romance. It is the first in his tetralogy Hojo No Umi (豊穣の海 or The Sea of Fertility). It is a book that I read quite a few years back, and something suddenly reminded me of it, although I can't think what. I would recommend for anyone to read the English translation, because you don't really understand the meaning of the word "epic" until you've read one of his works!

... at least, that's what I remember. The book was also turned into a film, which I have avoided seeing so far - the DVD cover makes it look far too romantic, which the book wasn't.

On a side note - the author had a weird life and fairly interesting (although often distasteful) political views, which you can read about here:

Mishima was deeply attracted to the patriotism of imperial Japan, and samurai spirit of Japan's past. However, at the same time he dressed in Western clothes and lived in a Western-style house. In 1968 he founded the Shield Society, a private army of some 100 youths dedicated to a revival of Bushido, the samurai knightly code of honour. In 1970 he seized control in military headquarters in Tokyo, trying to rouse the nation to pre-war nationalist heroic ideals. After failure Mishima committed seppuku (ritual disembowelment) with his sword on November 25, 1970. Before he died he shouted, ''Long live the Emperor.'' On the day of his death Mishima delivered to his publishers the final pages of The Sea of Fertility, the authors account of the Japanese experience in the 20th century. The first part of the four-volume novel, Spring Snow (1968), is set in the closed circles of Tokyo's Imperial Court in 1912. It was followed by Runaway Horses (1969), The Temple of Dawn (1970) and Five Signs of a God's Decay (1971). Each of the novels depict a different reincarnation of the same being: first as a young aristocrat, then as a political fanatic in the 1930s, as a Thai princess before and after World War II, and as an evil young orphan in the 1960s.

But you don't have to like someone to admire them... Margaret Thatcher, Mao Ze Dong and Adolf Hitler being cases in point. Admittedly, I'm being potentially unfair on some of them by grouping them all together, but you get the point, and I'll move onto safer ground now...

Sunna No OnnaAnother Japanese book worth reading was also turned into a film well worth seeing. It is called Sunna no Onna (砂の女 or The Woman in the Dunes) and is by Kobo Abe (安部公房). It documents the imprisonment of an insect collector in a village dominated by sand, and is a very powerful, allegorical and sexually charged work. You can find out about the film on IMDB. I would recommend reading the book first though, as my impression of the main character was quite different to the one portrayed in the film.

I'm really going to go to bed now.

As sleepy as me...

Tired? Tell *them* why.

Stumbled across tired.com today - a rather random place where you can e-mail in and tell the owner why you're tired. According to Slate this extremely minimalist web property started out as a holding page, but turned into a mini phenomenon. Time to go to bed, methinks.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

On blogging part 2...

When I started this blog I decided that blogging was a very much egocentric affair, and could think of no other reason for writing a blog other than to try and get attention from others. Now my view has changed - it has become as much for me to remember stuff than anything else. Now when I find myself thinking "what was that website?" or "what was that photo I saw" I go to this blog and pick it up again. Its almost like you, dear reader (if you exist) have become secondary. Sorry!

Regaining memories...

Shousanji TempleHave you ever completely lost a memory that you would really love to regain? Today I spent hours trying to regain one in particular. In around 2001, I went hitchhiking with an American friend called Dave Murray from Nagoya in Japan to the island of Shikoku. We had a fantastic time - we both spoke Japanese and talked to an eclectic mix of people along the way. The aim was to escape from the city as much as we could - we had spent almost a year in Nagoya, studying at Nanzan University.

After a night in Kobe, where we stayed overnight in a dance club, we arrived in Shikoku in the city of Tokushima (徳島). We then caught a bus out into the middle of nowhere, to a little village with a Ryokan. This little village was tiny, in the middle of a forest surrounded by mountains, and perfectly idyllic. We found out that there was a temple nearby - a temple which was on the ancient traditional 88 temple pilgramage of Shikoku.

We stayed one night in the Ryokan before we adventured to the temple - it was a very very long climb and neither of us were the fittest people in the world, but we met lots of interesting people on the way. I distinctly remember residents running out to give us food for our quest. When we got to the top the temple was very beautiful, and we made friends with a young boy and his mother, who told us a bit about her life story living near the temple.

Later (I'm not sure how many days we stayed) we returned to Tokushima and spent some time in a youth hostel there. We went to a top of a high hill, where there was a park, and some young kids recited English books and Japanese poetry to us. Finally we hitchhiked half the way back to Nagoya, at one point walking across a huge bridge with a whirlpool underneath, and then got the train back home.

Its funny, its been such a long time since I've thought about it or talked about it that the details have completely escaped me - its taken a lot of effort today to just get these details. I'm guessing the temple is one called Shousanji (焼山寺), and I still don't know what the village or ryokan were called.

On my way though I discovered a wonderful site called the temple guy. This site is owned by a man who travels Asia visiting temples. In his Shikoku section he visits every temple on the pilgramage. Worth a visit!

In the meantime, I'll keep chasing memories! I feel an excuse for a holiday coming on.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Colours in vim on PuTTY (and mice too!)

OK - this is both geeky and non-geeky at the same time. Its geeky because I actually spent time trying (and succeeding) to find out how to do it, and its non-geeky because I know so little about vim its embarrassing.

Anyway - the life threatening dilemma that I was facing this week was how on earth to get syntax highlighting to work in vim over PuTTY. I've been using vim over PuTTY without syntax highlighting for so long that I just assumed it wasn't possible, but I was enjoying it so much in gVim on my desktop that I figured it must be worth a look around. A quick seach found that it was... But a longer search and I still had no idea what I was doing wrong. It was beginning to frustrate me.

Unfortunately the reason why I couldn't find my answer was because it was so obvious. So for those as dumb as me, repeat this vim command:

:syntax on

Yes. Its that simple. Your screen should now have lit up with a load of beautiful syntax highlighted code (providing you're looking at code, of course). If it doesn't then there's all sorts of complex stuff you can do, but I stopped there thankfully. The next command is to set your preferred colour scheme:

:color torte

And of course replace torte with murphy or whatever your favourite choice is. This is where I went "eh?" a bit - because of the pallette limitations of PuTTY and SSH it appears that the colour schemes look quite different over PuTTY to the normal gVim schemes. This is not a problem for me - I just played until I found a new one I like, but again a bit more digging and you can find complex ways to approximate the original versions if you *really* like them that much!

Finally, and this was an added bonus, you can use your mouse in vim in PuTTY! Yes! Wow! (Or Doh! if you knew that already). To do this the command is:

:set mouse=nv

Why "nv" you may ask? Well, you can set it simply to "o" in which case it will work in all modes, but then when you right click in PuTTY instead of doing PuTTY's usual paste action it will just do a vim right click. For me copying and pasting between the PuTTY window and other windows is vital - so the "nv" command turns on the vim mouse only in command and visual mode, but not in edit mode. Smart, eh?! I worked that bit out for myself at least! :-)

Geekiness of the day ends here...