Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saikaku and Impure Words

I was reading Five Women Who Pursued Their Love (好色五人女 Kōshoku Gonin Onna, published in 1685) by Ihara Saikaku (1642 – 1693)

The story is from the feudal period. Men and women had no freedom and woman had it worse. If she fell in love and followed her heart, the fate would surely end in tragedy. It's a novel about five women and three of them are known to be based on true events. Their names are Onatsu, Osen, Osan, Oshichi, and Oman. Prefix O is honorific but they weren't respected. Saikaku was extremely talented poet, novelist, and although he is not defined as a playwright, to me he is. His novels are so vivid in descriptions, playwrights had easy time converting into plays, kabuki, and jyoruri. He put all his talents into his art and created a new genre that is still enjoyed even today.

One of the disciplines Ihara Saikaku had was to limit his usage of the words starting with a dakuon (murky or impure sounds) which is such as b, d, g, j, z.  The first chapter of "Five Women Who Pursued Their Love" has five titles and those include only one word starts with voiced.  It's 状箱 jyobako(money box). Money is quite often considered dirty in our literature.  The first word of the fourth title is the only one. This is, I believe, intentional, following the tradition of the Japanese literature, which I think idiosyncratic. Such discrimination was, at first, to be highly sophisticated trend, following, I believe, Mandarin. Mandarin does not contain any dakuon. If we follow idiosyncrasy for hundreds of years, it simply remains forever.

1. koi wa yami yoru o hiru no kuni
                             murotu ni kakurenaki otoko ari
2. kukeobi yori arawaruru fumi
                              himechi ni miyako masari no onna ari
3. taiko ni yoru sisimahi
                haya waza wa kosodemaku no naka ni ari
4. Jyoubako ha yado ni oite kita otoko
                            kokoroate no setahi ookini chikahi ari
5. inochino uchino nanajyaku ryou no kane
                             yoni hayari uta kikeha aware ari

Just for a record I checked the rest of the chapters and found five titles each and found only one other word starting with a voiced consonant. It's the fourth title of the fourth chapter and the word is bakemono which means goblins.  It's coincidence that even in English the word starts with a voiced consonant, g.

This is a photo of one of local bridges near my place in Yokohama. We all call it hanamibashi はなみばし instead of hanamihashi はなみはし. That is called rendaku 連濁 sequential voicing. This new engraved style followed the old traditional writing.  Yes, in Saikaku's writing, I see his effort in less usage of  even rendaku.

We all carry on traditions without much thinking but we need to know the original intention and process. Yes, it's history.  Don't blindly accept anything like a narcissist.

In sutra, the meaning of 差別 (discrimination) is for the purpose of improvement, not for negative purpose, according to a Buddhist.  I think the meaning of some words in sutra are quite different from our daily usage.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

At Last Dr. Obokata Spoke

At last, Dr. Obokata spoke before the media for two and a half hours.  She said she has succeeded with the STAP cell experiment more than 200 times and had no malicious intent in producing data. She has confirmed that one other person succeeded in reproducing STAP cell but she didn’t name the person.  

Why that person does not come forward and tell Riken and the world about the successful result?  Why Dr. Sasai is the only person who’s been defending Dr. Obokata?  What’s happening to the rest of her colleagues and co-authors of the STAP papers? That’s a mystery. I hope to find out later.

This afternoon, I talked with a female medical doctor about this issue.  She told me that Science communities in Japan are men’s world, and Riken is notorious in producing high suicide rates.  Wow.  I didn’t know that.  But generally it’s tough for women to head a team of men.  I say this out of my experience.

This evening, Asahi Shimbun reported that Riken agreed to set up a committee to guide their researchers so that future misconducts would be avoided.  The government has been on Riken’s back on this issue.  Good for them.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dr. Obokata and STAP Cell

Because I find no English articles on STAP Cell news from April 2nd, I'll use a few excerpts from the Japan Times' article on 3/15/2014.

"During Friday’s news conference, which lasted around four hours, Riken President Ryoji Noyori, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in chemistry, strongly criticized Obokata. “An unskilled scientist dealt with a huge amount of data in an extremely sloppy way without a sense of responsibility,” Noyori said in reference to her."

I've heard of his negative opinion on the media multiple times, but nothing from Dr. Obokata.  She's been forbidden by the Riken to speak up before the media.  She should speak up.  There is something wrong with this society, stopping individual rights just to speak up.

"Obokata has admitted she processed images to make the research papers appear more attractive, according to Riken senior researcher Shunsuke Ishii, who is leading the internal investigation."

I don't know if the Japan Times reporter interpreted Ishii's words or Ishii actually used the comparable word, but I believe above "attractive" is not appropriate in this case.  According to Asahi Shimbun of April 2nd, Dr. Obokata said she wanted to make the photo clearer for viewers. I thought if the photo was dark, lightness helps, and many times, more contrast helps to see the detail. What's wrong with Ishii and Noyori and other faceless unfair minded people to judge that to be falsifying attempts without letting Dr. Obokata respond before the media?

"Obokata has told the Riken inquiry team that she had no idea the act was inappropriate, Ishii said. “I wonder if she has had no chance to learn research ethics,” he said."

To be fair, I suggest this kind of scrutinizing acts on all the science papers, starting with Dr. Noyori's.  Have the twitter user 11jigen gather the like-minded users on the Internet and go ahead and scrutinize Dr. Noyori's past papers including his incomplete, unpublished papers, just like what it was done to Dr. Obokata.  According to the Riken's standards, I think it isn't too late to discredit even Nobel Prize winners if someone wants to judge any intention malicious. 

As far as I’ve read, Ishii had met with her twice.  Being an only 30 years old and scientist, not a lawyer, she was ill prepared.  Apparently Riken was already planning to discredit her before a fair process and also already planned their new project to prove the experiment starting April 1st.  That was four days ago.  Talking of ethics and integrity, they have none.

Both Riken and Obokata san believe STAP cell exists, and any work to prove is very difficult.  But so far, Obokata san and her team have been responsible for this great, unprecedented discovery.  Don't you think Riken owes her open communication free from pressure from the beginning?  

For Noyori to have said that Obokata has no sense of responsibility is extremely judgmental and rude.  The world audience hasn’t heard of her side of the story. It's completely one sided.

Let me know your opinion on this.  I can't wait to see she speaks for her defense.  There must be a good explanation on two experiment notebooks with no dates and other details.