Friday 15 May 2015

The Acquittal Rate in Japan, China & Canada (Is Anyone Ever "Not Guilty"?)

Very nearly nobody gets a "not guilty" verdict in China or Japan, and while some might appeal to "Cultural Determinism" to explain this institutional behavior, Taiwan reportedly has an acquittal rate of about 12%, by contrast --and Taiwan is a country with strong cultural links to both China and Japan.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

読, Kanji of the Week

Japanese differs from its traditional Chinese counterpart (讀) in having 壳 on the right-hand side.  Graphically speaking, the Chinese symbol for "reading" is "language" combined with "sell" (言+賣=讀, cf. 读), whereas Japanese has ended up with the same meaning ("reading") instead being symbolically associated with the "husk" (壳/殻) of language.  I presume, however, that the 壳 was borrowed from 殻 at a time when the symbol still suggested a bell, drum, or some other musical instrument: 殻 shows a hand with a tool striking something presumed to make a sound, although the modern meaning is "husk" (or outer shell, etc.).

Tuesday 12 May 2015

The Gini Coefficient in Asia (Social Inequality in China, Laos, etc.)

Any article relating statistics that originate from the government of the People's Republic of China has to include some kind of caveat stating how dubious these statistics are.  A Bloomberg article reporting the Gini coefficient for China closes with a quotation from an economist calling the most recent figure "even wilder than a fantasy". (Click)

Sunday 10 May 2015

Military Spending Since the Fall of the Berlin Wall

There were significant "peace dividends" in the U.S. military budget after 1989, and (perhaps contrary to popular belief) Obama did significantly decrease the budget after roughly 2010, despite the mounting body-counts in various war-zones, and continued U.S. engagement… just about everywhere.

Saturday 9 May 2015

The first steps toward native language curricula (finally, in 2015)

This is news in 2015: Montana is providing support for indigenous language education, for the first time.  It's a change that comes very late, and the only question is of whether or not it will be too little, too late.
"The only other state that provides funding for native language immersion in public schools is Hawaii, which has one native language. In Montana, there are nine." (Source)
The turning point in American policy on these issues was, incongruously, Richard Nixon, who is rarely praised or remembered for it (except at his own memorial foundation); however, one might surmise that it wasn't a coincidence that Nixon had witnessed the nadir of "terminationism" as vice-president to Eisenhower (HCR-108 was passed in Eisenhower's first year in office).

Tuesday 5 May 2015

The Overly-Familiar Brink of Thai Succession Politics

Princess Sirindorn appears on the (ubiquitous) 100-Baht bill in 2015.  Although this isn't her first appearance in Thai numismatics, I think it is fair to say that it is unusually prominent.  The officially-stated reason for this is, of course, to celebrate her 60th birthday.  It could be interpreted by some as an indication that we may see more of her image on bills and coins in the future; it could be seen as a signal that she might be expected to inherit the throne in future.

Monday 4 May 2015

"Real" Buddhism: Book vs. Folk

I received a request to make expansions to an already-long article.  I tried to make these as brief as possible, and in now glancing at them in isolation (i.e., without the rest of the article surrounding them), they seem as if they might make sense juxtaposed in a single blog.
How important is the example of Dharaṇi?  In North-Eastern Thailand, Hayashi Yukio observed the cult of Dharaṇi (here transliterated as Thornani) closely bound into the most intimate and ultimate of rituals, the treatment of the remains of the dead:

Sunday 3 May 2015

Thomas More's Utopia in Chinese & Japanese Translation

There are many strange discontinuities and asymmetries in the "East meets West" equation, and these become even stranger when you need to work through English-language documentation.

I have thought for some time that particular aspects of Mao Zedong thought derived from Thomas More's Utopia --possibly via Japanese theoreticians who were (uncontroversially) influenced by More, and possibly via the Chinese translation of Utopia itself.

I was able to track down the (known) Chinese translations simply through library catalogs, but the only secondary sources (in English) are in the somewhat obscure journal Moreana.  This is a journal that has not (yet) been digitally archived, nor indexed in a way that can be found through library-record searches.  I found these articles in the "old fashioned" way of the 1990s: by sending an e-mail to the editor of the journal, asking for advice.

Saturday 2 May 2015

Ras Kass on Growing Up with the Encyclopedia

About nine minutes and 45 seconds into the tape, he's asked what kind of encyclopedia he grew up with.

"Oh, so you was a Britannica [老黑],* I was a World Book [老黑]."

* [老黑 was the polite translation of "the n-word" used in the Chinese subtitles to The Wire on Cambodian television.  If I hadn't been living in Cambodia at that time, I would've never seen an episode of The Wire at all.]

Link to the interview: