This Day in History Entry #112

April 5th, 2011 by Wordsman

Alex H. said to give it a go
But George Washington had to say no
“The Apportionment Act?
Constituti’nally cracked!
It’s about time I used this veto!”

Event: George Washington vetoes the Apportionment Act, the first use of a presidential veto in the United States
Year: 1792
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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #48

April 4th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 明石覚一 B. 鴨長明 C. 紀貫之 D. 二条 E. 松尾芭蕉

F. 吉田兼好

I suppose I should have predicted that the only contestants who would chime in this time around would be the ones who understood the challenge in the first place.  Oh well.  That’ll teach me to give people second chances.

Dragon and A Fan were completely distracted by that overrated, permanently canonized, inescapable Tale of Genji and its author, who is in fact called Murasaki Shikibu (the “Shikibu” portion of her “name” is in fact a title associated with a rank held by her father).  A Fan was banking on the hope that she was a prolific author with many pseudonyms, and maybe she was, but as far as I know only two major works by her have survived to the present day: the aforementioned Tale (which many scholars agree she didn’t even write all of, but that’s another story) and her diary (which does indicate that she was nicknamed Murasaki in real life, too, though this may again have been due to the Tale).

Dragon had more realistic aims, but she was still thwarted by the fact that none of these people is Murasaki Shikibu.  And just in case there are any Marlovians or other crazy people out there who want to argue that maybe they could be, I will point out that none of the people on this list were alive even within two decades of Murasaki’s time.  The closest was C, the court poet Ki no Tsurayuki, compiler of and writer of the famous preface to the Kokinshu, in which he states that poetry can move the heavens and the earth, touch the hearts of gods and demons, soothe relations between men and women, and calm the minds of fierce warriors.  But apparently, according to Dragon, he was just twisted.

And now we get into the guesses that actually had a chance of being right.  Theoman’s knowledge of Japanese tripped him up once again; spotting the symbol for “woman” as part of the last character in F, he assumed that this person was a woman.  In fact, that kanji just means to like, favor, be positive, etc.

He then tried to make use of my unhelpful hints, but, surprisingly, they turned out to be unhelpful.  B, the name containing the bird and the river (they’re the same!  It’s the first character), is not the poetry compiler, as we already know; this is Kamo no Chomei, who left the city of Kyoto to go live in a hut for one of two reasons: if you believe his work, the Hojoki, it’s because the impermanence of life makes trying to maintain a home in the capital foolish.  Or, if you’re more cynical, you can look at the fact that he left shortly after being denied the position of head priest at the Kamo Shrine (Kamo, meaning “wild duck,” is the first character of his name, and is also the name of the river along which the shrine is located).

Finally, he tried his hand at D, but it turned out to be Lady Nijo, the concubine he had been searching for all along (Hmm . . . that sounds a little sketchy).  As Dragon has already pointed out, women of the court were often referred to by things that we would not ordinarily consider “names,” per se.  One common practice was to refer to them by the location of their residence, hence Nijo, or “2nd Street.”

Shirley, who accused me of being a sadist, fell into the same trap with D, leading me to wonder whether I’m the sadist for creating these challenges or you are all masochists for accepting them.  But after that her luck improved.  She gets half credit for sort of identifying B as the monk in the hut.  Her other option, E, was Matsuo Basho, who was named after a plant he had outside his hut, so I guess that’s worth something.  He was the travelogue and haiku writer; the “Matsu” of his family name means pine tree, and the “Basho,” his pen name, he adopted after one of his disciples gave him a banana plant to put outside his residence.  And her identification of F was spot on: this is indeed Yoshida Kenko, author of Tsurezuregusa, and provider of such helpful health tips as: “Don’t sniff fresh deer antlers.  There are bugs inside them that will crawl up through your nose and eat your brain.”  Her Hail Marys all fell short of the end zone, but she made up for it in overtime.

And no one was interested in A, Akashi Kakuichi (“kaku” meaning “write”), who produced the Tale of the Heike that most of us know and love today.

But that’s enough of torturing you with literature.  It’s time to worry about more important things.  That’s right: it’s baseball season again.  Let’s set the scene of a typical inning.  Actually, it’s not at all typical: bottom of the ninth, all tied up at zero, and the opposing pitcher is throwing a PERFECT GAME.  The leadoff guy swings away, one, two, three: an unceremonious STRIKEOUT.  Now, you haven’t been having a lot of luck with the bat lately, but the pressure’s clearly getting to the pitcher, and he’s losing his control, so you manage to finagle a WALK.  He tries to keep a close eye on you at first, but he can’t keep up with your speed.  You STEAL second.  This totally rattles the pitcher, and the guy at bat pays the price: he’s HIT BY A PITCH.  At this point the umpire comes out, reminds everyone to settle down, not cause any trouble.  The pitcher slides back into his groove and gets the next guy to hit a slow roller to the second baseman.  A tailor-made DOUBLE PLAY ball.  But the shortstop botches the relay, and his ERROR prevents them from getting the last out.  You’re safe at third.  You’ve worked hard to get there.  Only ninety more feet.  Then, of course, the next guy makes the whole thing meaningless by jacking a HOME RUN.

Can you identify the key events of this inning?

A. 完全試合 B. 三振 C. 四球 D. 死球 E. 失策 F. 盗塁

G. 併殺 H. 本塁打

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Coming This Summer From WanderWord Studios . . .

April 1st, 2011 by Wordsman

All he wanted was a simple life.

“I could sit here forever, just watching the foam on the river.”

“Don’t you think the rooftops look like a string of jewels spread across the city?”

But they had other plans . . .

“Honey, wake up.  Do you hear that?”

“Sounds like . . . wind?”

They took everything from him.

“So many homes . . . so many people . . . all gone.”

“God only knows how many horses and cattle we lost.”

“They say it wiped out a third of the city!”

“How can a man be expected to stay sane in the midst of all this?”

Driven into exile . . .

“They threw me in a hut, ten-foot square . . .”

. . . one thought, one hope, one truth kept him going:

The knowledge that nothing lasts forever.

“I don’t know where people come from when they’re born,

And I don’t know where they go when they die.

But I do know this: you’re just like the morning dew:

You’re not gonna make it ‘til nightfall.”

This summer, Jason Statham is Kamo no Chōmei in . . .


Because the only constant in this world . . . is Revenge!

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