Saturday, January 31, 2009

Basho, Frog, Haiku; Plip!, the power of the web

Image of two poisonous dart tree frogs taken at the Bristol Zoo, Bristol, England. They were both photographed by Adrian Pingstone in September 2005 and released to the public domain. They were sourced through the Wikipedia Commons. The top frog is a Blue Poison Dart frog, Dendrobates azureus, while the bottom frog is a Yellow-banded Poison Dart frog, Dendrobates leucomelas.Dear Gentle Reader,

Indulge me.

I am dangerous sometimes, like these frogs.

Look at these pictures.

You just know by looking at these frogs that they are poisonous, dangerous little amphibians.

(OK, for scientific accuracy, none of the South American poison dart frogs [two are pictured here] actually have secretions poisonous enough to use effectively on darts for bringing down large game. Apparently. But they look far more menacing than a picture of curare flowers.)

Nonetheless, just by reading here, sometimes, you know that I am dangerous.

I played around a bit with extemporaneous haiku this week.

I will do so again.

See? Dangerous.

Quod erat demonstrandum. (Ish.)

On a seemingly different topic, I thought that if we can talk in this blog about Dante Alighieri (c.1265-1321), Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1343-1400), and William Shakespeare (1564-1616) we can certainly talk of the Japanese poet 松尾芭蕉 (Matsuo Bashô) (1644-1694).

Especially if we talk about haiku.

To provide some Japanese historical context, Bashô lived in the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1868) in Japanese history. (Edo is the old name for what we now call Tokyo.)

The Edo period was the final period of Japan's feudal age when the Tokugawa Shogunate installed itself, through success in battle, and ruled Japan as a unified whole, after a period of internecine battles between rival warlords (Daimyos).

(The Tokugawa clan comprised the last family of Shoguns [feudal, hereditary military dictators] prior to the Meiji Restoration which transformed Japan into a modern, industrial nation.)

In 1644, the year of Bashô's birth, the Chinese Ming dynasty had just ended, Cromwell was decisively winning the English Civil War and John Knox published the History of the Reformation of Religion within the realm of Scotland.

In 1694, the year of Bashô's death, Calcutta had been founded for four years already, the Bank of England was chartered, and the War of the League of Augsburg was just beyond its midway point.

So, during Matsuo Bashô's lifetime, Asia and the West were changing, but Japan was still very insular.

Japanese values ruled supreme in Japan, just like the Shogun, at this time.

In this milieu, Matsuo Bashô started off life as a rural samurai, but ended up so much more.

Who was he?

In Japan, Bashô is regarded as Japan's greatest poet.

He started off life as a junior son of a low-ranking samurai living in a rural prefecture (we think). He ended up, however, in Edo, where your humble scribe once lived, and Bashô became the master of the poetry style that became known as haiku.

Everyone knows that Japanese aesthetics favour minimalism packed with subtle meanings.

Haiku's encapsulation of experiences in a minimalist poetry package is why the Japanese love(d) haiku and exalted Bashô.

Three phrases, seventeen syllables in total, are all that is permissible to capture and convey a mood, a time, a feeling, or an experience in haiku.

(I say three phrases because classically they were written in one vertical line, but in English they are written on three lines to signify the three phrases, usually with five syllables on the first line, seven on the second, and five, again, on the third line.)

Very Zen indeed, or very Zen in deed.

Many consider Matsuo Bashô's greatest haiku to be this one.


In anglicized transliteration, it reads as follows...

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto


Pretty amazing, no?


Unfortunately, it is really hard to translate things like this, well.

Especially if you are trying to maintain the metre and brevity of the original form.

...I will not even try...

But, I will send you to a good, and quick source that does try.

Here is a page that provides thirty-one English translations of this poem.

And this is another (to your humble scribe) interesting commentary on the power of the web.

In translating this poem one of the challenges is translating the idea of 'the sound of water' and try to find an onomatopoeic word in English for the sound of something dropping into water.

Most translators on other web pages go with 'Plop'.

All of this highlights how some things can be found ludicrously easily via the web.

With a click I can find, and share, more versions of this poem than I have translated copies in my home in Hong Kong.

You get to, if you want, briefly look, and get a feel for the challenge of translating by visiting this site I am trying to send you to. (Go on. Click it. You want to know what the poem reads like, don't you?)

At what cost? Maybe one or two minutes of your time and the energy needed to click a link and move your eyes.

I know your humble scribe is behind the times (still using e-tablets and such for e-cuneiform), but I again recognized the power of the web while considering this post.

Anyone can publish, today. Even your humble scribe.

Sure, there are accuracy, precision, and interpretation issues in each individual case of auto-publishing on the web, but the law of large numbers means that the standard understanding will usually predominate while the freak factor means that obscure, dangerous, wonky, and whimsical ideas will get out there too.

Which is maybe why some people like things like 3WW (Three Word Wednesday).

It is dangerous, subversive, and wonky.

My submission to 3WW, a weekly haiku game challenging you to create a haiku including three set words, is inspired by South American tree frogs. (Hence, today's image at the top of the post.)

The idea of frogs, in turn, allowed me to bring into this post the haiku that some scholars consider the greatest Japanese haiku by the master of the art.

And that is the power of the web. Again, anyone can publish here. Even me and my stream of consciousness. See? I am dangerous. (This sort of thing just cannot be good for readership levels.)

The 3WW bento for this week consisted of Caress, Jagged, and Ruthless.

Here is my 3WW offering, entitled Plip!


Ruthless frog toxin
drips on jagged arrow heads.
Touch once, caress death.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Premio Dardos Award

Premio Dardos Award image. Image believed to be in the public domain. Origin unknown.
Dear Gentle Reader,

Last week I received an award from Barbara Martin.

The Premio Dardos award, Barbara told me, is for the appreciation of merits—cultural, literary and individual—of every blogger who expresses him/herself on his/her blog.

I was tickled pink and I replicated the very interesting selection that Barbara had made, on my blog.

I remained tickled pink. 

And I wanted to share that feeling.

After careful thought, I would like to nominate the following 14 blogs for this award, because it seems like a fun idea, and because they are all worth it:

1. OxyJen - OxyJen is currently on a Haiku binge rather than writing, which she alleges she will do soon. Or a koala will get her. (?) Of course, your humble scribe is still waiting for the European trip report that was promised a (long) while ago...

2. Comfort Spiral  - Cloudia takes us to explore her diverse Hawaii, through her prose and through her pictures, too. Cloudia starts every day with an eclectic and thought-provoking collection of  quotes. Any one of these three components makes the visit worthwhile.

3. Lifetime Learnings - Junosmom in Kentucky is a near-daily updater and quietly offers her perspectives on the world, along with prose snapshots of her world. Concise, clean, and wittier than any webcam.

4. Strikkepinner og andre pinner... (Knitting and some more) - Bea from Norway writes super small blogs on her world in Norwegian and English. She invents great designs for her knitting (your humble scribe is in love with her monster patterns) and is currently on a mission to satisfy foot fetishists around the web (meant tongue-in-cheek, Bea.)

5. The Tainted Archive - I discovered Archavist recently. He writes about writing genres that are not my genres, and he writes very well, and draws me in. He also conducts an excellent interview and has acted in Dr. Who. 'Nuff said; talented guy.

6. Pattinase - Pattinase writes well on an interesting collection of topics. Pattinase has mastered brevity, with content, in a way that I doubt I ever shall. She also attracts readers that leaver longer messages and appear to have short conversations with each other. That takes a special knack. Finally, she wrote the blog I sent you too last week when I found out I had received this award.

7. Volatile Rune - Another recent discovery, Frances is a poet, a copywriter and a hoarder of books. Need I say more? Well, she possesses a wry wit and both a deft ability and agility with English. I have just started perusing her archives; so far so very good.

8. Pics and Poems - David King is a retired teacher who has given a lot of thought to words in his life. I was convinced he was an Anglican or Roman Catholic priest, for some reason, mostly his erudite eloquence that normally comes from years of making presentations. His posts are not that lengthy, but they sometimes require time to read and to digest. Always a nice visit. 

9. Abrideira - Is from Spain and write micro-posts in Spanish. But what you visit for are the pictures of unusual industrial design, and design art, that she finds and purveys at no cost but your time. 

10. Mind the Gap please - Audrey is a young French woman who is studying and living in London, and falling in love with the city. She does not post often, but her quirky photos of what entrance her, and her descriptions of London life (in French) remind me strongly of discovering new cities and new loves and new cultures ... and of youth. A treat, for your humble scribe at least.

11. Nidosenlamiel - Pica Miel is from Argentina and this little Honey writes a plethora of blogs in Spanish. Your humble scribe's Spanish is really Latin crossed with French, and google translate is really not that useful when people play with language and write poetry. But I persevere as I am usually amply rewarded.

12. Patchwork Quilt - Lorie from Massachusetts updates when the mood strikes her. And she has a fine eye for composition and detail for her artwork and her perspectives which she shares when she does update. So, she is an occasional read, and well worth the wait.

13. Stix and String - Heidelweiss at Stix and String out of Utah does not believe in awards. Which is fine. And she proclaims that she does not post frequently, which is true, although there is no pretense about her posts when they come. But you really want her to visit you; if she returns, she leaves stellar comments on a regular basis. It is always a treat to see what she leaves behind after a visit.

14. EyeCandy - Candace is creative, funky, and fun. She does great things over on her blog and I like popping by to see what is what in her world. Her blog lives up to, and exceeds, her title. 

There you go. Lucky 14. One more than 13, which has been unlucky ever since the Bartholomew Day Massacre on Friday, 13 October, 1307. And one less than 15, so I am surely breaking any chain-letter pretensions of the award...

Nominees, there is absolutely no need to send out further nominations or do anything except bask in the glow of appreciation because I wanted to say thank you to some bloggers whose work I enjoy. 

I bet a third of you do not even know I exist, which is totally fine with me.

For legalistic propriety, the rules for acceptance, which I feel morally bound to replicate (but not follow), are:

1. be tickled pink;
2. copy and paste the award picture to your blog;
3. write down the regulations;
4. link to the blog who bestowed you the Award; and, finally,
5. nominate 15 blogs for the Award.

The perceptive and sensitive reader (
Barbara Martin!) who nominated me states that she generally does not pass awards on to others as there have been comments that the awards are like chain mail letters. (Flexible yet heavy and hard to write upon?) 

So instead of passing the award onto 15 nominees, Barbara chose 11.

Yes, the logic is a bit scanty, but it was my first award on the web... 

Who am I to quibble? 

Me, I have chosen 14 including e-people whom I have just encountered, e-people who do not know I exist, and e-people whom I know dislike awards.

I am contrarian. 

As mentioned, I initially chose zero new people and replicated Barbara's list because it was populated with such nice people (I feel a tremendous affection and affinity to two utterly new discoveries via Barbara; Raph's Ramblings and Bindu's Transient Lives). 

From my perspective, this is another way to say thanks.

Thank you all for (e-)enriching the web.



For those in the mood to play along, I was tagged by EyeCandy's Candace in the "six things meme game" and responded yesterday. You could consider yourselves tagged too, if you wanted to play. By you, that means you, Gentle Reader...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Strike of the meme

'Modern Sarcophagus' by the author, Sepiru Chris of, Mixed media (rubber, pigment, paint, dragonfly, concrete) in a shadowbox. The visible camera is simply an artifact of the photographing process.
Dear Gentle Reader,

Good morning, a bit late.

Sorry, your humble scribe is very ill today and just managed to claw his way out of bed. 

He is returning forthwith (to bed).

The exceptionally talented Candace of EyeCandy tagged me here...

She shared six unusual things about herself, linked back to the person who tagged her, and tagged six others...

I propose to share six things about myself and tag you all (my virus makes me cocky).

Six things about Sepiru Chris, not found in the archives:

(1) I possess a super power... 

...I am keenly observant. 

I note that university students are getting younger every year, and faster, too, when they get onto a rugby or (field) hockey pitch. 

Also, girls in discos seem to be getting younger and more impervious to the effects of dancing through the night than seems reasonable. Thank goodness I am already married.

Finally, years take less time to blow through than they used to. 

The reasons for these anomalies are shrouded in mystery, but their reality has been keenly observed by your humble scribe through his observational super power. 

Ta dah. Super power, off.

(2) No one really knows where my off button is, your Heroine or myself included. 

Point me to the cliff and I climb up or jump off to the river or ocean below. 

Put me on a trail and I hike. 

Put me in a kayak and I paddle. 

A friend and I (about 20 years ago) would flip coins onto aerial maps of the Canadian wilderness and try to get 60 to 80 km from point A to point B, regardless of intervening cliffs, mountains, lakes, swamps, rivers, waterfalls, and animal hazards. (By foot, obviously. True Canadian wilderness is truly inaccessible to vehicles.)

Only sometimes were we successful, and never in the designated distance limits; big detours were always required.

(3) Despite point two, your Heroine considers me to be a worrier who considers (and works to avoid) the risks of things in (too) extensive detail. 

Why is this unusual? I once packed a hypothermia tent for a day hike in Hong Kong, in the summer, just in case... 

I consider this worrying a byproduct of a professional legal training followed by running a legal practice because lawyers are fixated with risk. 

Court-room lawyers look for risks to exploit for their clients. Deal-making lawyers look for risk and give their clients a cost-benefit analysis of mitigating those risks. Your humble scribe, far more than a scrivener, has been both.

(4) I set up my first business venture when I was 12 (an animal collection, distribution, marketing, and sales regime). 

The same year I also set up an exceptionally lucrative literary rental scheme renting excerpts of books to my peers at recess--I discovered how well sex sells. (Scribe's note, I only sold the literary form.)

I learned about intellectual property much later in life as a litigator. 

(Retroactive apologies now tendered to Ken Follett, Eric van Lustbader, Robert Ludlum, et al. Again, I note that I was merely two thirds of 18.)

(5) I love food. 

All food. 

(Well, only good food--excellent ingredients and exceptional preparation techniques, be it rustic or fancy in style.) 

I am willing to eat everything, and have never met a food, fitting the prior constraints, that I did not like (although, admittedly, the spiders' soft, bulbous bodies, as opposed to their crispy legs, found here were a bit bitter...). 

Except marmalade (orange marmalade). 

For some reason I cannot abide (orange) marmalade. 

(I put orange in brackets because the Germans translate all jams and jam variants as being marmalade, and I very much enjoy compotes, confitures, jams and jellys made from fruits other than oranges, even ones made from non-fruits like wine, tea, garlic, or red pepper jelly...)

(6) I am fearful of: 

(a) making bread (it never goes right); 

(b) being attacked by large spiders (large enough that, when you swing a broom at them they blithely grab the broom and swing it back. Have you seen how fast spiders move and how much ground they can cover? Imagine a spider the size of a corgi... and whimper in terror...); and, finally, 

(c) concerted efforts by poisonous snakes to end my life. 

There. Six things, possibly unusual, about Sepiru Chris.

Anyone who would like to post six interesting things about yourself, do so. It would be fun to know more. Link back if you so desire.

I think you are all interesting, and I suspect that you are all far more interesting than I am.

As an aside, I am working on an internet start-up, so I will likely be dropping back on my postings rate because I have become a bit too enamoured of the instant gratification of the web and am neglecting tasks that cannot be neglected.



Your humble scribe likes creating using various media. At the top is one of my pieces. Hover over it, with your mouse (as always with pictures) for details. This was so that I can show to the crafty and artistic denizens of Blogovia that I fit into their niche, too. Sort of. Maybe. If I dream...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hike to (instead of Haiku) Tai O

Image of Lantau Island, Hong Kong.Hello Gentle Reader,

Weekends and holidays are good days to go outdoors and explore Hong Kong away from the buildings.

Forty five minutes on three different subways takes us, in a roundabout fashion, from Kowloon on the mainland to the island of Hong Kong and then onwards to the Island of Lantau (where the airport is located).

Today we walk around Lantau Mountain, up and over and across mountain ranges, and then down to the fishing village of Tai O.

For some reason, many people do not leave Hong Kong to explore her nature. For them, in your humble scribe's opinion, is too bad. 

Why? Because leaving Hong Kong's metropolitan splendour behind us we quickly find walks like this:

Image of hiking trail on Lantau Island, Hong Kong.The path we were on today was permanently closed. We found out why when we started coming across landslides blocking the trail, and covering it with loose debris...

Image of landslide blocking a trail on Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
Image of landslide blocking a trail on Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
Image of landslide blocking a trail on Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
Image of landslide blocking a trail on Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
Then, when we look back, from a peak...

Image of landslides on Lantau Island, Hong Kong.We invariably look ahead, to see more landslides dotting the hills...

Peaks and landslides on Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Rest, at a peak.

Image of the water on the backside of Lantau Island, Hong Kong, away from Hong Kong Island.
Look Ma, no buildings. 

This is why it is great to get out of Hong Kong and out of: the hurly burly bustle of the people; the scents; the noise; the consumer metabolism; the buying; the selling; the cheap, cheap, cheap but high, high quality; the "look beautiful sir? maam?", uncapitalized and trite; the litter of things to buy, things to have, things to throw away; and, the ever present massing of crowds of people who actually enjoy, live, and breathe that rampant consumption of knock-off, designer, plastic baubles with life-like simulcras of desire.

Right. Time to breathe again, look at the view, get up and wander away.

Then we commence a sharp, hard descent all the way to the sea to get to Tai O, a fishing village built on stilts.

Image of Tai O fishing village on Lantau Island, Hong Kong.
Tai O has a great atmosphere and is a unique fishing abode. 

It is well worth its own post.

I hope you are well. Your Heroine is finally getting better (she has been sick); your humble scribe is falling ill. 

And no one gets sick like a man does...


Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Image of a factory with no workers.Dear Gentle Reader,
Every now and again it
is fun to be odd.

So I will follow
someone else's lead, and now
I cannibal I.

I will take my own
comment, made on another's
blog, and resubmit.


A very smart gal,
OxyJen to me and you,
writes B.S. Haiku.

Rules for making Haiku:

1: Five syllables.
2: Write seven more for fun.
3. Repeat 1. Done.

Explanation for why it has taken me so long to respond to OxyJen's call for Haiku:

My prolixity
slowed creativity; my
brain froze shut in fear.

Usefulness of big words (A Haiku in two parts):

(Part 1)

so big it just fit.

(Part 2)

Don't estimate as
worthless. Utility is
always in our mind.

(***This two part haiku makes more sense when you remember that floccinaucinihilipilification means the act or habit of estimating as worthless [aka as without value, or utility.])

Also, recent historical research shows that haiku has been an important facet of many writers' lives, not just the great-to-be (though already great to me) OxyJen's.

Uncorroborated reports indicate that Sir Arthur (Ignatius) Conan Doyle (1859-1930) initially wished to do his mystery fiction by haiku, to cut costs and save paper, but he found it unwise when informed he might be paid by the word....

Here is the uncorroborated Sir Arthur Conan Doyle haiku...

It's elementary...:

Resolve the details
Worship humble facts, Watson,
Sherlock Holmes smiles, puffs.

Even anthropology has used haiku due to its speed of composition. The transcribed last words of a famous Chicago school anthropologist, seeking to know the secret rituals of a post-modern neolithic tribe with Inca-like practises, follow...

Heart's cadence beats fast...
Sacrificed to false idol?
Resolve? Worship quick.

Note: The above 'facts'
are to be taken with grams,
not just grains, of salt.

Final note.

Your scribe has just discovered that ThommyG, host of Three Word Wednesday, offers three words every Wednesday to the world, in his own ritualised contest.

You provide a haiku for those three words on your site and you link back.

The strong survive...

Last week's words (egads, its ends tomorrow!) are Cadence, Humble, and Resolve.

My offering?

Humble? Not likely!
Cadence quickly changes; jive?
Resolve to dance now!

Your humble scribe hopes
you join in, but understands
if you don't. Tschuess, Chris