Know Your Picture Characters Entry #41

January 31st, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 巨蟹宮 B. 金牛宮 C. 獅子宮 D. 処女宮 E. 人馬宮 F. 双魚宮

G. 双児宮 H. 天蠍宮 I. 天秤宮 J. 白羊宮 K. 宝瓶宮 L. 磨羯宮

This week featured a plethora of multiple-guess entries.  Those familiar with KYPC, however, would probably assume that this did not in any way lead to a greater quantity of correct answers.  And you would be dead wrong.  Clearly my readers are well-attuned to the heavens, because there were more things guessed right this week than any I can remember in recent memory.

Theoman, of course, outdid everyone else in his typical shameless manner by getting not one but two correct answers.  Despite it not having anything to do with his own signs, his eyes leapt immediately to Virgo the Virgin at D (we will refrain from making any comments related to personality regarding this choice).  Then, looking inward, he sought out one of his own signs, and he decided that J was Aries the Ram because rams are white.  It would be great to make a joke about it, but unfortunately I don’t think there’s really anything else on this list that is usually thought of as white.  Goats, maybe.  Anyway, he was correct, though he could have made it a lot easier on himself by remembering that the second character means sheep.

As usual, A Fan picked out a seemingly meaningless method of guessing and, also as usual, it earned him an undeserved right answer (not that there’s such a thing as a “deserved” answer in this game).  He slipped up with his former sign, misidentifying C, which is in fact Leo the Lion (though, as misidentifications go, you could do worse than mistaking a lion for a crab.  I wouldn’t recommend getting especially close to either).  But he came through with his new sign, picking out G as Gemini, his favorite baseball team.  Out with the old and in with the new, as they say.

Shirley came up with a correct answer as well, and she came so close to the difecta.  Perhaps because of years of harsh treatment at the hands of her offspring (of whom at least one and probably two were the same sign as her), she was able to spot Cancer the Crab at A.  Actually, the first character has nothing to do with claws; it simply means “giant.”  The crab is the second one.  As for her new sign, Gemini, she had it narrowed down to two but, sadly, picked the wrong one.  However, perhaps more impressively from a kanji standpoint, she picked up on the fact that the first character in both G and F (which is Pisces) refers to there being two of something.

But one participant this week was entirely out of alignment.  First she ran away from F, the fish, because they’re pretty horrifying, I guess.  Then she attempted to measure things with B, Taurus the Bull, and I have no idea how that would work, other than that it wouldn’t.  One possibility is that Dragon’s confusion (as her name might suggest) stems from the decision to exclude Ophiuchus the Serpent-Bearer from the list.  And there is a reason: Japanese, unlike English, has different words to distinguish between Cancer the zodiac sign and Cancer the constellation.  Those listed here are for the signs, and, as far as I am aware, Ophiuchus only has a word for the constellation.  So apologies to Dragon for upsetting her heavens and knocking her out of her house, but if she has complaints, she can take them up with the dictionary.

Oh, and I still have to identify the rest of this lot.  First I will horribly confuse half my readership by saying thing that mean nothing to them: E is Equius, H is Vriska, I is Terezi, K is Eridan and L is Gamzee.  Then I will (hopefully) placate them by explaining that E is Sagittarius the Archer, H is Scorpio (do I really have to explain what that is?), I is Libra the Scales, K is Aquarius the Water Carrier, and L is Capricorn the Goat.

Anyway . . . let’s get it arted in here!  The next puzzle will be about identifying important Japanese art forms.  And, just in case you’re not familiar with Japanese art forms for some strange reason, I will briefly describe them.  From the world of theatre we are featuring the flashy, fast-paced kabuki, the steady, stylistic noh, the slap-stick comedy of kyogen and the puppet theatre of bunraku.  From the world of poetry we present the classical tanka, and representing the visual arts is the ukiyoe woodblock print.  Pick out whatever sounds the most interesting.

A. 浮世絵 B. 歌舞伎 C. 狂言 D. 短歌 E. 能 F. 文楽

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The Calling Part 9

January 28th, 2011 by Wordsman

The old woman, pleased that someone had finally responded to her question in the affirmative, took a moment to grin with satisfaction.  Allowing the girl an opening, however, proved to be her undoing.

“It’s like, all my life, I’ve felt that I was different, you know?  That I was special.  That maybe, just maybe, I was put on this Earth to accomplish something.  Something real, you know?  Not like being an actuary or a dentist or a mailman or a . . .

“My psychiatrist says that I’m just using fantasy to explain why I was picked on so much as a kid.  But I’m all like, what the hell does he know about my destiny?  He’s just some moron who flunked out of med school and now gets paid a hundred bucks an hour to pass off his psychoses onto other people.  And anyway, I totally started learning Elvish before they stopped inviting me to their birthday parties, so really he’s just completely full of . . .”

At first the old woman remained calm.  She needed time to think—it was obvious that she hadn’t planned what to say if she ever got this far.  Once the tirade passed the five-minute mark, however, she looked more and more exasperated, waiting for any gap long enough to get a syllable in edgewise.  Eventually the patient lioness was rewarded when the flying gazelle stopped at a water hole.

“Good!  Good.  I can, uh, sense that your . . . spirit is ready for your quest.  But first I must ask: can you play a musical instrument?”

“Huh?  No.  Mom was always trying to get me to learn piano, but I was like, ‘No, Mom, I’m not going to be the perfect little girl you always imagined I’d be.’”

“Oh . . .”

Escobar was becoming an expert at recognizing when the old woman was disappointed.  This was no mere tropical depression: this was a full-blown Category 5 crestfallen.  “Well, in that case, I—I sense that your destiny lies elsewhere.”

The gazelle, spotting the lioness for what she really was, fled.  As she left, she made sure to get in a few parting shots.  “Okay.  I get it.  Fine.  You mystics are all alike.  You’re all like, ‘Sure, you’re special, but your destiny lies elsewhere.’  You know what?  My destiny does lie elsewhere.  And when I figure out where that is, oh man, you’re totally going to wish that I let you in on it.  You sylrehy-rydehk cyjyka!”

The lioness, wounded and perhaps upset at her own lack of good taste, limped back to her pillar to lick her wounds and wait for another unsuspecting antelope to pass by.

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This Day in History Entry #102

January 25th, 2011 by Wordsman

Written for A Midsummer Night’s Dream
‘Twas in winter this song picked up steam
Groom in tux, bride in dress
Hear this as they recess
Out of Mendelssohn’s crop, it’s the cream

Event: Felix Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” is played at the wedding of Victoria, Princess Royal to Prince Frederick William of Prussia, leading to its widespread popularity
Year: 1858
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #40

January 24th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 神無月 B. 霜月 C. 師走 D. 長月 E. 葉月 F. 文月

Not a lot of responses this week.  I guess nobody gets excited about calendars anymore.  That is, assuming that people ever got excited about calendars in the first place.

Theoman, on his first guess, was right about a part and wrong about the whole.  The first character in E means “leaf.”  Unfortunately, the month that’s associated with leaves is not one where they’re on the trees but the one when they come off.  E, hazuki, is the 8th month (remember, they used to be later in the year).  On the other hand, whether it was due to his vague memories or his sharp ones, his backup guess was correct.  C, shiwasu, is the last month of the year.  The characters represent a Running of the Priests, as it were, referring to the frantic activity of holy folk trying to get everything done before the end of the year.  Nowadays, of course, things are completely different; nowadays it’s not just priests.

Shirley’s “one lonely fellow” in F is actually a character representing writing, and this is therefore fumizuki, the “book month,” number seven on the year.  And, as we already know, no matter how busy A is, it is not December.  This is the 10th month kannazuki.  Similar to the 6th month that we went over last time, depending on how you interpret the middle character this is either the gods’ month or the month without gods.  As for the rest, B, the frost month, falls appropriately enough in November, and D, the long month, is September.  That one’s never felt particularly long to me, but maybe in the old days it was longer.

Now, there’s been a lot of talk lately about zodiac signs shifting and what-not.  Whether or not you agree with any of it, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at the signs in Japanese.  So pick out your old sign, or your new one, or the one that you think fits you the best even though it has nothing to do with when you were born.  (And don’t look for that poser, Ophiuchus.  He’s not in here.)

A. 巨蟹宮 B. 金牛宮 C. 獅子宮 D. 処女宮 E. 人馬宮 F. 双魚宮

G. 双児宮 H. 天蠍宮 I. 天秤宮 J. 白羊宮 K. 宝瓶宮 L. 磨羯宮

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The Calling Part 8

January 21st, 2011 by Wordsman

Day 3:

After a night that involved much more thinking than he preferred to get into in a non-work environment, Officer Escobar decided that he was no longer going to try to approach the woman.  He had no reason to believe that she would say to him anything other than what he had already heard the past two days (thankfully she at least seemed to have given up on the dead hair).  Or she might react differently because he was a cop, and when there are two versions of a story, the one you tell to the police is never the more helpful one.  The best approach was to observe and be prepared to respond to new developments.

Escobar was not a fan of hands-on policing anyway.  He saw his job as mostly symbolic; his role was not enforcement but prevention.  Most people weren’t stupid enough to pull anything with a cop watching, and the ones that were often took care of themselves.  He could stop crime before it started, simply by existing.  He wore the badge so that he need never use it.

Since his beat still happened to be the subways, he chose to continue wearing his badge in Simon Park Station.

He took up a position leaning against his pillar—the one that afforded the best view of hers—and sipped his subway stand coffee, which was foul but hot (the Dough-Re-Mi was always mobbed on weekends).  It had not taken him long to figure out what to look for.  Whenever someone separated from the pack, the old woman would pounce, like an ancient lioness, who has to rely on strategy rather than speed.

Her current target was a young woman with a backpack, probably a university student.  She wore a sweatshirt with a picture of an improbably-proportioned woman holding a battleaxe and something written in one of those made-up languages where all the letters seem to come with dots.  “Don’t you feel that there’s something missing from your life?”

The girl turned toward her, eyes wide.  Like most of the old woman’s prey, she had not noticed her until she spoke.  Most of the time this stealthy approach caused mild irritation in the subject.  In this case, however, it led to excitement.  “Ohmygod I so do!”

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This Day in History Entry #101

January 18th, 2011 by Wordsman

There are some who might think to ask why
Wilhelm’s reign was proclaimed in Versailles
They had just beat the pants
Off the army of France
Rubbed it in before saying goodbye

Event: Wilhelm I proclaimed first German Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles
Year: 1871
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #39

January 17th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 卯月 B. 如月 C. 皐月 D. 水無月 E. 睦月 F. 弥生

I’ll say this: I’d let you folks be my calendar makers any day.  True, you don’t have a great track record of knowing which month is which, but it seems like you would be entirely likely to “accidentally” leave out February, and that’s okay by me.

I’m not sure why F doesn’t have the character meaning moon/month; it’s one of two in the year that doesn’t.  It is not, however, because it is the crummiest month.  That distinction belongs to B, kisaragi, which refers to changing clothes, especially when you write it like this: 衣更着.  I’m not sure what that’s about, because I don’t recall February being a month with enough climatic variation to allow clothes changing.  F is yayoi, the month of new life, which for simplicity’s sake we will call March.  Sound familiar?  That’s because it’s also the Yayoi Era from the quiz two weeks ago.  Check it out: choice F is exactly the same as last time.  Whoa.

Theoman had an interesting strategy.  April showers bring May flowers, and since he couldn’t find the character for rain he went for water instead.  Curiously, D can have two possible meanings depending on how you interpret the middle character.  If you read it for its sound, na, then this is the water month.  If you read it for its meaning, “nothingness,” then this is the month of no water.  Either way, Theoman’s plan is somewhat spoiled by the fact that the rainy season falls later in Japan than it does here.  Minazuki is the sixth month.

Now let’s check on Shirley.  She attempted to up her odds by making four guesses, but so far three of them have already been eliminated from possible correctness.  Fortunately, her last one comes in to save the day: A is April (typical Wordsman mind games at work?), the fourth month uzuki, referring to a flower of the genus Deutzia.  We’ll just assume that when you said A and B are April and May that you meant A to be April because it comes first.  Her “most attractive character” in C belongs to the fifth month, satsuki, which if you go by the old lunisolar calendar is closer to June than May, but that’s not how we’ve been grading things thus far, so it hardly seems fair to switch it up now.

The misfit this week is E (first month, mutsuki).

Same deal, second half of the year.  You know the drill.

A. 神無月 B. 霜月 C. 師走 D. 長月 E. 葉月 F. 文月

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The Calling Part 7

January 14th, 2011 by Wordsman

Seeing her in motion for the first time, he noted that the woman was short, but not as hunched over as he had expected.  She moved quickly despite her awkwardly long and shapeless garment, quickly enough to catch up with the speed-walking man.  She reached out but stopped just short of seizing his jacket sleeve.  “Don’t you feel that there’s something missing from your life?”

She was loud enough to be heard throughout the busy passageway, but her voice appeared to have an effect on only two people: her target and Officer Escobar.

“Uh . . . no, actually,” the man said, after giving the question far more thought than Escobar would have predicted.  “No, definitely not.  I’ve got a great life.  I love my job, my beautiful wife, my three spunky daughters.  Here, I’ve got pictures.”

The man set down his briefcase, took the woman by the shoulder, directed her away from the line of traffic, and reached into his pocket.  A rookie cop might have thought that she was about to get mugged.  The woman might have thought the same, though the look on her face was more surprised than afraid.  Escobar knew better; the only thing that came out of the pocket was a cell phone.

He flipped around to give the woman a better view and promptly started pushing buttons with the eager glee of a child.  “This is Briana, our youngest.  Just turned two last month.  She’s a bundle of energy.  It’s all we can do to keep up.  Taylor, on the other hand, just started middle school, and I’m sure you remember what that’s like . . .”

Whether out of petty revenge for the attempt to waste his time or a genuine belief that she was interested in his family, the man proceeded to share his entire photo library.  The woman, trapped in a perplexed daze, could do nothing but nod politely at appropriate intervals.  Escobar waited, unsure if she should be laughing or trying to rescue her.

Thirty minutes later the slide show ended.  The man returned phone to pocket and picked up his briefcase, which anyone could have easily lifted if Escobar hadn’t been keeping an eye on it.  “Thanks so much, miss!  That’s just what I needed to cheer me up after a long week at work.”

The man departed, waving cheerfully.  The woman waved half-heartedly back.  Then, as though someone had just pulled a chair out from under her, she slumped to the ground.

Escobar wanted to go over and talk to her, to finally figure out what her deal was, but he refrained.  She looked tired, and after the ordeal she had just been through he couldn’t blame her.  Besides, how would that conversation go?  In his experience, “I’ve been watching you” is never a particularly good ice breaker.

The walk home was more troublesome than it should have been.  For the first time since his own experiences in the horrifying era we call middle school, Escobar ran into a wall because he was trying to figure out what to say to a girl.

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This Day in History Entry #100

January 11th, 2011 by Wordsman

Alex Hamilton, he was no fool
All the Fed’ralists thought he was cool
He founded a party
But could not the Prez be
Then he would up in that famous duel

Event: Birth of Alexander Hamilton (Benjamin Franklin really would have been more appropriate for the 100th post, but things don’t always work out the way you’d like)
Year: 1755 or 1757 (we’re not sure)
Learn more:

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Know Your Picture Characters Entry #38

January 10th, 2011 by Wordsman

A. 飛鳥 B. 安土桃山 C. 古墳 D. 戦国 E. 南北朝 F. 弥生

C was a popular guess this week, and while everyone seemed to agree that it was something, no one could agree on what it was.  Theoman and Shirley both saw simplicity (why they thought that second character looked simple is a mystery to me), but they went in opposite directions.  Or rather, they went in the same direction–only one direction you can go on a history quiz, really–but Shirley went a few centuries further back.  TGCU, on the other hand, saw warriors.  And by now, if you are an experienced KYPC participant, you have probably already guessed what I am going to say: none of their answers was correct.  C is the Tomb or Kofun Period, famous for keyhole-shaped burial mounds which could get to be over 400 meters in length.

But Shirley did not stop there.  Her persistence in the face of (entirely understandable) ignorance was rewarded with the only correct identification of the week: E is the Northern and Southern Courts Period.  I like the idea of one character standing in the middle holding the two sides at arm’s length, but actually North and South are right next to each other, with the Imperial Court hanging out at the end (interesting that in Japanese one says “Southern and Northern” but in English, at least in some parts of the U.S., it sounds better to say “Northern and Southern.”)

A Fan was our lone iconoclast, refusing to be sucked in by the popularity of C.  Despite probably knowing more about the Azuchi-Momoyama period than any of the other participants, however, he was unable to correctly spot it.  The era of the three great unifiers (Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu) was B.  Its direct predecessor, the Warring States or Sengoku Period, was the most common guess this week; it was located at D (one of the fun things about the Japanese language is that you can’t be sure whether it refers to one country at war or many provinces).  And out on the edges we have two sets of kanji with obscure pronunciations that may have tripped up Theoman: A is (for?) Asuka, and F is Yayoi.

While they don’t do it quite as regularly as the ones from last time, at least half of these periods continue the trend of being named after places.  Asuka was the site of the capital before they decided to pack everything up and move about seventeen miles north to Nara.  Oda Nobunaga built a castle at Azuchi, and Hideyoshi built one at Momoyama.  The Yayoi Period is named for the neighborhood in Tokyo where artifacts from it were first found, much like you might name a dinosaur the Utahraptor or Koreaceratops.  You can even argue that the Northern and Southern Courts Era was named after places, though more accurately it referred to two competing bloodlines.

Now that the new year is upon us, I think we should do a quiz on naming the months.  Now, in modern Japanese, the month names are very boring: literally “month one,” “month two,” etc.  So we’re going to be working with the traditional names instead.  Here are the first six months of the year; pick whichever one you want.  Keep in mind (if you feel like it), that the traditional Japanese calendar is the lunisolar calendar, and therefore originally the first month started a handful of weeks later than ours does.  On modern calendars, however, which list both the old names and the new names, the old first month mutsuki is listed with January, and so forth.

A. 卯月 B. 如月 C. 皐月 D. 水無月 E. 睦月 F. 弥生

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