Japanese Addresses: ways of thinking

Recently I was rereading Joel Spolsky’s introduction to distributed version control, Hg Init. (To be precise, it’s an introduction to Mercurial, but it also functions fairly well as an introduction to git or to distributed version control in general.) Of course, Joel is writing about this partly because he built a product around it, so he has something to sell, but Hg Init isn’t commercial.

Anyway, Joel’s tutorial begins with some reeducation for people used to other forms of version control, notably Subversion (svn). To illustrate different ways of thinking, different ways of looking at the same problem, he uses the example of Japanese and American addresses. The same problem — uniquely identifying buildings — is solved in notably different ways in Japan and the US. In the west, we think in terms of streets; Japan thinks in terms of blocks. A different conceptual model.



Cartoon Drawings and the Default Human Being; or, Why do Japanese people draw themselves as white?

Had this question ever occurred to you? I don’t read much manga myself (barely any, though I do like the art style), but it does, at first glance, seem that everyone in them is white.

As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white. Why?  Because to them white is the Default Human Being.

Another way to look at this is to say that we’re not aware of our own stereotypes (or, at least, so long as we’re in the majority culture, we have no need to be aware of our own stereotypes).

Besides, that is not how the Japanese draw white or even Chinese people. The otherness of foreigners is clearly marked by physical stereotypes – just as Americans do with people of colour. In anime White Americans are stereotyped as having yellow hair, blue eyes and a long or big nose.


And, of course, some of the main art styles of manga were taken from American comics in the first place.


A Double Standard in the Sexualisation of Youngsters

A young girl wearing revealing clothes is, of course, a disturbing indictment of our society. Meanwhile, an eleven-year-old boy can have his abs praised on television, and reveal that he’s already a good kisser. And this is perfectly fine.

I suspect if an 11-year-old girl went on The View and said she was a good kisser already, she and her parents would be attacked in the press, people would express horror, and rumors would circulate about whether she’s been sexually abused, is already sexually active, etc. etc. But when an 11-year-old boy does it? That’s cute! He’s on his way to being a smooth-talking ladies’ man!

Less squicky, since he’s a bit older, but still horribly inappropriate, is Vanity Fair‘s photo shoot of Justin Bieber. The lad is sixteen, for heaven’s sake!


The Best Countries

Newsweek has a summary of the best countries in the world, measured by a number of different criteria, such as quality of life, political freedom, and economic vitality. It’s pretty interesting.


People Can Make You Sick Sometimes

So apparently the earthquake and tsunami in Japan were divine retribution for Pearl Harbor. The fact that this vile nonsense was spouted on Facebook does rather give the lie to the idea that it’s anonymity which allows people to be jerks on the internet. People are apparently perfectly happy being obnoxious bigots under their real names.

Meanwhile, I won’t be giving money to Japan specifically. I never do. I prefer to allow the charities, the experts on the ground, decide for themselves how money may best be spent.