History Quotes

A historiography course that I took got into a habit of discussing whether a given historian thought a period was dark or light. It was meant as a sort of informal check on the historians’ general views, so we never defined precisely what being dark or light involved. This led to some rather interesting discussions…

On which period E.H. Norman thinks is darker, Meiji or Tokugawa:
“Which is darker?” – Prof. D-
“What colour is Meiji?” – ibid.
“I think it’s… dark blue?” – student’s response

“Could we throw the same question at Frank? Not to put you on the spot, but [what about Prof. Karen Wigen]? – N-
“So, darkness or light? That’s not really a colour question, but a question of… tone?” – Prof. D-
“Gradation, yeah.” – N-

That class had a number of fun discussions, which, of course, led to some more fun quotes. At one point, the professor talked about historians’ tendency to make any work on pre-World War Japanese history lead up to the war, even if the topic was completely unrelated to it. He praised that day’s reading for not following that tendency, only to be immediately contradicted by the students. We pointed out to the section at the end which clearly discussed WWII, and after some thought, he came out with:
“Yeah… This is, uh… an unfortunate two pages, here… ” – Prof. D-

On grad students’ concept of concise writing:
“I want to say that he has a paper circulating online. It’s very short – only 26 pages.” – S-

On giving fair warning:
“My next question is about Professor D-” – J-
About Professor D-?” – Prof. D-
“Yes.” – J-

Fair warning, part II:
“Yeah, you said something about your grade suffering; that was a good – uh, I mean… ” – Prof. D-

A non-native speaker having trouble with English:
“He doesn’t like the term transnational history. He thinks it’s misleading. He prefers, um… eternal history.” – Z-
“Eternal?!?” – Everyone
“Etern-, uh, itern, uhm, itin… ” – Z-
“Itinerant?” – Prof. D-, the mind reader
“Yeah, itinerant history.” – Z-

And a native speaker having trouble with English:
“It’s kind of like if you consider the history of war as groping.” – J-
“Groping?” – Prof. D-
“Yeah.” – J-
“Do you mean grouping?” – Prof. D-
“No – groping.” – J-
“Let’s not do that… ” – Prof. D-

And a random quote from another class:
“It’s the Hitler-liked-dogs theory.” – M-


Notable Quotables

From a conference about ASEAN:
“We are sometimes asked ‘Well, what’s the difference between a Canadian and an American?’ A Canadian is an unarmed American with healthcare.” – Prof. Paul Evans

And a belated pair from a conference on early modern Japanese women:
“This is an interesting audience; we’ve got some people of sublime scholarly experience, and some people of, uh, less sublime scholarly experience. This lecture is aimed at the more experienced. So, if you’re less experienced, good luck, and we’ll give you some great sources later: all of my own books 🙂 ” – Prof. Mary Elizabeth Berry, who gave a great lecture that day.

“It’s the job of teachers to alienate kids from their parents.” – Prof. Joshua Mostow

More quotes!

I missed a page of my notes when I posted yesterday, so here are the last two:

In response to a question about a generational disconnect between anti-military 60 year-olds, pro-military 40 year-olds and twenty-somethings,
“Well, I am 64 years old now. I took part in the Vietnam demonstrations in my youth. Um, everybody has their youth.” -Yukio Okamoto, saying more by silence

And finally, on the effects of rude comments about the president,
“Regarding what someone would call the U.S. president, I think they’re used to being called pretty much anything.” -Richard Armitage

The more I work in DC, the more I’m impressed by the quality of our statesmen and our allies’ statesmen. (I don’t work too much with our, um, non-allies.) I can’t recall ever meeting a senior member of the Foreign Service who I wouldn’t be proud to have represent myself and my nation. They all seem able to effortlessly make critical points – but in a way that doesn’t feel as though you’re being criticized. It’s a skill I wish I had. Whenever I deal with them, making progress just seems easier, natural. I’m glad we’ve got them working for us.


Quotes from the 16th annual Japan-U.S. Security Seminar, which I attended awhile back.

“How long [do we have to speak]?” -Shinichi Kitaoka
“About seven minutes. After seven minutes, there’s a trap door that drops you into the bowels of the Willard Hotel.” -Ralph Cossa

“A woman went in to see her doctor. He said ‘Ma’am, I’m sorry, but you’ve only got a week to live.’ She said ‘Oh no, is there anything I can do?’ He said ‘Well, you can go and marry a U.S.-Japan security specialist.’ She said ‘Will that help?’ He said ‘No, but a week will feel like forever!'” -Richard Armitage

“I tend to be an optimist also, but that may be more a commentary on my mind than the facts.” -William Perry, with one of my new favorite quotes

After a questioner was referred to CNA for the answer to their question:
“Hi, I’m Mike McDevitt, and I am employed at CNA.” -Mike McDevitt
“Yeah, you can turn your resumes in to Mike on the way out.” -Ralph Cossa

Note: Tim Keating recently retired. Prior to his retirement, he was a four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, i.e. in charge of a lot of important stuff.
“Thank you. I’m Tim Keating, and I’m unemployed.” -Tim Keating

And in that vein,
“You know, I’m also unemployed, so I have no way of knowing what the DPJ is thinking.” -Yukio Okamoto, former Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan

Class Quote

A quick one from a history course.

A student said that Andrew Gordon had described prewar Japan as “vibrant” and our professor thought that Gordon would never use such a positive term for that period. The discussion was tabled because the professor didn’t want anyone to have to search through several hundred pages of text for a single word. However, a few brief moments later…

“Andrew Gordon: vibrant! Page 52.” – N-
“Get out of here! Did you use GoogleBooks?” – Prof. D-
“I certainly did.” – N- smugly replied.

Quick Quote

While I’m finishing up the first draft of my thesis, I thought that I’d leave you with the quotes I caught at the 2007 conference of the Association for Japanese Literary Studies.

“[Takuboku was in Hokkaido for only a year.] Now, William Hobart Smith was there for eight months, and of course he left an indelible mark there.  But he was a gaijin and they stand out more.”    -Prof. Forrest

“This panel is titled Soseki’s Bungakuron: A Centennial Celebration; funny, since Soseki’s Bungakuron is not often thought of as something to celebrate.”   -Prof. Murphy

“They know their Foucault, but not Boss-Rausch [?].  Maybe that’s why they’re happier.”   Prof. Washburn
(And sure enough, I don’t know Mr./Ms. Boss-Rausch… or whatever his/her name is.  To be fair, I wasn’t a grad student at the time, but I am now and I’m still not sure who he was talking about.)

A pair from Mr. Bourdaghs, the first a slip of the tongue and the second from when he realized that he was running out of time:

“More specifically, I will expound on the theory of literature that So Sexy – I mean, Soseki… ”

“I’m going to cut all those sections… Unfortunately for you, those are the fun sections, but this is an academic conference… ”

A series from Prof. Sakaki on the wonders of technology:

“I don’t have bells and whistles in my Powerpoint”
[nothing on the screen]
“I’m merely showing… ”
[still nothing]
“I’m merely showing… ”
[still nothing]
“Uhm, I’m merely showing… ”
[not a thing]
“I’m not showing.”

The organizer of the conference rang a little bell when speakers had five minutes left.  After this pattern had been established, a cell phone went off:

“Is that… Joe’s bell?”   -Prof. de Bary, conscientuously trying to maintain time, yet very confused as to how twenty minutes went by… in five.

A few quotes from a seminar on using Japanese-language resources

As everyone was introducing themselves, their schools and their specializations:

“I am the Japanese librarian here.  My, uh, specialty is EALC classification, A-to-Z.”  – Our librarian

“I am so old that this young lady thought that I was dead.”  – Cecilia Segawa Seigle, in whose honor the next day’s conference was being held.

“My name is Kathryn and I am very happy that Segawa-sensei is not, in fact, dead.”  – Kathryn, first and favored reader of this blog 🙂

Kings and a quote

I just watched the first episode of Kings, the new television show that reimagines America as a group of warring kingdoms.  Very interesting, overall.  For one thing, I normally hate it when people start trying to work God (i.e. the Christian God) into pop culture, but here it works.  In keeping with my recent discussion of genres, here are the ones that I see in Kings so far:

  • fantasy
  • politics
  • action
  • romance (really, who doesn’t put romance into their show anymore?)
  • espionage
  • family dynamics

Note fantasy right up at the top – it seems like that’s where God comes in here.  Basically, the show is trying to get a knights-and-the-round-table feeling in the 21st century, and uses God to do it.  God in Kings chooses the king (and shows it via a crown of living butterflies), but God is also a political player.  Here we get into the politics genre, which I like to think of as chess, only with more options.  Each player gets his/her own set of chess pieces, and God is just another player here.  He can protect David, his pawn, from harm to some (as yet unknown) extent, and he can do things like send butterflies to crown him.  However King Silus knows what God is up to, and will be watching.

This seems to me like a good series to follow Battlestar Galactica.  It isn’t science fiction, but the blend of the real and unreal, the political and personal seems similar.  At the same time that we see war we also see King Silus confronting his gay son.  Which brings me to one of the more interesting moments of the series.  Silus told his son that he wouldn’t mind him being gay except that he was the first-born.  As such (the implication is) he needs to marry and make babies.  The twist for me was the way that they had Silus argue.  Silus more or less tells his kid that yes, it totally sucks that he has to fake interest in a woman, but that problems come with power, and that’s one of them.  The Silus character admits (or assumes, depending on how you look at it) that his son was born liking men and simply cannot change that, and says flat out that it will take immense strength to get past that.  I can’t imagine anyone on TV acting like that – as though homosexuality is unchangeable, and that even in the direst circumstances the best that one ccan do is fake otherwise –  even ten years ago.  Sounds like progress 🙂

And now, for the promised quote.  In my modern Japanese historiography class our professor had praised Burning and Building: Schooling and State Formation in Japan, 1750-1890 by Brian Platt because Platt had avoided the (very common) mistake of making all roads – however minor and unrelated – lead to World War II.  Our class quickly disabused him of the notion, pointing out that the very end of the book clearly went to WWII, to which he finally replied:

“Yeah, this is, uh, an unfortunate two pages here.” – Professor Dickinson