Happy (belated) Birthday Sherlock Holmes! by Mimi Okabe

What better way to ring in the New Year than by celebrating Sherlock's birthday with the Wisteria Lodgers! We all got together for a wonderful dinner at Barb & John’s home where we indulged in roast beef au jus, mushy peas, roasted potatoes, and tomato cucumber salad. As the evening progressed, we sipped on wine, sangria and sparkling apple juice over a very heated discussion about “The Final Solution” **ahem** I mean, “The Final Problem.”

One of the fascinating things about this story for me is that we see Sherlock Holmes at his most vulnerable (and perhaps for good reason). He basically sees a spitting image of himself--well that is, without the domed forehead and the deeply sunken in set of eyes--but one who uses his genius to run an organized crime network. The cat-and-mouse game between Holmes and Moriarty, which takes them across Europe is perhaps another highlight of the story that adds to its suspense, though,some of us interpreted it as a sign that Doyle was planning his vacation (and, perhaps, rightly so since this WAS supposed to be the last Sherlock Holmes story). The night ended with a series of toasts. I wrote one for the Woman, which went a little something like this:

To the Woman who was always two steps ahead,

That it scared Watson, and he wrote her off as dead.

But in the popular imagination she continues to live,

As an equal to the Great detective.

She’s an American!

She’s an Adventuress!

She’s an Adversary!

Some will say…

She’s a AAA threat disguised as a gentle lady.

So let us raise our glass to Ms. Irene Adler,

The woman of the past, present and generations hereafter!

 

 

Mapping Sherlock Holmes in Toronto by Mimi Okabe

Consider this blog as a work in progress as I continue to explore the city of Toronto and all it has to offer for fans of Sherlock Holmes and/or mystery. I’m back in Toronto for the holidays and during my short stay I plowed my way through the snow and slush to find references, places and things related to Sherlock Holmes. I’d really appreciate it if my friends & readers could comment and contribute to this list! Let the sleuthing begin & let's build an archive together (for the fun of it!). 

Here it goes for now:

  1. For starters, if you haven’t been to the Toronto Reference Library, I recommend you to visit the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, which you can access on the 5th floor. This collection is vast, so you may want to dedicate a few hours of your day exploring all that it has to offer. The collection is also an invaluable resource for researchers like me, especially since it has some  books and manga and other scholarly material on Sherlock Holmes in Japan. The librarians are also very kind and helpful and if you call ahead, you can request certain materials to be printed off and/or ready to use upon your visit. Also, if you’re around the area, take a stroll on Sherlock Holmes Walk (that is, when the weather gets warmer).
 

2. The Sleuth of Baker Street My husband discovered this bookstore online and we decided to pay a visit this afternoon. I was informed by the owner that since the relocation of the bookstore to Millwood, he no longer carries young adult literature such as the Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew stories, but there is an abundance of mystery novels, I mean A LOT! It was like being in a candy store. The bookstore doesn’t specialize in Sherlock Holmes stories exclusively, but offers so much that your bound to find something you want to read! You can also order books from the owner. I picked up a copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes to add to my collection and the graphic novel adaptation of SHERLOCK: A Study in Pink.

3. Sure Lock This is a store that I drive pass every now and then. I haven’t been inside but as indicated on the yellow pages, it’s been around since 1981, specializing in “complete lock and door hardware.”

4. What Sherlock Holmes things have you found? Comment below! 

I finally met Juliet McMaster! by Mimi Okabe

When conversing with Dr. McMaster, I discovered that she was the external examiner for my former supervisor, who supervised me. She  referred to me as her "granddaughter" by extension, which I thought was very sweet, and what a small world!

When conversing with Dr. McMaster, I discovered that she was the external examiner for my former supervisor, who supervised me. She  referred to me as her "granddaughter" by extension, which I thought was very sweet, and what a small world!

On October 28th 2017, the monthly meeting for the Jane Austen Society of North America-- Edmonton Region took place at United on Whyte 7909-82 Avenue. The community gathers every 4th Saturday of every month and they feature guest lectures on Jane Austen and her works by academics, writers, and community members. Very nice refreshments were also provided courtesy of Vicky!  Last month, Dr. Nora Stovel delivered a talk entitled, “Modernizing Jane Austen: the HarperCollins project,” which, I sadly, could not attend.

Yesterday, Dr. Juliet McMaster, who founded JASNA-Edmonton region, delivered a compelling lecture entitled  “The Child Author as Mother of the Novelist: From the Juvenilia to the Novels,” in which she made the case for understanding the importance of how themes of courtship in Austen’s Juvenilia get carried forward and magnified in the novels. The manuscript has been sent for publication with Persuasions On-Line and I can’t wait to read it--to really digest it. This was the first time ever that I’d seen Dr. McMaster present, though, I have read many of her works. I'd always wanted to meet her, especially after having completed one of my MAs on a manga adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility, but by the time I came to study at the University of Alberta, Dr. McMaster had already retired! I thought that I would never get a chance to meet her,  so being able to listen to her present and talk to her was like a dream come true! The delivery of her presentation was so incredible! She had such a great sense of humor and really knew how to draw a crowd. It was like a performance. There is much to learn from her.

Juliet McMaster in white attire.

Juliet McMaster in white attire.

In addition to her talk on Jane Austen’s Juvenilia, Dr. McMaster also gave a fencing demonstration as part of her book promotion, Blades Against the Dark. Her demonstration was also quite impressive! She then gave a short reading from the novel. I wish the day wouldn’t end! Being surrounded by so many accomplished, intelligent and influential women, I felt so inspired and motivated!

IMG_9235.jpg

For monthly updates on JASNA Edmonton region please click here

GEEK GIRLS (A Review) by Mimi Okabe

Geek Girls POSTER low res poster.png

Are you a Geek? You might in fact shy away from that label because it connotates some one who is different, creepy and/or a social outcast. Director Gina Hara’s feature-length documentary entitled GEEK GIRLS explores the culture of geeky women who are empowered by their geeky-ness in their own creative and meaningful ways. I was lucky to have been able to watch this documentary, which was featured as part of Edmonton’s DEDfest, a festival that celebrates the works of indie film makers. Gina’s documentary, which took three years in the making, is brilliantly put together and well researched--and it shows.

Director heashot- Gina Hara, photo by Anne Garrity.jpg

In her quest to find the answer to the question: What does geek mean to me? Gina’s journey begins and ends in Japan as she grapples with the politics of geek identity. In her pursuit, she weaves together women’s voices from around the world, who articulate their trials, risks and tribulations of what it means to be part of a “geek” community/nerd culture. In a community typically defined by men and that which is often hostile towards the inclusion of women, the cast of women interviewed in the film, which include cosplayers, gamers, comic book creators and a scientist, celebrate how women define and redefine the boundaries of geek culture. The multiple perspectives that the documentary offers underscores the theme of "inclusivity," which is central to the film’s political vision.

The film is conscientious not just in terms of its form (sound, music & cinematography), but also its content, especially in articulating its feminist aims. In other words, it doesn’t celebrate a culture of women at the expense of men. Rather, it accomplishes to make you think and even reassess your own values and stance. This was evidenced during the Q & A session following the screening. A woman, sitting in the audience tearfully asked how she could protect her daughter in a community that might be toxic for young girls? Why at the cost of humility, shame, ostracization and cyber-bullying, would she, as a parent, encourage her daughter to celebrate geek identity? This prompted a young man, also sitting in the audience, to ask what he can do to combat sexism. Some of the best films are those that inspire and Gina’s documentary has the potential to foster and nurture a sense of community beyond the text itself.

For upcoming screenings and more information about the film, click here.

GeekGirls 3x3a.jpg

 

All photos provided by Gina Hara (Thank you!).

Get Ready for Nagasaki Kitty: A Hibakusha Story (PC Game)! by Mimi Okabe

pyOfg3y__400x400.jpg

Nagasaki Kitty

Sounds like a rendition of Hello Kitty, or does it?

In a world of all things kawaii and pink, Nagasaki Kitty casts a shadow on a culture of decadence by reminding us about Japan’s historical past--before the time of Cool Japan. Directed and written by Ryan Scheiding and developed by his team, Nagasaki Kitty is a choose-your-own-adventure/ visual novel type PC game that features a young protagonist named Ayako during the aftermath of the atomic bombings in Nagasaki. In her quest to find her mother, Ayako encounters the harsh realities and tragic loss of those around her. The story, though fictional, recounts the real events of the utter devastation brought upon by the bomb, which is conveyed in the monochromatic, sumi-e style  illustrations done by Marilyn Sugiarto. The music by Steven J. S. Bowcott sets the tone of the game, and all these elements are brought together by the tech savvy, Luciano Frizzera. Stay tuned for Samia Pedraça, the 3D modeler for the next iteration of the game!

My role as a translator was both exciting and challenging. Exciting because it was the first game that I translated and challenging for two reasons. First and foremost, I asked myself, how  do I begin to translate the experience of war? Would my translation cause offense to those who actually survived the war? This led me to a host of other questions: does the game’s translation lend itself to how some hibakusha narratives have been utilized to repress the memory of conflict between Japan and America, which functions not only to redefine Japan’s relationship to America as its ally, but at the same exonerate Japan’s colonial history, as scholars such as Yoshikuni Igarashi once said?  In what ways does it reconstruct Japan’s cultural memory about the war and its role as victim within it? Am I thinking too much? Secondly, as a woman educated in Hyojyungo Japanese, how do I capture Nagasaki-ness? Do I imitate and appropriate Nagasaki-ben or do I leave it in Hyojyungo? I grappled with these questions in my translated version of Scheiding’s prose. At the end of the day, and with the help from friends, I decided to incorporate some Nagasaki phrases and words, while maintaining the flavor of Scheiding’s original. My aim isn’t to reproduce with precision and accuracy an historical event that is beyond comprehension to begin with--neither is this  the aim of the game--rather, Nagasaki Kitty offers an interesting cross-cultural interpretation of Japanese history through a contemporary North American lens, which isn’t without its limitations as well as potentialities, but it ultimately sparks and invites conversation and critical discussion.  

Check out the team’s individual websites & of course Nagasai Kitty!

Luciano Frizzera

Samia Pedraça

Marilyn Sugiarto

 

"In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” by Mimi Okabe

Months after having completed the Pedagogy and Design Course, I finally made my way to the Faculty of Graduate Studies & Research building to pick up my certificate!

For more information regarding the course, please see my previous blog and the FGSR website.

I can’t emphasize enough how valuable this course was to me. It’s mind blowing to think that some lecturers & instructors have never taken a course on teaching because they think they know it all, or they just don't make time for it in their schedule.

It’s important to never stop learning as instructors, regardless of your years of experience.  As Phil Collins once said,  “In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”


 

Replaying Japan 2017: 5th International Japan Game Studies Conference | Rochester, New York by Mimi Okabe

From August 21st to 23rd Replaying Japan's 5th International Japan Game Studies Conference was held at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York. The theme of this year’s conference was “Transmedia and Story in Japanese Games.” My presentation focused on a Sherlockian video game called Great Turnabout Trial: The Adventures of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō, which is exclusively sold to the Japanese market. I specifically explored the representation of Sherlock Holmes (as a clumsy detective) within the historical and political context of the Meiji Period, in which the game is set, to address how contentious questions of nation and identity are mediated in the game. These questions are not new, but can be traced to classic works of Japanese detective fiction such as by Edogawa Rampo and Okamoto Kido who expressed ambivalent attitudes towards the Western encroachment of Japan through the role of their detectives, but in different ways. Why questions of cultural authenticity and identity re-emerge in the 21st century in Japanese pop-culture (anime, manga, video games) is a topic that I take up in my thesis! Contact me if you'd like to discuss more about this!

Q & A session. 

Q & A session. 

This year’s conference was a success thanks to all those at the Strong Museum and RIT, to those on the Organizing Committee, and to everyone who attended. It was so nice to reconnect with old faces and meet new ones. It’s so rewarding to see the conference grow each year and appeal to a global community of scholars. If you’re interested in doing research on Japanese video games (in all its variety) stay tuned & consider submitting an abstract to the 2018 conference. Some of the highlights of this year’s conference included the keynote speakers: Tom Kalinske and Rachael Hutchinson, the demos and poster sessions,  the special tour of the Strong Museum’s collection of arcade games (see photos), and the panel on “Gender Issues,” which explored contentious questions of gender representation in video games. In addition, a very promising initiative to “document the role of women in the game industry,” is being undertaken by Shannon Symonds at the Strong Museum.

IMG_8355.JPG

It was my first time at the Strong and I realized that it’s not only a family-friendly place for children to get excited about games, but it’s also invested in educating the public about the history of games and preserving them for the future. They have a big collection of Japanese arcade games and the behind-the-scene-tour of the museum was an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve gained a new appreciation for both the museum and games in general. 

I hope next year’s conference will be just as great! #replayingjapan 

 

What's In It For You? Things You Should Know Before & During Grad School by Mimi Okabe

Whether you're thinking about starting grad school or in the midst of it, if you don't own a copy of Karen Kelsky's The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning your PH.D into a Job, you should (like asap). 

Ever thought that grad school was just a place to explore new ideas, or a place that celebrated research for research's sake? ...yes, it is (to some extent), but you're only seeing half the picture.

Of course, the work that you accomplish throughout grad school cultivates knowledge & skills for you to be...? To become.. a professor? Great, and so do all the other hundred thousand graduates with a PhD, or 2. 

What are you doing to make yourself stand out from the crowd? 

According to Kelsky, the moment you begin to think about grad school is the moment your rigorous training as an up-and-coming scholar begins (See chapter 7). This might be a wake up call for some. She insists that you  get your"head in the game" earlier than later so that  you can build a "competitive record"--in terms of your experience related to teaching, publishing, and networking--all in time for the job market.

I think this urgency is motivated by, as Kelsky points out, "the escalating student debt borne by those with advanced degrees" (9). In March 2014, the US News & World Report reported that "graduate student debt is the fastest growing type of student debt, and graduate students now owe an average of $57, 600. One in four graduate student owes almost $100,000" (Kelsky 9). Although these figures might not reflect what's happening here in Canada, if you don't have scholarships or some kind of teaching/research assistant-ship, then, grad school can break the bank, for some. Be weary of programs that lack funding. The point here is to start early. See if you're eligible for SSHRC & see what kind of research grants your department has to offer. Remember that bursaries work differently from fellowships and research grants. The former is assessed on the basis of financial need whereas the latter is assessed on research caliber. Bursaries don't count toward your CV. (If you don't know what SSHRC is, and you're in the Social Sciences and Humanities, you should). 

Anyway, back to the importance of professionalization and why you need to read this book. 

For some of us, a course on professionalization might've  been mandatory as part of our graduate program. At the institution where I completed my MA, I was fortunate to have served as a graduate representative for a hiring committee. In addition, I had the support of professors who motivated me to think about publishing, encouraged me to attend conferences, and to network with the "right" people. 

Still, I wish I had encountered this book sooner. Even though I seem to be on the right track, there's always that voice at the back of my head asking: am I doing enough?

...Because I know there's somebody, somewhere-out-there who has a stronger CV, a stronger record of teaching, stronger connections and so on. You may have experienced the same thing. Does this mean that you should give up and allow your insecurity and doubts to swallow you up whole? Absolutely not! (although a nice, cold glass of beer to calm the nerves might not be so bad). The steps outlined by Kelsky on how to prepare a competitive CV, teaching dossier and research statement are some of the key lessons I took away from her book (see chapters 14-20). Although the book is tailored for the American job market, Kelsky provides useful tips and strategies on everything from where & when to apply for a job, how to deal with rejection, and how to manage interviews and so on. At the same time, there's a lesson to be learned about how it's okay if you choose to leave the Academy. This is truly a comprehensive book that demystifies the hiring process and it provides specific steps and guidelines on what you need to do to prepare yourself for the job market while you're a grad student. The earlier you read it, the better. 

As I see my friends graduate and move on with their lives as professors, or as post-docs, I'm genuinely happy for their success, but anxious about my own. This book put things into perspective for me though. It taught me what I can do now and how I can plan, even in the little time that remains, where I see myself teaching and what I see myself doing in the next 2-3 years. This is important because your employer(s) are not going to care about your thesis specifically, but they will be curious to know what you have planned up your sleeve.

As I  prepare myself for the job market, (putting 'em battle boots on) I'm definitely more aware of how I can maximize my success, but of course, only time will tell. As my friend said: "Just know how to strategically market your skills and research experience. Every application you deliver should be personalized with its own special ribbon. Each package must be put together with time, care and precision just like your thesis."

To persevere is hard work and it's not meant for everyone. Grad school is not meant for everyone. It will break you in more ways than one. But you get up stronger, wiser and you learn to never settle, but to push yourself to be the best that you can be. And this skill, whether you choose to continue in the Academy, or not, will help you in all walks of life.