As part of our ongoing series (yea, I know, there are so many series going on around here, it’s starting to look like NBC) on Artsy French Movies, let me present the movie of the night. I mean, not exactly the only movie of the night, but I don’t think Candy Bottoms: Nuns in Heat III really deserves a review of its own (my roommate gives it two thumbs up. well at least one, right this moment).

The movie is Band of OutsidersBande à part in French, notable in that it also happens to be Tarentino’s production company’s name: what a freaking nerd.
I know, it’s quite surprising I had never seen that movie given that 1) I spent a small but crucial share of my formative years studying in Paris and 2) I have seen most French classics of that time. especially Nouvelle Vague ones (and no, it was not to try and impress some cute bookish girl with an infatuation for old movies. actually, maybe it was. never mind).

There is a reasonable explanation for that: I really cannot stand Jean-Luc Godard. Not the work, the man. See: I was apparently born a couple decades too late. I would have probably liked him ok back then. What makes me dislike him is not even the way he very efficiently shot his own career in the foot, back in the sixties, by abandoning art production in favor of political involvement with a few fringe ideologies. Granted, he did not make the best choice in his fringe ideology affiliations (Mao anyone?), but still, that’s the kind of thing I could actually like him for. No: the problem is that he has now become an insufferable old snob, more full of himself than ever. Whining, staring at his navel, fustigating the youth of today and overall assuming his position as compulsory authority of modern cinema. Always that same old pattern: people overturned by their ambition into the very people they were setting themselves against, rebellious kids turning bourgeois, punk joining the establishment, burning man selling t-shirts on the web etc.

Plus, the man is an awful bore, dribbling inane vacuous aphorisms on life and himself whenever he manages to grab a camera.

So, while I absolutely love François Truffaut, and even though they worked together a lot, I had always ignored a few “seminal” French snobby movies, on the sole ground that they wore his signature. Bande à part was one.

Was I missing out?

I just made a very important discovery.

See, on my shared server web control panel, there is this little indicator that changes color to reflect the latest Terror Alert level, courtesy of Donald and his friends at the Homeland Sicherheit office. Or so I thought.
I mean, things had been pretty quiet for the past month: the bar remained a serene green and I had naturally assumed that terrorism had been eradicated from the face of earth, evil vanquished, all that… Except, about a week ago, the indicator suddenly went through yellow, orange, red to finally stop with an even brighter red. Not inching back to safer level thereafter.
I was starting to worry a little bit and considered contacting the SDF: tell them to get Godzilla ready. just in case, you know…

Well, it turns out my ISP did not put a terror level indicator on my control panel. According to some guy from their support, it is supposed to represent the amount of “free disk space” I got on my share. Free as in “free beer in your fridge”. Red meant, in essence, that I didn’t have any (space, not beer, please follow).

So the good news is that you can put these rolls of saran wrap back in your drawer and take grandma out of the anti-gaz-attack freezer: everybody is safe… for now…
The bad news is that this latest brilliant idea of mine has to be reconsidered, and the frequency of mp3 uploads slowed down a wee bit for now, lest we make that indicator go past its current red level, which can only be a bad thing, I assume.

Since running a public web server off my laptop at home is probably not a good idea (trust me, the poor thing already has quite a hard time coping with the heat and the crazy things I ask it to do), I am currently doing the round of all my lucky friends with nigh-unlimited disk space on their box to see if somebody can spare a few megs for the sake of this artistic endeavour.

In the meantime, I erased a few porn movies from my server and was able to make enough space for a new mix:

Dr Dave’s MiniMix #3 (right-click here for download)

Keywords: hip house, old school, Miss Kittin, Prince, sniffing in the VIP area, I like the way your booty shake…

So… I was still racking my brain about that whole interesting content concept I’ve mentioned a while back… when I had another stroke of Genius:
why not do a series of posts on the Japanese language! be useful, teach something to the hords of morons who land on this page by typing “furry pokemon porn” in their search engine, appeal to my US otaku readership, who would die rather than read translated versions of their favorite manga, as well as the more serious japanophiles who have had a fascination for all things Japanese since at least “Karate Kid” or “Kill Bill”.
That kind of useful.

Now, before I go any further, just so you know: I do not speak Japanese.

I mean, sometimes I utter words in Japanese. When hunger gets the best of me, for example, or when I need to share my utter displeasure with the shitty quality of the hardware that was sold to me 6 months ago by some innocent salesman from Apple Japan. I would even tend to communicate in this language with friends and significant other whose practice of my native idiom is somewhat even less desirable than my butchering of theirs. With usual reactions ranging from “Dave-san, your Japanese is getting pretty good for somebody who just arrived in Japan last month… oh wait… you’ve been here nearly two years… err… [hides face in shame, looks for diversion] oh! look, here is some natto… I bet you’ve never eaten natto!” to a more direct approach, such as Eriko’s, who usually soberly punctuated most of my sentences with a semi-discreet laugh and a half-hearted attempt to convince me she was not laughing at my Japanese, but with my Japanese.

But anyway, these are exceptions. Most of the time, I just speak in fast pig-latin while making expressive hand-movements and hoping nobody will notice the difference. And it works.

Which is why I am perfectly qualified for this slightly unordinary Japanese course.

See, I won’t be teaching you any fundamental grammar rules or pronunciation tips or even useful phrases: that’s what Google is for, there must be at least 3 billions websites dedicated to teaching you rudimentary Japanese (whether they are all written by people who have more knowledge of Japanese than me is actually quite debatable, but that’s another issue). I will be focussing on something more realistic and therefore, much more useful. I will be teaching you how to fake your way into Japanese!

Why bother trying to learn a language that you will never be able to speak properly when it is so much easier to draw appreciation and praise through a few correctly used tricks. Your average ability to communicate won’t be affected much either way, but with this method, every encounter will be an incredibly more enjoyable experience, with none of that awkward “what? you want to buy an electric suitcase for your beaver?” kind of stuff that you would get by otherwise attempting to speak Japanese for real.

So, now that we are done with this introduction and clear on our goals and expectations (pretty low, I hope). Let’s start!

Today, we will review the single most useful expression in all of Fake Japanese (FJ). If you only must learn one, let it be this one:

そうですね
Romaji: sou desu ne
Pron.: “soh des’neh”

Some people will tell you that Sou Desu-ne means something along the line of “isn’t it” or “really”… But the truth is that it absolutely doesn’t mean squat.
People just use it when they don’t want to express an opinion, or when they don’t have one, or when they just feel like moving their lips without fear of consequences. The fact that it doesn’t mean anything, in a classical illustration of Zen philosophy, implies that it also means everything. It is therefore adapted to every situation. Let me illustrate with this little conversation sample:

Neighbour: 今日はいい天気ですね
    kyou-ha ii tenki desu-ne
    “Nice day, isn’t it”
FJ Student: そうですね
    sou desu-ne
    “Indeed” (alt. meanings: 1) “Really?” 2) “If you say so.” 3) “You call that sweltering heat a nice weather???” etc.)

Neighbour: 日本が好きじゃあない?
    Nihon-ga suki jaa-nai?
    “So you dig Japan, huh?”
FJ Student: そうですね
    sou desu-ne
    “Indeed” (alt. meanings: 1) “yea, kinda” 2) “I’m only here because there’s a warrant on my name in 25 US states” 3) “you bet: where else would I be receiving money to teach my substandard level of English to unsuspecting students? if only my third-grade teacher could see me” etc.)

Neighbour: 日本はぺらぺらです!
    Nihongo-ha pera-pera desu!
    “Oh my, you speak Japanese fluently, honorable western friend!”
FJ Student: そうですね
    sou desu-ne
    “Indeed” (alt. meanings: 1) “yea, kinda” 2) “Ha, sucker.” 3) “Is the conversation over? ’cause there’s a rerun of Gundam vs. Doraemon on the telly, and I would hate to miss it.” etc.)

And so on, and so forth: there is not a single statement or question in the Japanese language that cannot be answered by sou desu-ne. Don’t be afraid to overuse it. I mean, you might need to vary your delivery a little, just to ensure a natural train of speech. Especially when your interlocutor seems perplexed by your latest answer: nothing like laughing a bit or nodding knowingly to remove any ambiguity from your “sou desu-ne”.

Of course, you won’t know much more at the end of the conversation, but at least, you will have made one more solid believer in your incredible Japanese skills. And if anything, you’ll be able to end the conversation and go back to watching Gundam vs. Doraemon quicker.

See you next week for another episode of Fake Your Way Into Japanese.