This week on Cultureteca, the Kobe Shimbun daily paper dabbles in Haruki Murakami’s teenage reading, disclosing some of the French literature that the Japanese author borrowed from his high school library; speeches and events commemorate World AIDS Day 2015; NASA’s New Horizons space probe returns high-resolution images of the surface of Pluto, taken during its historic flyby in July; Zlatan Ibrahimovic breaks the Ligue 1 goalscoring record for Paris Saint-Germain; and a panda struggles up a slope.
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Kobe Shimbun Discloses Haruki Murakami’s Teenage Reading
At the start of this week the Kobe Shimbun, a daily newspaper based in Japan’s sixth-largest city, revealed some of the teenage reading matter of Haruki Murakami, the country’s most famous contemporary author.
Murakami was born in Kyoto, and moved to Kobe with his family at the age of two. Although both of his parents taught Japanese literature, compelled by life in the cosmopolitan port city, his interests leaned towards forms which developed outside of Japan, including Hollywood cinema and jazz music: before turning to writing at the age of twenty-nine, Murakami ran a jazz club in Tokyo, called Peter Cat.
His first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, was published in 1979, and Norwegian Wood, published in 1987, made him a literary superstar at home, hastening his move to the United States. Many of his works draw from classical and popular music, while his literary influences range from Fyodor Dostoevsky and Franz Kafka to Raymond Chandler and Kurt Vonnegut. In a Paris Review interview from 2004, Murakami said of the start of his writing career:
‘I didn’t know how to write in Japanese – I’d read almost nothing of the works of Japanese writers – so I borrowed the style, structure, everything, from the books I had read – American books or Western books. As a result, I made my own original style. So it was a beginning.’
The Kobe Shimbun managed to obtain library records under Murakami’s name from his time in high school. They show that as a schoolboy, he loaned the three-volume complete works of the French writer Joseph Kessel, best known for Belle de Jour, the 1928 novel about a young woman who works as a prostitute each afternoon before reverting each evening to the role of housewife. Belle de Jour was adapted into a film in 1967, directed by Luis Bunuel and starring Catherine Deneuve.
This revelation of some of Murakami’s youthful borrowing habits has received criticism from the Japan Library Association, who have accused the Kobe Shimbun of a violation of the author’s privacy. Most states in Japan possess laws protecting the privacy of library users. But defending his newspaper, Hideaki Ono, the assistant managing editor of the Kobe Shimbun, said:
‘Murakami is someone whose work, and the way he developed his literature, is the subject of scholarly study. He is known to have profound knowledge of British and American literature. But [the cards] showed he also explored French literature in his younger days. We believed these facts are of great public interest.’
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World AIDS Day 2015
Tuesday was World AIDS Day, which takes place every year on 1 December, dedicated to raising awareness and showing support for those who live with HIV/AIDS, and to commemorating the memory of those who have been killed by the virus. Since it was identified in 1984, 36 million people have died of HIV/AIDS, while 35 million people today are estimated to have the condition.
World AIDS Day was established in 1988, the concept of James Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDs (since 1996 UNAIDS) at the World Health Organization. World AIDS Day is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by WHO, along with World Tuberculosis Day (24 March), World Health Day (7 April), World Immunization Week (last week of April), World Malaria Day (25 April), World No Tobacco Day (31 May), World Blood Donor Day (14 June), and World Hepatitis Day (28 July).
Every World AIDS Day has a theme. This year it was ‘Think Positive: Rethink HIV’. The theme was marked in London on Tuesday with a kissing booth in Soho Square between 1-3 pm, in an attempt to convey the message ‘Kissing Doesn’t Spread HIV. Ignorance Does’. The leaders of the UK’s main political parties also provided statements of support.
In the United States, each year since 1995 the President has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Barack Obama’s iteration this time focused on a recent $31 billion budget proposal towards funding more research and health care; while globally the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) reaffirmed its aim to provide 13 million people with life-saving treatment by the end of 2017, striving also for a 40% decrease in HIV incidence among young women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa. The federal theme for 2015 was ‘The Time to Act Is Now’.
Meanwhile UNAIDS published a series of milestones and targets asking people to join them ‘On the Fast-Track to end AIDS’, noting that ‘New HIV infections have been reduced by 35% since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by 42% since the peak in 2004’. Within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations in September, UNAIDS is hoping to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
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New Horizons Shows Pluto in High Definition
On Friday NASA’s New Horizons space probe sent us the first of the images, in super-high resolution, which it took of Pluto during its historic flyby back in July.
New Horizons was launched from Cape Canaveral on 19 January 2006. Part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, it was designed to study the Pluto system and the Kuiper belt, but to this end journeyed first towards Jupiter, making its closest approach to the planet on 29 February 2007. The probe flew by Jupiter at a distance of 2.3 million kilometres, returning data about the planet’s atmosphere, magnetosphere, and moons.
After a long period of hibernation, on 6 December 2014, New Horizons was brought online once again for the visit to Pluto, beginning its approach on 15 January. This culminated in a flyby 12,500 kilometres above the surface of Pluto on 14 July 2015, which made New Horizons the first probe to explore the dwarf planet and its five moons: Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra.
The images released by NASA show the surface of Pluto at a resolution of about 80 metres per pixel, displaying features ‘less than half the size of a city block’. In some of the best views of the planet we may be afforded for decades to come, they allow us to see craters, mountains, and glacial terrains to the northwest of the plain known as Sputnik Planum, over its shoreline and across the al-Idrisi mountains.
John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said:
‘These close-up images, showing the diversity of terrain on Pluto, demonstrate the power of our robotic planetary explorers to return intriguing data to scientists back here on planet Earth. New Horizons thrilled us during the July flyby with the first close images of Pluto, and as the spacecraft transmits the treasure trove of images in its onboard memory back to us, we continue to be amazed by what we see.’
More images are expected from New Horizons over the coming weeks and months. The probe stored a vast amount of data in its onboard memory during the flyby, and will send information back to Earth slowly via its transmitter until late 2016.
The photographs were taken by a combination of the telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) and the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVC), which provides colour in blue, red, and infrared at a lower resolution. New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, noted:
‘These new images give us a breathtaking, super-high resolution window into Pluto’s geology. Nothing of this quality was available for Venus or Mars until decades after their first flybys; yet at Pluto we’re there already – down among the craters, mountains and ice fields – less than five months after flyby! The science we can do with these images is simply unbelievable.’
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Zlatan Breaks Paris Saint-Germain’s League Goalscoring Record
During the evening fixture on Friday, Zlatan Ibrahimovic became Paris Saint-Germain’s leading scorer in Ligue 1 history, as the league leaders achieved a 0-3 victory away at Nice.
Edinson Cavani opened the scoring on 35 minutes courtesy of an Ibrahimovic cross, and the Swedish striker doubled his side’s lead when he converted a penalty just before half-time – having been pulled down by Niklas Hult, who was sent off for his trouble. Ibrahimovic completed the win just after the hour mark, with a low right-footed effort going in at the near post.
Ibrahimovic’s two goals put him on 87 in total in Ligue 1 for Paris Saint-Germain, the club he joined in 2012 and has led to three successive league titles. He therefore surpassed the record of 85 previously held by Mustapha Dahleb, set by the Algerian international between 1974 and 1984.
The victory over Nice put PSG a commanding 16 points clear at the top of Ligue 1. They are unbeaten in 17 league games this season, and last fell to a defeat in the league on 15 March. Nice remain in fifth place after their third game in a row without a goal, although they started strongly on Friday, with Hatem Ben Arfa and Mathieu Bodmer forcing saves from Kevin Trapp before they went down to ten men.
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A Panda Struggles Up A Slope
Now this is an animal GIF! A panda is an impetuous being whose curiosity will not be sated, even if it requires a helping hand.