Ask Sensei: Shiraishi-kun Edition

Well, the school year is progressing nicely, and I’ll be darned if I don’t see everyone hard at work. Sensei is impressed! Even Shiraishi-kun is opening his textbook and handing in homework on occasion. Do you think he might actually pass? I certainly hope so. Not that it matters. After all, every class has a Shiraishi-kun. Sometimes several.

Via Twitter, @jeskaiangel wonders several related things: Thoughts on being a Christian and an academic? Within your field, is there much hostility to a Christian worldview, and if so how does it manifest? How many believing peers have you ever encountered? Does your Christian worldview affect how you “do” chemistry, and if so how? I think being a Christian academic is largely similar to being a Christian professional in most any other field, especially if one is an academic in a STEM field. Science, technology, and math-related fields are blessedly free of most (not to say all) of the constant warfare surrounding emotionally-charged topics in politics or religion. Certainly there is some hostility towards Christianity in particular, and theism in general, among occasional particular chemists, more so among those older than I am. I have one senior colleague who is a self-described Communist and atheist, for example; and though I’m certain he knows of my religious beliefs, we have never failed to get along professionally (at least so far). As for believing peers, my previous position was at a small Christian liberal arts school, so all of my peers were believers. Certainly that is no longer true, though I know of other Christian believers in multiple departments. It is also not rare for me to notice students wearing T-shirts or hoodies displaying Christian messages, or logos about membership in one or another church or Christian group.

Your question about Christianity and “doing” chemistry probably requires more space than I should use here in order to do it justice, so perhaps I will save it for another column. It is something that I was required to think through in my previous position, unsurprisingly. I might see if I can find those older documents I wrote for my previous position. Maybe my positions have changed, or maybe not.

Questions also came for Sensei via Facebook. Tyler asks: Is the overall quality of anime appreciating or depreciating? I wonder that often myself. I think we can take for granted that 80% of any medium is trash, and certainly anime is no exception. Of the remaining 20% that is at least entertaining, I think we’ve all found some real gems (we try to write about them on this blog, for sure), with the occasional show that changes our lives. Those series that have changed my life are dotted in a span that goes back 30 years or more, and although I was in college then, I never paid attention to anime until much later. I also admit that a few shows that changed my life were mediocre at best in terms of their content, artwork, or execution, and touched my heart in spite of that. But as to whether the quality itself is increasing or decreasing, I’d be hard pressed to say. Some long for the good old days when every cell was hand-drawn, and automatically regard computer animation (which, let’s face it, it all is now, regardless of whether we’d call it “CG art” or not) with skepticism. But I am not one of those people. My take is that there have always been good, mediocre, and bad anime series; the assistance of computers with the art makes for some things to be done better than ever while others can still be as crappy as always; and no one can ever guess whether the new series one is watching will take one completely by surprise (or cause one to ragequit halfway through the first episode).

Finally, Cassandra wonders: Is Rakugo really a dying art, or has it been picked back up and popular again? Just finished Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu and I’m in love! While rakugo may be somewhat of a dying art, I have strong doubts that it will disappear utterly from Japan. A quick perusal of YouTube will get you several rakugo segments, including some in English. The next time I’m in Glorious Nihon, I will try to remember to get the native viewpoint on rakugo, and on how easy or difficult it is nowadays to go see it. I can’t fault your taste, by the way, Cassandra-san. I think the general consensus on this blog was also that Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu was well above average at the very least.

OK, that’s enough of a break. Let’s all get back to homework! You have some, I believe? Not that Sensei doesn’t have homework of his own, after a fashion. In the meantime, stay well, and we will chat more next month.

Featured art by 楓華元澤 (reprinted w/permission)

R86

R86 is a chemistry professor, which is the sort of job that probably made you stop reading already. He teaches at Texas A&M University, also known to Austin dwellers as "Enemy Territory." In his spare time, he enjoys music (flute/saxophone/clarinet and MIDI/Vocaloid synthesis), gaming, and watching anime.

2 thoughts on “Ask Sensei: Shiraishi-kun Edition

  1. Thanks once again for the response, Sensei. I agree with you on your analysis. I’d say there’s a balancing act where it was harder to make good anime without the digital tools and hardware that had to be developed over time and with smaller teams to work on them. That balanced out with people becoming more dedicated to the genre and picky about what we good or bad, so I think your 80/20 pareto ratio is pretty good.

  2. Rakugo Generations was quite great, I must say. I loved the idea, the inherited titles, the crisis, the masters, the legacy thing were atypical and compelling, and Yuuga in particular was a very interesting character, being so humble and full of wonder. I would love to hear about God and chemistry, too. It sounds intriguing.

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