tsubame: (wings)
Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 05:05 pm
11 June 2012

Last night I dreamed of two people, hunters of the undead, a man and a woman . . . )

To Love Life, by Ellen Bass

The thing is
to love life
to love it even when you have no
stomach for it, when everything you've held
dear crumbles like burnt paper in your hands
and your throat is filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you so heavily
it's like heat, tropical, moist
thickening the air so it's heavy like water
more fit for gills than lungs.
When grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief.
How long can a body withstand this? you think,
and yet you hold life like a face between your palms,
a plain face, with no charming smile
or twinkle in her eye,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you again.

Walking in London, 14 May 2012

I feel, often, a piercing loneliness, and wish that I had someone with whom to share my travels. But there is a virtue in traveling by oneself, that being mainly that there is no one you need satisfy except yourself.

The Tuesday a week past, I set out to walk. )
tsubame: (aqua)
Sunday, April 8th, 2012 02:38 pm
As grey-eyed Athena was sprung from Zeus's headache, so I have headaches for my grey eyes.

And with them complete paralysis of the Right side of my body. Apparently it's a mutation; I'm not up on the research of a cure, and the pharmacy medicines I've tried are ineffective.

When I close my eyes during a migraine I see things-- a sunburst that turns into a neon star, computer-generated people making creepy gestures, a centaur walking away, elevation lines like a map. I have no idea how my mind comes up with these things; my mind does not work properly during a migraine.

I endure it because I have to, there is no choice in the matter. I slept for two days, aside from throwing up and using the bathroom, and my roommate took care of me (which I am deeply ashamed of). It is only today that I feel somewhat better-- but only somewhat.

But. Gods, during a migraine I truly appreciate the miracle of this freckled skin, these unbroken bones, my hair that sparks twenty colors in the sunlight. I appreciate my skills, humble though they may be, because I lose them all. I appreciate my memory because it disappears; I appreciate this computer as a miracle of technology; I contemplate stories and words because they mean so much and I can't speak a single coherent sentence during a migraine.

Human lives are so fragile. My own brain does this to me, and always I am afraid-- what if it lasts forever? What will I do?

I don't know.
tsubame: (wings)
Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 11:59 am
I just recalled a particularly vivid memory of a place that no longer exists-- specifically, the children's library in my town before it was extensively renovated. I remember where the Outlaws of Sherwood was, and the picture books, and the Albert Payson Terhune books, and the Choose Your Own Adventure books, and the ancient computers where I played Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego. There was a projects board where you could build things from paper, a different project every summer. One summer there was a medieval theme, and so you were trying to build a castle-- read a certain number of books and you got another piece for your castle. The ceiling was low, with unpleasant ceiling tiles and long florescent lights. The pile carpet was a dull maroon. The shelves were oak stained a dull brown. There were rectangular brown stools for reaching the higher shelves.

There was a tree outside, and in the summer it was like an overturned bowl of leaves. If you walked inside the leaves it was like being inside of a green building. The bark of the tree was grey and smooth without being glossy. There were so many branches it was quite easy to climb, and no one could see you there at all.

. . . I remember the library better than I remember the room I grew up in.

‎Come to think of it, I remember all the libraries perfectly. The libraries at my schools growing up, all three of them. The town library; the children's section from before it was renovated, and then the way it is now. The library a town over where I often went with my dad to get books our library didn't have. The library at my university, the library at the university where I studied abroad. The libraries in the schools I taught at in Japan. And now, the libraries at my postgrad university, and the two I regularly visit in town.

I remember the layout of the shelves. I remember where specific books I retrieved are, I remember where different sections are. I remember what the shelves were made of. I remember what they smelled like. I remember the stairs. I remember the library furniture. I remember how the buildings looked from the outside.
tsubame: (wings)
Sunday, October 16th, 2011 02:14 pm
These days it feels as if people have fled LiveJournal en masse, and I don’t know where they’ve gone. Granted I’ve been missing myself for quite some time-- first because of the endless black hole that was my dissertation, and then it was off to Rome, and then I entered the secondary black hole of job searching. You would think that being unemployed would mean I had a great deal of free time, and you would be right. But it also means that I always feel guilty that I’m not doing enough to find a job, which means that even when I’m procrastinating I don’t write, because writing is Not Looking For a Job.

I also accidentally fell into X-Men: First Class fandom, and seeing as this is the first time I’ve been in an overwhelmingly huge fandom, I always have an endless backlog of stories to catch up on. While this has been helpful in getting me through the trials of the past few months, it has also once again brought to my attention that I am absolutely and completely addicted to reading. I’ve been reading books at what has become my customary pace, but the reading that I do online is vast and near-constant. I read until I can’t bear to focus on the computer screen anymore, and then I pick up the nearest book and I read that for a while. If I have no book I read whatever I can get my hands on-- cereal boxes, junk mail, old newspapers. My friends laugh at my inability to get through this or that TV show, but the truth is that unless it really grabs my attention, I would rather read.

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I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day. “I know you’re nostalgic for the Jersey shore as you used to know it,” I said, “bustling, full of people, full of life. But when we went there when I was a kid, everything was run down, boarded up, with grass growing through the cracks and faded graffiti on the walls. And I remember that Dad used to take me by Hoboken on the train, and he would warn me that it wasn’t safe, I had to stay close to him. When I started going myself when I got older it was the same-- a bit run down, a bit seedy, long past the bustling days of the Lakawana rail line bringing vacationers in and out. I would go to the Hoboken Farm Boy and buy this cheap, scented Chinese soap I liked, I would go by the old comic book shop, eat at the Karma Cafe . . . but now Hoboken’s gentrified, and the Hoboken Farmboy is a cell phone shop, and the comic book shop’s long gone, couldn’t afford the rent, and I can’t afford to eat in the Karma Cafe anymore.

“I still like Hoboken, but I loved it as it was-- the Jersey shore, too. I’m nostalgic for them as I knew them: abandoned, run down, dreaming of lost glories.”

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Ghazal, by Dilruba Ahmed )
tsubame: (sleepy)
Sunday, October 2nd, 2011 12:57 am

Fresco map of Italy, from the map rooms in the Vatican

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8月21日 )

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bir var mis, bir yok mis )

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tsubame: (reading)
Monday, May 9th, 2011 11:17 pm

One of the views from St. Michael’s Bridge in Ghent. You just kinda stand in the middle of the bridge and turn in a circle, and it’s amazing no matter which way you look. You can see all the major sites from right there-- castle, cathedrals, churches, bell tower, canals . . .

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30 April 2011 (continued) )

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A picture from Sensei’s concert: Kurahashi Yodo and Ronald Brautigam, 28 April 2011, De Bijloke Muziekcentrum, Ghent

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1 May 2011 )

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A cup of chocolate in a Brugges cafe.
tsubame: (reading)
Sunday, May 8th, 2011 06:03 pm

Taken in Brugges during my first afternoon walking around there. I found a great deal of gorgeously blooming wisteria on my travels-- I never knew it smelled so nice. Sensei spent some time trying to get me to say “藤” and “藤壷” correctly. You’d think it wouldn’t be that hard, but I had a terrible time . . .

Transcripts of my writings from my recent trip to Ghent, Brugges, and Leiden.

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26 April 2011 )

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Sonnet XXX, by William Shakespeare (painted on a wall in Leiden) )

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“But now we are all, in all places, strangers and pilgrims, travelers and sojourners . . .”

~Robert Cushman, Pilgrim Leader, 1622

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Poem 23, by e e cummings (painted on a wall in Leiden) )
Thursday, March 24th, 2011 12:15 am

Here's a truly exotic location, at least by the standards of my journal . . . my hometown. Yep, that's just outside the local Greek restaurant in April of 2008. They have an AMAZING lamb kokkinisto, the dish that taught me that adding a pinch of cinnamon to your average tomato-based sauce results in awesome.

Picture taken to prove to a politely doubtful Japanese colleague that yes, there are blossoming cherry trees in the United States, and they are in fact beautiful-- as beautiful as their Japanese counterparts. The difference between cherry trees in Japan and cherry trees in the US is of course their extreme cultural significance in one place, and near total lack of cultural significance in the other. Sure, people in the US think that the cherry blossoms are pretty, but they're no more significant than other flowers, and a great deal less significant than some (the rose, for instance). Whereas I couldn't even begin to convey just how significant sakura are in Japanese culture.

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I find myself preoccupied with memories often lately-- I who have always been a child of the present moment. Always with me it has been today's dream, not yesterday's or tomorrow's. But again and again my thoughts drift backwards, and I wonder-- what am I seeking there? And why now?

Memories connect one to another, like beads on a string. I think of my brother, digging in the sand-- the sand at the pool that day we three escaped, trying to pass the painful hours-- the gritty, sticky sand at the Jersey shore, the drumming surf-- summer heat-- walking down from Kiyomizudera under the July sun--

Near my house in Japan, a street corner with a traffic light. I would ride my bike out to begin the day's adventure under a bright blue sky. Fly out across the street, standing on my pedals with the wind in my hair, swoop into the turn that would bring me arrowing down the road through the brilliant green of the rice fields. None happier than I, my heart singing inside of me--

A hundred times surely I did this, and now every time is one time, one moment, a single elation, an eternal singing joy.
Thursday, January 20th, 2011 12:54 am

Last spring I was able to go to a huge roller coaster park in Japan with some of my friends. Among the ten coasters in the park they also happen to have the world's largest wooden one; this is a view of it from the nearby Ferris wheel. I rode it once, but found that it gave me a pounding headache. Looks like I've gotten too old for wooden roller coasters. I did fine on the modern ones, though.

I might also have been more prone to headaches at the time, seeing as my parents were visiting. When my parents visited me in Japan I was usually in a state of high stress and constant sleep deprivation/exhaustion.

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Wednesdays are going to be my busy days; biweekly that means class from 9 AM to 9:30 PM, with an hour's break for lunch and dinner/transport each. And then walking 40 minutes home. Today was the first of them, and actually I found myself enjoying it. I like being busy; it makes me feel useful. Which explains why I so mercilessly over-scheduled myself while I lived in Japan; I did in fact enjoy it.

I've actually been rather lazy since coming to Scotland. I think I need to take further steps to remedy this.

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Over the vacation I had a chance for some long talks with my various family members, some of which were quite interesting.

Regarding a conversation with my little brother with attendant thoughts which cover socialism in Sweden, the causes of the American Civil War, rappers, and lottery tickets. )

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I had half an hour during my busiest busy day in which to procure dinner. I wanted to go to the Black Medicine coffee house, because its name is so cool, but I ended up wandering the wrong way. I was thinking thoughts of going into the KFC-- I was running out of time-- it would be easy to order there-- but at the last second I gave in to the terrible yellow plastic beacon of a down-at-the-heels middle eastern place with cheap battered tables and faded posters of deserts on the walls.

And glad I was to have done so. Their baba ganoush was LOVELY. And I found out that the "sh" sound at the end has a bit of a hard "g" sound in it. I am enlightened!

. . . okay, nowhere near. But I get a little closer every day!

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I found some fun and interesting things on the internet recently. Let me share them with you!

A friend who is obsessed with a cartoon show called Phineas and Ferb linked me to this episode which makes reference to Carmell Dansen. At which point I told her that about two years ago Japan discovered this song in its original Swedish. And before long ALL OF JAPAN WAS INFECTED. It caught on so hugely that every anime currently on the air (and many who just have extremely obsessive fans) was making their own version of it (Jack Sparrow's at 2.16, fyi).

The same friend taught me a new French phrase!

déjà moo - the distinct feeling that you've heard this bull before

My stock of French phrases is growing once again! I can now add this gem of wisdom to my recently-acquired "tes moeurs crapuleuses" ("your sordid morals") and "tu cherches à corrompre mon paresseux" ("you are trying to corrupt my sloth"). Thankee, Patrick O'Brian!

This picture is my current desktop walllpaper. About which I said . . . )

To which my adorable sister replied... )

She's so cute! <3

This comic is quite adorable.

Reading through Pandora Hearts led to this string of (mostly) non-spoiler comments on Facebook:

Comments Ahoy! )
tsubame: (yue)
Saturday, July 31st, 2010 09:23 am
One final adventure. And then, time to dream anew.

A Final Dream, Within Temptation

Lay your head down
And sleep on my shoulder
Lay your head down
And start a new dream

And for tonight the moment is over
Drift in a lullaby
Here where the stars reside
And angels are always seen

And lay your head down
The stars they have whispered
Hear what they say
And know that it means

The moon is your guide
The stars they have kissed her
As she goes gently by
Light as a baby’s sigh
Safe on a fairytale stream

And start a new dream
Monday, March 19th, 2007 03:00 pm
So. Had a migraine yesterday.

There have been batteries of tests, countless visits to doctors, blood samples, MRIs, you name it. During my first one, the most truly terrible of them all, I have vague memories of the large, featureless magnetic tube, of the doctors drawing over my scalp in red and blue wax pencil, of electrodes and sensors and needles. I didn't understand what was going on, just that I had a vague feeling that it had happened before, even though I didn't remember it.

It had happened before, about two weeks in the past. I didn't remember it because I wasn't really "there" at the time-- in fact I have no memory of those two weeks whatsoever, except possibly a brief flash of coherence during which I was begging someone, anyone, to make the pain stop.

My migraines aren't as bad anymore. In fact none of them have been as bad as that first one. They come once a year, maybe once every two years, they put you out on your back for a day, and that's that. Fact of life, just keep going.

Of course every time they're completely terrifying, but I've been having these for more than half my life now, so I know what's going on. The first sign is when my vision goes. I see half of words, half of the hand in front of my face, half of the world around me. The rest just isn't there, it stops.

The next thing that happens is I start losing feeling. It's always been in the left half of my body, only this time it was strange and it was the right half. My fingers are usually first; they tingle, and then go numb. I can move them, I can see them move, but the movements are clumsy because I can't feel anything. And then the numbness spreads until it's my whole arm. When it moves to my jaw and tongue things are bad; I can't talk. When it moves to my leg and foot, I can't walk. I can't feel the ground under me, or the muscles responding as my brain tells them to.

At this point I doubt I could speak coherently even if I were able to speak. I tried to send a text message to my friend to let her know what was up and couldn't hold a sentence in my head long enough to tap it out on the keys. I had to copy each word from the email I had just written, and even then I made many mistakes and kept having to go back. It doesn't feel this way from inside my head, but I don't think my brain functions properly when migraines are going on. I can't even copy a sentence from a screen or answer questions in a reasonable way.

Somewhere around there the pain starts hitting. In a way it's a relief, because it means that the frightening numbness is going away, and full vision is returning. Except for the fact that, well, it hurts. A lot.

It's hard to be more eloquent than that. This one wasn't as bad, it only hurt so much that I was naseuous with the pain. It didn't hurt as much as the times when the track of a bullet through my brain seemed a pleasure to imagine, no more than a sting that brings blessed relief in its wake.

It was just a little migraine. Not too bad. I'm on my feet and moving around the next day, no problem. I was on my feet and moving around yesterday night, even though every time I stood up my head started pounding.

No doctor has ever been able to figure out what to tell us to take. No doctor has ever been able to figure out what triggers them: stress, pork, chocolate, lack of stress, head trauma . . . there have been long lists of possibilities, but nothing's checked out. Nothing is consistant, so there's nothing we can avoid and so avoid migraines. No doctor knows what causes them: the latest guess is that we (my mother, myself, my siblings) are mutants.

Yep, we're mutants. Like the X-Men. Only instead of cool powers, we get headaches.

Fact of life. Just have to adjust for it and move on.
Friday, March 16th, 2007 12:14 pm
I'm tremendously excited today because I bought myself the Royal Tyler translation of the Tale of Genji yesterday. Conveniently, it's 54 chapters long-- meaning that if I read just one chapter every week, I'll be able to finish it in about a year. This seems to be an excellent goal and structure to me, and so I'm going to start with the first chapter this week. I made the book a nice cover, too, so it won't get damaged. It's a truly lovely (if massive) edition, with excellent footnotes, illustrations, maps, and a list of dramatis personae to start off each chapter.

And being posessed of some time, the next round of China photos! This time from lovely Xi'an. Once I finish of Xi'an, then it's on to Beijing, and then the China photos will be finished!

7月29日06 )

Photojournalism: Xi'an )
Thursday, February 15th, 2007 09:56 am
Valentine's Day is not a particularly relevant holiday for me. My favorite memory of the event is the one I spent drinking bitter in a 14th-century whorehouse, and this seems an adequate portrayal of my behavior on an occasion dedicated to romance.

Yesterday's February 14th had a very rocky start. I woke up late and had to run out, the signal boards were malfunctioning so I missed my train, a woman was throwing up on the platform, it started raining and didn't stop all day . . .

I spent the entire day singing, because [livejournal.com profile] lucifermourning called me to let me know that [livejournal.com profile] urizen proposed. She of course said yes.

Ah, dearest, you have no idea how happy I am for you. I wish you every conceivable joy, every good thing that this world has to offer. I would wish the same to your boy, but since he's marrying you there's really no need. It's strange, but somehow after 12 years of friendship I feel as if your happiness is mine as well. I've been going around bragging of it to all my colleagues and friends, who have greeted the news with a somewhat puzzled "um, good for her?"

Waited a day before posting to give you time to tell everyone yourself. :-D

In honor of this momentous occasion! Some pure, unadulterated Emrys/Nghia sap from the hitherto unacknowledged depths of my notebook. I will subsequently deny all knowledge of this snippet's existence. That other writings of a similarly repugnant and/or embarrassing nature might exist is obviously a vicious lie being spread by my enemies to discredit me.

To drive the cold winter away. . . )
Wednesday, December 13th, 2006 08:44 pm
Wednesday is my "free night," such as it were, and now that my stomach's complaints have been satisfied, at least for the time being, I'm free to sit at my kotatsu and do not much of anything. The apartment is cold despite the electric heater's constant blowing, and every ten minutes or so I'm forced to put my hands under the kotatsu blanket to warm them.

I have two episodes of Saiunkoku to watch, the sub of 23 and the raw of 29, both of which are finally available on YouTube. Indeed, they're already qued up on my computer, waiting for me, but despite my eagerness to see them I'm holding back. Right now the Nutcracker by Tchaicovsky is in the CD player, and I'm most of the way through the first act. In fact, as I'm typing, the snowflakes are beginning their dance. I can see them twirl, remember exactly the white balls of fluff they carried on delicate wands.

The Nutcracker has for a long time been a Christmas tradition for my family. Three out of every four years, we'd all pack ourselves into the station wagon for the trip to Manhattan, then park and walk together to the Met. Sometimes it was cold and bitter, and the sidewalks covered in ice. But the time that I remember most clearly it was warm and sunny, enough so that I wore short sleeves and removed my motorcycle jacket during the wait in the courtyard. A picture of the moment exists still: me sitting on the black marble ledge before the dancing plumes of white, my younger sister contentedly wrapped in my arms, the sky a perfect pale blue.

Listening to the music, I know exactly what happens, who is dancing and when. The story plays out in perfect time to the music. Now the Prince is re-enacting his battle with the mice before his court, and Marie and her shoe are coming to his rescue. Soon his various courtiers will dance for him and Marie . . . my favorites will come, the energetic Candy Canes, Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles, the leaping Cavalier, elegant Coffee, mischeivious Tea, the warm, dark-clad Trepak . . . Other things, as well, I can see; the chandeliers in the ceiling, the sweeping marble staircases, the huge pane windows. My father used to take us up to the top teir that ran by those windows, using the long, hanging ball-chain blinds to demonstrate the movement of a wave. I remember standing by him, watching the ripple travel all the way to the end of the rope, then turn in a split second and head back up to me.

Bizarrely, all my memories associated with the ballet are good ones. Even the year when our car actually caught on fire as we entered the toll gate for the G.W. Bridge is a good memory, because somehow no one really cared that the car had caught on fire, and that we had to have it towed. No, we all happily piled into my sister's boyfriend's car and continued right across the bridge despite it all, and had a wonderful time. Despite the fact that we had all just experienced it together, the rest of the trip was spent recounting the adventure to each other and laughing about it.

When we had all gotten to the point where we could easily identify when one of the dancers made a mistake, we unanimously and silently decided to give our attendance a break for a couple of years. Still I listen to the music every year at Christmas, and no matter how cold it may be I always feel warm.
Thursday, November 30th, 2006 12:03 pm
In my excitement over going home this year, I managed to forget the particularly volatile waters that potentially await me there.

Oh, there's the usual family things to deal with, negotiating a mix of not-always-harmonious personalities, that sort of thing. But now that I'm only in the States for two weeks out of any given year, my time is strictly limited. I only have those two weeks to ration out between family, friends, errands, and sleep. And, inevitably, someone ends up feeling jilted.

Well, not necessarily. The problem is really dealing with my father, who is deeply jealous of time I spend outside of the family during my visits. Of course I want to spend a lot of time with my family, but I also have a lot of friends that I want to see and catch up with. I want to get out of the house, I want to do fun things and eat at restaurants and generally enjoy myself. But if I spend time outside the family my father becomes steadily more sulky and upset with me.

And I have a lot of friends I need to spend time with. Certainly it's not unreasonable for them to ask for a chance to see me, for a day or two of my time when that's all they can have for an entire year. For my part I want to see them, I want to spend that time. But I'm constantly walking a tightrope between doing all the things I want to do and keeping my father happy.

The real irony of all this is that he doesn't really notice how much time I spend at home, or the times when he calls for me and I'm around to answer. What he notices is when I'm not there, when he calls and I'm off on some trip or other. I spent days sitting around the house doing not much of anything last year, I wasted hours on end waiting for him to finish with whatever he was doing so we could watch a movie together as we'd planned. But when I finally got tired of waiting and decided to accept a friend's invitation for a late-evening coffee, he became angry because I'd gone. Or he would come up with something he wanted to do with me the day before or the day of, and then would be hurt when I already had plans.

I know that the reason is because my father loves me and misses me desperately during the year when I'm away. I love him, and I miss him. But I wish he could be happy for the time that we do get to spend together and not make me feel guilty for the time when I go off to do something else. With him, the family is paramont, and friends are a poor second. He doesn't seem to realize that even though the family is very important, there are other things in my life that are not family-related that are also important to me. Or maybe he realizes it, but doesn't accept it.

This started to become a problem in high school, it became worse in college, and now . . . my friends don't see anything unreasonable in asking for a day or two of my time, and they're right, it's not unreasonable. I know they feel hurt and confused when I turn them down, or say that I can only stay for a few hours, or that I have to leave first thing in the morning after the sleepover. It's impossible to explain to them that I have to sit around the house doing nothing on the off chance that my family needs me for something. I can't even invite people over to sit with me, because it's rude to turn people out of the house when something else comes up, and because to my family that's almost the equivalent of me not being there.

I know for a fact that other families are not so demanding as mine, and that my friends don't have this problem, even the ones who live far away from their families. And I'm glad that my family loves me so much that they want me to spend as much time as possible with them. But I really wish that everyone, especially my father, would relax about it. I don't want to have to be constantly worrying about whether I'm keeping everyone happy, I don't want to have to keep my calendar clear on the off chance that someone will decide they want to go ice skating or whatever. I want to enjoy my vacation.

Unfortunately the reality is that I can't and have never been able to because I have to always be thinking about how I can satisfy everyone and keep things peaceful.

To my friends: please don't stop asking me to do things with you, or calling me, or anything. Just please understand and don't be disappointed if I have to turn you down or limit the amount of time I spend with you. And please forgive me if invitations, and especially come-over-to-my-house invitations, are not particularly forthcoming on my part. I value you highly and more, but dealing with my family can be a nightmare and a half when things get difficult.
Wednesday, August 16th, 2006 01:05 am
Siblings are over, so while events are many updates are few and far between. When did my brother get so freaking handsome? When did my sister get so freaking beautiful? They astound me. The things you miss when you move out . . . of course they were handsome/beautiful when I was home for Christmas, but now it's x10. Crazy.

I have an alarming tendancy to make inadvertant and horrible puns. I never actually realize until after I've said them, and I feel deep remorse akin to agony upon realization, but they are just horrible enough to deserve recounting.

One of my worst, to my recollection, occurred earlier this spring. Japan can get quite hazy around then, and I remarked on it to one of my teachers.

"Oh, yes," he said. "That's because the wind picks up sand from the Gobi Desert in China during this time, and carries it through the air and drops it on Japan."

I recounted what he said to a friend of mine who was also curious about the reason, but she seemed somewhat dubious about his story. "I mean, sand from the Gobi Desert? Do you really think that's true?" she asked me.

"Dunno," I said. "It seems a little far-fetched to me . . ."


All of this comes up, of course, because I made another one tonight. My mother recently came back from Venice. While she was there, she visited Verona and saw this medeival statue of Cangrande della Scala. He's an interesting man with an interesting history. She told me a possibly apocryphal tale of how he got his name: christened Francesco, he was so impressed by Marco Polo's tales of Ghengis Khan that he decided to take the Khan's name as his own. However, he misinterpretted it as meaning "cane," "dog" in Italian. And so he was called the Big Dog of the della Scala family, and took the dog as his personal symbol.

Wikipedia disagrees on the origin of the name, but I like the story.

His family name, della Scala, translates to "of the stairs" or "of the ladder," because his family originally made their fortune by building ladders. She then told me that they rose from that position, acquiring wealth and power, until through military might Cangrande came to rule all of Verona.

"Wow," I said. "They went from making ladders to ruling Verona? That's a bit of a step up . . ."


I promised my mother I would commit seppuku immediately, but as I didn't have a sword handy, my vow was broken not long after it was made.
Tuesday, July 4th, 2006 04:20 pm
I just finished the Farthest Shore, by Ursula K. LeGuin. The contented, full feeling that one gets after finishing an excellent book runs through me now, along with the certain knowledge that I'll never write anything half as good. Even if I spend my whole life trying, and I will.

This is in preparation for the new Studio Ghibli movie coming out . . . well, I don't know when at the moment, but since the ad campaign has begun it should be fairly soon. I'm unreasonably excited about it.

* * * *

When I die, I will be beyond wishing, but in the meantime, this is what I wish for when I am dead:

I prefer to be cremated. The reasons for this are both practical and not. In terms of practicality, cremation saves the cost of a coffin and a grave plot, both of which seem overly and unneccessarily expensive to me. No point in spending that much money on something that's just going to rot away in the ground, after all. From another standpoint, there's a certain amount of appeal to giving one's earthly remains over to the bright purity of fire. I don't understand what fire is-- a chemical reaction, I am told, and yet it seems to have a presence that science cannot account for. A being that isn't explained by the triangle of ingredients necessary to create it.

As for what is done with the ashes, if scattering proves easiest, then that's fine. But I think I would like it if they were buried in some kind of biodegradable container, and a tree planted over them-- an oak, I think, as my house growing up was surrounded by huge, beautiful oaks. I don't require any other memorial, and certainly no huge and showy gravestone-- if there must be something, a simple stone or plaque with my name on it is more than sufficient.

Funerals are important to the living, and so I would like to have one, but I'm not concerned with the specifics. Again, I don't want there to be a great deal of expense involved. A Christian one is fine if my family would prefer, as long as it's open to everyone (I don't see why it wouldn't be, but just in case). As long as it provides the opportunity for my various family and friends to get together, share their memories, and say a symbolic good-bye.

Afterwards, however, everyone is required to go out and eat an awesome meal, party, and have a good time! No sitting around boo-hooing, I won't stand for it. Well, I'll be dead, but if I were alive (and dead at the same time, because otherwise there'd be no reason for boo-hooing) I wouldn't stand for it!

People are also required to be sensible about their partying and drink lots of water with their alcohol, because anyone who wakes up the next morning with a hangover will wake up to hear my ghostly and merciless laughter, too.
Saturday, June 3rd, 2006 01:41 am
I sit in my apartment, at the now-unplugged kotatsu. Bach cello concertos, my companion for the past two evenings, fill the air with a timeless beauty not at all at odds with the hodgepodge of papers and eclecticism that is my apartment. I am the only rhyme and reason that exists in this place; logical, since it is mine for however long I stay here and continue paying for it.

I was in Kyoto-proper this evening, arranging my dinner for tomorrow. I am at the age where things only happen for your birthday if you do them yourself; as much as one might wish to remain quiet about the event and be pleasantly but predictably surprised by the thoughtfulness of one's friends, it is much wiser to make one's own arrangements and avoid the potential disappointment that could result from one's friends not actually doing anything. Because they have a plethora of distractions each, after all.

I can on occasion be wise, though the childish pride that still lives within me rails against it. But it's just that stubborn pride that causes us to hurt ourselves, and then rage at a sourceless Other.

If I am ever hurt, I cannot entirely free myself of blame. Of course it's wrong for someone to hurt me, but if they have managed it then I have left myself open to that hurt. I like to think of it as a warrior's mentality: to gaurd yourself.

Having nowhere in particular that I needed to be, I paused on the Sanjo Bridge. Below, on the bank of the Kamo River, fire spun and twirled in swift arcs around the twisting bodies of the dancers, serpents and orbiting comets of orange flame. Drummers pounded out a rhythm that was music all by itself, the familiar boom-tekka-tek an external heartbeat. I took off my shoes and perched on a stone piling to watch-- the dancers, the flames, the drummers, their various friends, the audience, the passers-by. Such a convocation of people, many of them young. Guitar-toting hopefuls waiting for discovery, businessmen sipping at beer cans, tourists staring in wonder, families on their way to or from restaurants. A thousand stories, walking to and fro, as the dancers whirled and leapt, tossing their flaming staffs into the air and catching them again, as artfully self-concious as they could be while handling fire. Well aware of their own allure and reveling in it.

I am a writer, which means that I move in a world of stories. My own life is not a story, it is a thousand stories, none of them mine. I assigned names and identities to the characters who passed me by, memorized faces and roles, and wondered vaguely what they saw when they looked at me. Nothing that invited intimacy of any sort, of course; sometimes I wonder if what I am comes through to the point that other people can sense it, and it keeps them away. Or is the unloveliness of my face sufficent to discourage any attention whatsoever? I have walked unmolested in the dark hours, in the questionable sections of various jagged cities. Lopsided face, a body at least four hundred years out of fashion, skin alternately mottled and spotted, any gold or red in my hair losing out to muddy brown, disproportionate limbs, short and stubbed fingers . . . a thousand beginnings that never came to fruition . . . every piece of me a broken promise . . . and the focal point of my being: a writer's eyes, shifting blue-green-grey, calm yet inconstant. Remote. Always watching, and somehow forbidding both desired and undesired attention. Set apart forever, whether I will it or no.

I can't win if I fight against myself. I can't remake my being, even if I should wish to. I can't move from story-maker to story, cannot become the main character when I am not myself a character at all. I am meant to tell stories, not to be them.

This is not my life, this is a search for stories. I am not a person, I am a thing which exists to find stories, and to tell them.
Friday, May 12th, 2006 10:25 am
Anyone who reads this journal knows by now that I don't really do the "random life updates" that are so common to livejournal. Political stuff and news articles? Yes. Travel writing? Yes. Introspection? Yes. Writings? Yes. Heavily disguised and confusing angst-rambles? Yes. Poetry postings? Yes. Photos? Yes. "This is what I did today and how my life is going"? Very, very rarely.

Well, why not?

I'm . . . not entirely certain. But it's not something that's unique to my livejournal, as you may well know if you talk to me in any medium outside it. I don't really talk about my everyday life much with other people-- not on the phone, not face-to-face, not in emails or letters or IM or whatever. Possibly because, as I live it every day, it doesn't seem particularly interesting to me, and hence I consider it even less interesting to other people.

I have often been accused of hypocrisy because, while I am disinclined to share the details of my existence, I am deeply interested in the details of my friends' and family's lives and insist on hearing about them. What no one seems to understand is that this is not hypocrisy, but two entirely different situations that do not bear comparison. Apples and oranges. The same goes for when I give advice to others that I do not follow myself. Firstly, your situation and mine are entirely different. Secondly, I fail to see how my failure to do what I should invalidates the fact that it should be done, by myself and by others.

. . . I suffer deeply from wordiness. All I wanted to say in the above is that I don't often do random life updates, but today I am!

School (work) has once again eaten my life. Obscurely this makes me happy-- I like nothing better than feeling that I'm needed and useful, and staying late and coming early and working constantly throughout the day fill me with contentment. I had a terrible time adjusting to spring vacation-- an entire month when I wasn't necessary at all! It was horribly depressing for the first week or so before I adjusted and kicked myself into pursuing my own projects, at which point I felt much better. I like to be busy, which is why I usually am. When I have nothing I'm supposed to be doing, I make things for myself to do.

Yes, I'm a workaholic. When a friend asked me to meet him during my lunch break, it took me a little while to remember that yes, I actually have one. Or I'm supposed to have one, anyway. Usually I just eat in about five minutes and go back to whatever I was doing.

So now I'm busy and happy to be so. Unfortunately, expending so much energy at school means that I have none left over for life details-- mental energy as much as physical. So for the past two weeks I've been going back to my apartment and either reading or playing video games until I fall asleep, usually without doing any cleaning or cooking or practicing or studying or emailing or writing or anything. It's not that I don't have time to do these things, it's just that they all seem to take too much effort and I'd rather sit around, thinking and doing not much at all.

Sometimes it seems like I'm a machine with only two settings: "go" and "dead."

Possible third setting: obsess over Yue. Because as I've said to [livejournal.com profile] majochan, a real fangirl never dies, she just gets distracted by other shiny things for a while.

Other possible third setting: kick ass in Kingdom Hearts 2. I am totally ruling that game. Possibly because I take vicious joy in pulverising enemies with my Big Stick o' Poking and never run away from battles. And I have my Big Book o' Cheating to make sure I don't miss any items, too! But I missed one back in Twilight Town and I can't go back for it and you have no idea how much pain that hole in my items list causes me. Oh, and I think Sora's voice is teh awesome.

. . . this would be another reason why I don't do random life updates. I'd rather obsess over other things than my life. Sometimes when I talk to other people I'm astounded by just how much time and energy they devote to themselves. I don't mean that I think they're selfish or self-centered, just that . . . they ponder conversations they've had in minute detail, plan future ones, deeply analyze their interactions with others, ruminate over possibilities and choices, and expend a great deal of energy just in being themselves. It's not something that I really understand. Why obsess over my own problems? Will thinking about them make them go away or really change anything when I can't actively do something about them? Not really. So I just shrug, figure that things will work out eventually, and go on with whatever I'm doing.

Likewise I see no need to try to be myself-- whatever it is that I'm doing, or thinking, or whatever, that's myself. How could I do something that isn't me? How could I be someone that isn't me? It doesn't make sense at all. I can pretend to feel something I don't feel, but that's still me doing the pretending. I can say something I don't really mean, but that's still me doing the talking. As much as I enjoy and indulge in philosophical conversations about what makes us who we are, I don't feel particularly confused or upset about it myself.

. . . even when I try to do random life entries, I end up not doing them. Um. Today I had a first year class with Kodama-sensei, it went okay. Last night I played Kingdom Hearts 2 and had gyoza and toast and cheese and . . . um, something else I don't remember for dinner. Yesterday I had two classes with Nomura-sensei, which were a bit awkward because I don't have a pattern worked out with her yet. This weekend I'm going to see RENT. Next weekend I'm going whitewater rafting in Gifu, and that week is the recontracting conference in Kobe, and I really need to study more and practice more, and . . .

. . . and I'm very, very bored with this. Since I'm bored with this, you must be too. So. BACK TO WORK!!!
Tuesday, April 25th, 2006 01:57 pm
After Toshogu, Futarasan Jinga was a welcome releif on the eyes. )

Taiyuinbyo is the shrine devoted to Tokugawa Iemitsu, the grandson of Ieyasu. My guidebook says that "if Toshogu is elaborate, then Taiyuinbyo is sublime," and I agree with their assessment. Toshogu overwhelms, but Taiyuinbyo impresses. )