arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Chibi Lovelace investigates!)

Oh howdy, folks.


My life's been pretty exciting as of late.

Contained within: relevance. )
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Popcorn.)
So yeah, it's not a good watch.

I know, I know, everyone told me it wasn't worth it. But it's Ghibli! And Earthsea! I had to at least try.

It's basically like The Golden Compass. Only more boring. )

Blech. I am disappoint.
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Take a bite)
One thing I hadn't expected about living in New York? Laundromat living. Taking all my clothes on my back and hauling them half a block to be whip-washed and tumbledried, and maybe folding the contents of my sock drawer on the long table while I'm waiting for the sweats to dry.

Efficiencies develop differently in different places. The dorm laundries in college were similar in that they were long rows of big machines, but different in that they were secluded in a basement instead of tumbling my underthings in full view of the street. My bittypartment in Japants had a laundromat nearby for those few times when I needed a dryer, but what I used was the tiny, plastic, water-efficient washer on my back balcony. I hung my wet washing to dry like everyone else. No panty thieves dared make the climb.

The hosts in India had a similar, if more battered and less used, plastic washing machine. They hauled it out with great ceremony for me, and I expressed gratification and was duly impressed, but... it wasn't really very useful, when the power cut out twice daily and once at night.

So I hand-washed, like the hostmom taught me, with two buckets and a faucet and a brush, and a bright orange-red box of Tide just like the ones on the shelves ten feet from where I'm sitting now.* Soak first, wring out, lay out, scrub, rinse twice, hang up. Wave hello to the neighbor kids watching me do laundry on my rooftop. Smile and laugh and duck behind the pants for the little ones, who shrieked in laughter when I reappeared. Sing songs to myself, sometimes, always aware that someone on the road or a neighboring rooftop was listening.

(Retreat into my box, more often than not, and curl up on my bed with my laptop where at least no one could see me for a second or a minute or fifteen)

and emerge smiling, and take down the dry laundry after dark. Or sometimes not until the next day. But always, always, before the boy students appeared that afternoon for tutoring.

I pull my undies out of the dryer in plain sight here. Sometimes I even fold them while I'm waiting for the rest to dry! But always, always, I'm looking over my shoulder or down the table or out the window, just glancing, surreptitiously: who's watching? (Am I shaming someone? Will that kid tell his parents about it?) And sometimes I move around the table, so I'm blocking the view of my ~unmentionables~ from the sidewalk.

But I'm friends with my laundromat owner! He's a cool guy. Speaks Chinese. There was a stray book in Japanese left behind on the table, so I picked it up and started reading, and he promptly gave it to me. Said it'd just been kicking around the place anyhow. We discuss politics and world events, and when the dryer heating broke he comped my wash.

And, luxury: a dryer-warm rug, felt with bare feet.

*It was the brand names that jarred me on a daily basis. There I was, nodding hello to the shepherd who was shooing his flock along the dusty road, and one of his charges would be gnawing away at a chemical-bright reflective bit of plastic that said Frito-Lay.

I've mostly not eaten things out of hard polyurethane bags since I came back. It probably doesn't make a difference. I definitely don't make a Big Personal Stand out of it. But I don't buy popcorn or chips or things like that.

Everything else was dusty, but the imported advertising was bright. The sanitary napkins sold at the lady-run general store just outshone the whole place.

I think of the marketing executives in this city who made the decisions that led to that. I'm still peeling out what I think, and how I feel, a year and a half later, and to be honest all I really have to show for it is a vague bilious clot in the back of my throat. And a personal aversion to Ruffles.
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Tir: =])
So tonight, I went with a friend to the Life Cafe. Yes, the one in RENT. Yes, their burgers are delish. PS, feta cheese on a salmon burger == yes.

And then on the way back, on the subway, a busker got on and started strummin' his guitar. I usually block 'em out with the headphones but I figured, what the hell, I'll give him a shot. And he started singing


Ue wo muite / arukou / namida ga koborenai yo~uni

yes. In Japanese and then in English.

And tomorrow I'm off to see a pair of rare Miyazaki shorts in Carnegie Hall. Yup. Life's awright!
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Gremio faceless)
After three hours on the morning ferry, we landed in snow covered Hakodate and had... melon-flavored ice cream. Yubari melon, I remember. They were selling it at the base of the tower, the one that stands just off the corner of Goryokaku Fort.

Goryokaku is Hokkaido's pentagonal fort. I walked around one much like it in, I think, Copenhagen. This one was apparently designed by a European dude too. Still, I bet the one in Copenhagen doesn't have an adorable duckbilled mascot which makes cameo appearances in snow effigy.


One related thing about Hakodate I like: the manhole covers.  )

*You never remember the event, after the first time. You just remember your remembering. Is this true, or just something I read somewhere?
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Default)
The morning after the best oyster dinner in the whole world, we pranced off quite early and separated. A last look at pretty Matsushima,


and I went on to Aomori, first to wander the streets and see what I could see.


Bizarre things, museum things, and ferry things behind the cut. )
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Cheer up emo kid)
On the way back from work and various other shenanigans, finally, at 10.30 this evening, I crossed the street that sets off my little neighborhood. It's a straight-shot street towards Manhattan and the Chrysler building tops the skyline at what looks like the end of it. I glanced down thataway and saw three other people crossing the street, same direction same time, each one a block further away than the last.

It made me think maybe there was one person crossing the street on every block all the way to the Chrysler building. c:

So our national Christian nutjobs made a fuss about a video art piece at the Smithsonian, and the Smithsonian, geniuses that they are, opted to pull the piece from the exhibit "in order to avoid controversy." Lol, guys. Banned books GET PRESS. Does becoming part of the establishment just blind you to this fact, or something? So now naturally all the news that's coming out about the entire gay artists' exhibit centers on four seconds of a seven-minute video that's not even there anymore. Other galleries are showing it in protest. WAY TO GO, GUYS.

Other interesting news! Vague insinuations inferred from ceremonial speeches couched in flowery language uttered by the Imperial Family of Japan has gotten some hopes up, among the people who pay attention to these things, that maybe they're considering changing succession rules anyways. For those of you who are just joining us: in 2005, folks in the land of the Rising Sun were all up in a tizzy because there hadn't been a son in the Royal Fam for forty years, and the rules are only the male heir of a male heir gets to take the Chrysanthemum Throne. So some douchebags said "the Crown Princess should just pop out more babies," whereupon Crown Prince Naruhito told them all to STFU on behalf of his postpartum-depression-recovering wife, and other people said "hey let's change da rulez!!"

And then the second prince Akishino had a baby boy and everybody simmered down.

But! Last Tuesday was Akishino's birthday, and Wednesday was Aiko's (that's Naruhito and Masako's bbeh girl, the eldest of the new generation and Coulda-Been-Empress-To-Be.) So 'twas the occasion for imperial speeches. And in his Akishino hinted, in a roundabout and formal way, that the family was Thinking About The Future.

Read: If baby boy doesn't have any sons, the family's screwed. MAYBE WE SHOULD FIX THIS. 8Da

So who knows.

The best mixer for plum wine, in all of creation, is pure mikan juice. I have discovered this, and it is true.
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Default)
The doctrine of Expedient Means in Buddhism is clearly one of the reasons this whole self-propagating meme complex (ie: religion) has lasted so long. It goes like this:

If you're a master you can lie to your students, or obscure the way to the Final Truth, or get away with a lot of shit that would normally be a no-no, IF your teaching methods are the best for advancing your particular student along their personal enlightenment path.

If the most expedient means to teaching your disciple is to punch him in the face, and as a result of said punch he gets this epiphany, then you did it right! Even though violence, as a general rule, is not cool. So under this doctrine, a whole lot of priests got a whole lot of flexibility in teaching their particular schools. Certain Zen Masters got to paint silly political cartoons for the masses in between their calligraphic masterpieces for their temples, because a little wry, well-directed humor in a public forum could nudge thousands along their way to a little real epiphany that they wouldn't otherwise get.

Or, as another - more classical - example: The Buddha is eternal. However, he allowed his followers to think he was dead, because his perceived absence inspired in them a longing for the Buddha, and so they pursued his teachings and advanced down their spiritual paths with great vigor.

That was the most expedient means towards the next stage of their enlightenment.

UNFORTUNATELY.... and this is a paper I could maybe write someday... with the advent of good record-keeping, good communication, and other accoutrement of the information age, Expedient Means might be losing its effectiveness as a tool for mass education. After all, us students can just go on the internet and find out, hey, SPOILER: Buddha's not really dead! Or even maybe trace the path some monk walked from koan to koan, riddle to riddle.

Then again, that might just mean that Expedient Means is most effective where it's always been: within a one-on-one education between master and disciple. The master can see the whole path, can indeed see multiple paths, and also perceive their essential unity. The disciple can only see the breadcrumbs laid before him by the master, and must follow them to the best of his ability. Even if they seem to lead him away from the final truth at first step.
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Oh no you didnt)
I packed all of my books to move, and then promptly found another box in the garage, left unopened for years. So: Japanese-language manga for sale.

All books are $1 per volume.

Girly comics under the cut. )

x-posted to [ profile] manga4sale , [ profile] mangashojo 
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Cheep cheep)
I UNDERSTAAAAAAAAND. Everything, or close to everything, after the duel with Juri. I think I even get why the story was told this way!

Incoming. )
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (DC- Speedy is a dramaqueen)



Jul. 12th, 2009 07:42 am
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Default)
The taiko competition last night was won handily by a pair of cocky, good-natured showmen of the ages 13 and 17. The elder reminded me quite a bit of a trombonist I'd known by association in high school, who for weeks before chamber music competitions practiced morning, noon, and after school in band hall - and for one stretch of time had a small, perfectly circular purple bruise on his mouth in the exact shape of the brass mouthpiece.

The younger danced and bounced about as if there were springs in his knees. He was gangly and smiley and grinned out at the audience at every turn with the absolute confidence of a child master.

I'm off to the souran competition. Wish us luck!


Jul. 9th, 2009 05:44 pm
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Justice for all)
Racism in Japan is just as accepted a cultural precept as good manners.

This makes me uncomfortable for a whole load of easily-unpacked reasons and a few that aren't so straightforward.

Tiny Backwoods Elementary-Middle, home of Bullheaded Teacher Who Can't Really Teach, bade me a mixed farewell today. Those classes whose homeroom teachers have kicked out BTWCRT and team-taught the best elementary-school English classes in my district with me had warned their kids in advance that it was my last day, and their kids gave little heartfelt thank-yous and shook my hands. Those classes he still holds in his sweaty grip were caught unawares, and when he told them [Okay, now a short speech from each of you!]

they just sort of sat there and stammered. It was uncomfortable for all involved. It's hard to believe he would've done anything had the Teachers Who Don't Even Teach English not completely shown him up yet again.

Why is iChat telling me AIM can't sign me in thanks to a "General Error"? Does software even try to label its failures anymore?


Jul. 8th, 2009 09:02 pm
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Default)
Amicably Distant Elementary gave me a cute send-off with some really adorable group pictures. I forgot to call the embassy again, am putting off talking to predecessors, and have to file taxes.

Otherwise things are remarkably on-schedule. I can even terminate my cell phone contract right at the airport; bless you, Japan, and all your convenience.


Jul. 7th, 2009 11:16 pm
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (DC: Robin training)
Curse you, bacon - peanut butter pasta sauce. You are truly more terrible for my body than fried ramen with bacon and egg yolk, and very nearly as delicious.

I failed my JET final exam today. I lost my temper; let an eleven-year old to get to me. It wasn't as if I completely snapped and bellowed, the way I did when I broke up the fight. But the thing is, if he's yelling his backtalk (at a rate of approx. three times a minute) at maybe 40% of his full output, and I whirl on him and swoop close and yell back at 40% of my full output... I'm yelling a lot louder.

Way to round out the school year with these punks, Lina. And there were barely 7 minutes of class left to go.


Jul. 3rd, 2009 02:32 pm
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Justice for all)
I just earned a full days' salary for having a lunch party with nagashi soumen and homegrown homemade french fries, beautifully seasoned.

The prefix 'home', in this instance, denotes Favorite Backwater Middle School, the 14-student bastion of cheery thought and good cooking in the mountains where I spent my birthday and any number of other memorable occasions. I leave them with the ability to pronounce 'th', knowledge of proper procedure to create a pop-up Christmas card, awareness of an obscure American festival known as Mardi Gras, and a mix CD of TV themes, Queen, and Paul and Storm.

Nagashi soumen is when you have a really, really long piece of bamboo, split down the middle. And you prop one end of this half fairly high up on a table, and stick the other half in a sieve in the sink on the other side of the cooking classroom. With a bit of rubber hosing, you start up a steady stream of water down the makeshift canal, there, and then you take your giant bowl of slippery noodles and drop them, chopstickful by chopstickful, into the stream. Those consuming said noodles are waiting along the sides of the bamboo, chopstics at the ready to fish their lunch from running water. They dip it once in your little bowl of soy broth (with ginger and scallions to taste,) and slurp it down in time to catch the next mouthful tumbling downstream.

I had never done this before. It's really very fun. You need to be dextrous! Or else just stick your chopsticks in the running water to catch all the noodles, but that's considered cheating.


Jul. 2nd, 2009 09:16 pm
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Cheep cheep)
Went through my Tasmanian slideshow for three middle-school English teachers and got homesick for Hobart. Which is ridiculous, as I've barely spent a week of my life there.

Am totally kicking ass at souran dancing. And omelettes.

19 days left.
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Cheep cheep)
Only he's not as good.

Goin' camping for the weekend, folks, seeya on the flip.
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Cheep cheep)
That's right: Random Question time.

So a gourmet cake is worth about $30, right? Ish.
arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (TT: Beast Boy is no.1)
+15 Cooking!

Lina learned the ability [ Carnival Food! ]

Presenting: Fried ramen on a roll. The best damn fingerfood I have ever made.

A recipe!? Wat is this madness )


arkster: Excited dragon is excited. (Default)

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