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Duolingo stories

My desktop calendar is reminding that tomorrow we set off for Colombia. Thank you, desktop calendar, but I don't think I could forget that fact.

I'm nearly all ready. Just a few more tasks. But I took a break just now to practice Spanish with Duolingo Stories. (Interestingly, it turns out that one of the founders of Duolingo is from Guatemala. There's tense-making episode of the Duolingo Spanish podcast in which he describes how his family dealt with the kidnapping of his aunt.)

The Duolingo Spanish Stories are wonderful. Some of them are downright hilarious, like this one, "Muñecos de boda", about newlyweds who have been given two terrifying marionettes as a wedding gift. And the one I just finished, "Decisiones", had a moment that made me laugh out loud:

Marcos says, "I love this place," and Laura says "Me too. I just met our neighbor. He has thirty-five birds as pets." "Everyone needs a hobby," Marcos remarks amiably.

It's a very fun way to practice Spanish!

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/885308.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

from paid to free account

Hi LJers--this is an LJ-only post. I mentioned this earlier, but I just want to mention again that in five days, my LJ account will go from being a paid account to being a free one. (I pay for the DW account, which I crosspost from, and I don't feel like paying for both.) That means unless *you* have a paid LJ account, you'll be barraged by ads when you look at this account. No hard feelings if you don't want to keep reading! (I post much less frequently than I used to, in any case.) Or, you can click over to DW and read the entry there.


Briarley, by Aster Glenn Gray

Briarley retells the story of Beauty and the Beast, imagining what might happen if Beauty’s father was man enough not to let his daughter sacrifice herself for him. Instead, he stays in her place.

In this retelling, it’s World War II, and the father is a parson who’s also a veteran of the Great War, and the beast takes the form of a dragon.

You know this is going to be a different type of retelling by the parson’s initial reaction to the dragon’s dilemma:
“The curse says you must learn to love and be loved, does it not? Those are the only conditions?” The dragon nodded, his head still buried in his heads. The parson broke a piece off a roll and buttered it. “Then I suggest you get a puppy,” he said.

Nor is this mere flippancy: “I have seen shell-shocked soldiers make great, great strides when they are given charge of a dog,” he says, and adds,
“A dog is a more loving creature than man. All the things that we wish we were, dogs are: loyal, faithful, loving, and cheerful in the face of adversity.

And that’s the type of story this is: the parson musing on the nature of love, different types of love, in the company of the dragon, who’s at first haughty, vain, capricious, and entitled, but gradually becomes… well, somewhat less so. Gray resists the easy out of a dramatic personality transformation—the emotional equivalent of taking off the glasses and having a character become suddenly gorgeous. Real people are beloved despite being prickly and short tempered. In this story, the parson has reasons for feeling both deep pity for and a deep attachment to the young man that the dragon once was.

The two talk not only about love, but also morality, vindictiveness, compassion—so much. And lest I’ve made it sound like some kind of milk-soaked graham cracker of a story, let me quickly also add that it’s **funny** too, as when the dragon and the parson have this exchange:
“That’s not how you learn to love, not at all. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it does not kidnap – ”

“You’re misquoting,” the dragon interrupted. “Paul doesn’t say anything about kidnapping.”
The parson replies, “I believe the injunction against kidnapping is implied by all the rest of it.”

It’s an original, moving, surprising story—I highly recommend it. It's available on Amazon here.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/885013.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

upcoming trip

I'm under the gun with work right now, but I have an adventure to look forward to: Wakanomori and I enjoyed the landscapes of La Niña and Lady: La Vendedora de Rosas so much that were traveling to Colombia on May 23, returning very late on June 2. Oh boy! Time to test out two-years-and-a-bit of Duolingo Spanish! But hey, when I very-first traveled to Japan, that's about how much Japanese I had, and I had considerably less Tetun when I went to East Timor. Anyway, I have an ice breaker, a question to ply people with: "Cuentame una historia de este lugar."

"Yeah," said a friend of mine, "but will you understand the response?" Good question. Maybe in bits and pieces? Fragments? Especially if they speak.... wait for it.... DES... PA.... CITO!

Sorry, sorry. The truth is, I really love that song. Me and several billon other people--currently 5.1 BILLION VIEWS on Youtube. Woo!

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee are Puerto Rican. Have a different song that I also love, by a Colombian singer, Kiño, assisted by Jennifer Arenas and Elmece. It's "Sueños cumplidos," and it was the music that played at happy moments in Lady: La Vendedora de Rosas**

ETA--All of which to say, I will likely not be reading or posting much, if at all, during the days of the trip.

In unrelated news, but noteworthy for anyone who reads this on LJ: my paid account will expire while we're gone. I'm letting it lapse: I pay for the account over at DW, and I've decided not to pay both places. This means if you're reading at LJ, you will start to be assaulted by all manner of ads. There'll always be a link at the bottom of the entry to the original post on Dreamwidth, so you're welcome to come read here if you prefer an ad-free experience.

**Incidentally, I'm reading the story of her life (v...e...r...y slowly, which great help from a dictionary app), upon which the telenovela was based, and dang, but a lot of the things featured in the telenovela actually did happen.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/884968.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

guess who did a lot of chopping wood?

I took my car to the mechanic's yesterday, all dressed in my running gear, because I planned to run a back route back to my house. The mechanic's dad drove up just as I was about to set off and offered me a ride home--he's such a gent; he's given me a ride home in the past. I told him no, this time I was going to get my exercise, but we chatted for a few minutes anyway. The mechanic is about my age (maybe slightly younger... everyone who is about my age is actually slightly younger), and his dad is about my dad's age--with many fewer teeth but more high spirits.

I love the dad--I love talking to him about his past in this town, when it was really a tiny rural farming community. I told him I'd seen a community TV interview with him about going to the one-room schoolhouse they used to have in town. "Oh yeah," he said. "No heat, no running water. Just a wood stove. If you were bad, you had to split the wood for it, so guess who had to split a lot of wood?"

He told me one time he put another kid's boot into the fire! ... Pranks are different when you have a wood stove in the mix!

I was thinking about how different his school experience was from my dad's. My dad went to school in Lexington, Massachusetts. Running water, heat in winter, no splitting wood, no outhouses. Same state, different worlds.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/884713.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

give us this day

our daily dandelion

daily dandelion 4 May 2018

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/884302.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Semiosis, by Sue Burke

I read Semiosis because, like Children of Time, it promised to deal with alien intelligences—and it did: several, in fact. But where it really spoke to the other book, where I sense a zeitgeist thing maybe going on, was in how it raised and dealt with the questions of violence and free will. Lest that makes it sound too much like a philosophy or ethics treatise, let me quickly add that it’s also absorbing, imaginative, occasionally horrific, and occasionally hilarious. It kept me hooked even through moments where I had grave doubts, and I felt the end was well worth it.

Read more...Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/884139.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

machetes, words, orangutans

I tuned into an episode of The Moth Radio hour about halfway through a segment called "The Hat," by Omar Musa, a Malaysian-Australian author, rapper, and poet. The things he said about machetes and words stuck with me enough that I want to share them--those things, and an almost fable-like story of his father, which comes in the middle.

First, the machetes. At one point, as a teenager, Omar goes to visit his grandparents in Borneo, and they go to some family land, and his grandfather has to cut a path for them to get to the house. Omar reflects that the parang, the Malay machete, is associated with piracy and headhunting, but as he saw his grandfather clearing the path, he has a different impression:

suddenly in my head I realized that the parang ... can be something that forges a path between places that don't usually connect, places that don't usually communicate.

Hold that thought for the end, when he talks about words. And now comes the entrancing story of his father:

So we get to this hut in the middle of the jungle, and there's a family of orangutans living there, and we have to shoo them out of the house. And my grandparents tell me that when my father spent time at this little piece of land, he would sit in front of the hut, and he would read the Quran with this very deep, mellifluous, beautiful voice, and suddenly dozens of orangutans and families of monkeys would start climbing down from the trees and sit in front of him like a rapt audience ... and listen to him reading the Quran.

I couldn't stop thinking of it: his dad, like Saint Francis, sharing sacred text with the animals. I could picture it so vividly, all those orangutans and monkeys, gathered round, listening.

And then the last part: when Omar goes to his cousin's wedding and his cousin asks him to come on stage and do some hip-hop:

"Hey Omar, I want you to get on stage, I want you to do that thing that you do, that type of poetry, that hip-hop, that thing that you do in Australia, I want you to perform for us for the first time."

So he does, and then afterward...

And I stood there, and they were cheering and applauding, and I went and I sat down next to my grandmother, and my grandmother looked at me with these piercing eyes, and she said, "You know, I never learned how to read or write ... I've been illiterate my whole life; I left home at the age of nine, and tapped rubber and lived on the streets ... but I have 150 poems in my head that I created when I was living out there, kicked out of home at the age of nine, A-B, A-B, pantoums, the traditional improvised form of Malay poetry. This poetry that you're doing now is like the poetry that I used to help me get through these hard times."

And it was then that I realized I had found my own parang, my own machete, my words, my words that could cut through worlds, that could cut through time and even generation.

And I thought that was brilliant, because it was was the cutting that was doing the connecting, the sharp slicing not to hurt but to cut down barriers, so that people can find a connection.

Link to the complete segment: "The Hat"

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/883838.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


Deer have been wandering through the woods/swamp behind my house in the mornings, it's on their route from one place to another. I love how they're both present and invisible. You have to wait for them to move to see them, just ripples in the air, they blend in so well, but with watching eyes and their white-flag tails if they're startled.

I think with their camouflage they could wander across worlds and dimensions and centuries. It makes me understand why the shishigami, the forest spirit, in Princess Mononoke, is a deerlike creature.

He grants both life and death; maybe he moves between those worlds or states.

And it gives me new insights into the end of Chekhov's short story "Ward No. Six," where the main character, just before dying, has a vision of deer:

There was a greenness before his eyes. Andrey Yefimitch understood that his end had come, and remembered that Ivan Dmitritch, Mihail Averyanitch, and millions of people believed in immortality. And what if it really existed? But he did not want immortality—and he thought of it only for one instant. A herd of deer, extraordinarily beautiful and graceful, of which he had been reading the day before, ran by him; then a peasant woman stretched out her hand to him with a registered letter . . . . Mihail Averyanitch said something, then it all vanished, and Andrey Yefimitch sank into oblivion for ever.

(The collection of Chekhov short stories from which this is taken is available to read for free on Project Gutenberg).

I remember almost nothing about that story, except that image. ... I might reread the story. I took three books with me to England when we lived there as a family; a collection of Chekhov short stories was one, and I read and loved most of them. My memory isn't what it might be, but I know what roads to walk down to recover things.

And deer know all the roads, and how to be a part of the landscape and yet not of it. That's their magic.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/883698.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

rice cracker man

I'm inordinately pleased with this guy, so pleased that I'm sharing him all over the place. Look at his head! Look at his curved arms, his nicely patterned legs, his power source at his middle.

He's a champion, I tell you. He'll... do what rice cracker champions do, feats as yet unknown.

rice cracker man

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/883258.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

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