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Haunting of Hill House

The healing angel and I watched this--I liked it a lot, especially in the sense that it's a family dealing with deep, ongoing trauma and loss. I'm vaguely aware of people expressing discontent at the ending, but I found it satisfying. What did dissatisfy me was the logical mechanism of the malevolent supernatural element, but the healing angel and I hashed it out at length, and I feel like like we arrived at (slightly different) ways of understanding it that made sense. For those of you who watched it, what were your feelings?

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/898437.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


why people confide in strangers

Sometimes things happen like this:
I and a couple of others were waiting for a bus of Japanese high-school students at the Basketball Hall of Fame. We were part of the group that was hosting them/showing them around. While we waited, a local kid (high school senior), hurried into the museum, followed a few minutes later by his mother, with money for lunch. She'd driven him there, but he'd rushed in without money, and she wanted him to be able to get food.

Her mission accomplished, the mom didn't leave, but struck up a conversation, talking about her kids' (the son and his younger siblings and older sister) experience of school, kids getting labeled as troublemakers, racism (she was Black), the difference between being African American and being Afro Caribbean (her husband's from Jamaica) and so on.

I really enjoyed talking with her. We talked for a long time--basically until the bus with the Japanese students arrived--and afterward I was pondering why people confide in strangers. Here are some thoughts:

  1. We talk to family and friends about problems, but if the problems are intractable or complicated or long term, then our family and friends can eventually know them intimately. They can be fatigued hearing the same litany of stuff from us--but the problem still weighs on us and we can want relief, and for some of us, talking provides relief.

  2. A stranger doesn't have years of experience with us that might undercut the story we're telling (at least in their eyes); they don't remember the times we failed to keep a promise or the time we were too terrified to get on the roller coaster or the time we hollered at our kids in a supermarket. If the stranger's willing to give us a sympathetic listen, they're likely to be totally in our corner.

  3. A stranger probably won't make irksome suggestions, but if they do make suggestions, they won't come with a whole lot of historical baggage attached--not like when our parents tell us for the seventy-millionth time that maybe we should try using the envelope method of budgeting or our smugly relationship-ensconced friend gives us dating advice. It's much easier to consider a stranger's suggestion on its merits **or** to just dismiss it.

I haven't ever really talked at length about personal problems to a stranger in person, but I've done it online--for some of these reasons ... I don't do it anymore, in part because nowadays, in the places I'm active online, I'm not in the company of strangers anymore, and also I guess because the airing of problems doesn't give me relief or clarity in the way it once did.

What about you all, though? Thoughts on why people confide in strangers?

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/898171.html. Comments are welcome at either location.
A friend sent me a PDF of 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Herta Müller's Nobel lecture, "Every Word Knows Something of a Vicious Circle," and it is stunning--wise on love, words, steadfastness, solitude, totalitarianism. It starts like this:
DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF was the question my mother asked me every morning, standing by the gate to our house, before I went out onto the street. I didn’t have a handkerchief. And because I didn’t, I would go back inside and get one. I never had a handkerchief because I would always wait for her question. The handkerchief was proof that my mother was looking after me in the morning. For the rest of the day I was on my own. The question DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF was an indirect display of affection. Anything more direct would have been embarrassing and not something the farmers practiced. Love disguised itself as a question. That was the only way it could be spoken: matter-of-factly, in the tone of a command, or the deft maneuvers used for work. The brusqueness of the voice even emphasized the tenderness. Every morning I went to the gate once without a handkerchief and a second time with a handkerchief.

And it goes on from there--a visit from the secret police (Müller grew up in Ceauşescu's Romania), a conversation with a former internee of a Soviet labor camp, thoughts on an uncle who became a Nazi--and through it all, the handkerchief:
Oskar Pastior had knocked on her door, a half-starved beggar wanting to trade a lump of coal for a little bit of food. She let him in and gave him some hot soup. And when she saw his nose dripping into the bowl, she gave him the white batiste handkerchief that no one had ever used before ... For the woman, Oskar Pastior was also a combination: an unworldly beggar in her house and a lost child in the world. Both of these personae were delighted and overwhelmed by the gesture of a woman who was two persons for him as well: an unknown Russian woman and the worried mother with the question: DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF.

Ever since I heard this story I have had a question of my own: is DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF valid everywhere? Does it stretch halfway across the world in the snowy sheen between freezing and thawing? Does it pass between mountains and steppes to cross every border; can it reach all the way into a gigantic empire strewn with penal and labor camps?

This vignette spoke to me especially:
When I was a staircase wit, I was as lonely as I had been as a child tending the cows in the river valley. I ate leaves and flowers so I would belong to them, because they knew how to live life and I didn’t. I spoke to them by name: milk thistle was supposed to mean the prickly plant with milk in its stalk. But the plant didn’t listen to the name milk thistle. So I tried inventing names with neither milk nor thistle: THORNRIB, NEEDLENECK. These made-up names uncovered a gap between the plant and me, and the gap opened up into an abyss: the disgrace of talking to myself and not to the plant. But the disgrace was good for me. I looked after the cows and the sound of the words looked after me.

And whoa to the whoa-th power, this:
After all, the more words we are allowed to take, the freer we become. If our mouth is banned, then we attempt to assert ourselves through gestures, even objects. They are more difficult to interpret, and take time before they arouse suspicion. They can help us turn humiliation into a type of dignity that takes time to arouse suspicion.

I recommend reading the whole lecture; all parts of it are beautiful and strong. The link I found for it on the Nobel website is very unpredictable--50 percent of the time it seems to be down. But persevere, and hopefully you'll get to it. (Link here.)

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/897979.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

written word, spoken word

Sherwood Smith asked me some really interesting questions that The Inconvenient God raised for her, and she posted the questions and answers over on the Book View Cafe blog (here).

I think my favorite question was the one about whether writing words down chains them. The technology of writing is really wonderful and makes miracles possible, in terms of sharing and transmission, but the spoken word has real power too. I love thinking about their different strengths.

And speaking of spoken word (heh), [personal profile] okrablossom linked me to another beautiful spoken word poem, "Rise," by Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner, this time in collaboration with Aka Niviâna, an Inuk poet. Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner is from the Marshall Islands, which are gravely threatened by rising sea levels, and many of her poems deal with climate change. Aka Niviâna is from Kalaallit Nunaat--Greenland--whose melting glaciers create the rising sea levels. Her poems often deal with the legacy of colonization.

Their words, combined with the breathtaking images, is really powerful (video (6 minutes) and text of the poem available here).

--Sister of ice and snow, I'm coming to you
--Sister of ocean and sand, I welcome you

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/897578.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Halloween mouth

This year for Halloween I decided to turn the big pot we use to hand candy out into a gaping mouth. ARE YOU BRAVE ENOUGH TO PUT YOUR HAND IN THE GOBLIN'S MOUTH TO RETRIEVE A PIECE OF CANDY?

Here is the armature, all papier-mâchéd over:

gaping mouth, early stage

And here it is with tissue paper for the final colors and details:

gaping mouth, done

It looks a lot less menacing colored in, huh! I ... wonder if I could/should have made it a little more scary. Ah well, it's probably better not to terrify the trick-or-treaters.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/897077.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


with fl--

I turned off the radio in the middle of an ad:

"The newly renovated Albany Marriott, with fl--"

--with fl-?

what could it be? What does this newly renovated Marriott have?

flocked wallpaper in every room?

flight simulators available for all guests to try?

flambéed eel, as a dinner speciality?

What do you think?

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/896973.html. Comments are welcome at either location.



Guns and art! First was this painting, by the South Korean-born artist Mina Cheon, who also takes on the persona of a North Korean artist, Kim Il Soon. [personal profile] sartorias and I saw this at the Smith College Museum of Art. It's titled "Squirt Water Not Bullets!" The artist paints herself in North Korean military garb and paints her son in duplicate, representing Korea's current split.

painting by Mina Cheon (aka Kim Il Soon), Smith College Art Museum

And the second was this screenshot from the Sudanese film AKasha, from director Hajooj Kuka.

(image source)

The brief BBC World Service summary says, "Film director Hajooj Kuka has chosen this southern region of his country to tell the story of a love triangle between Adnan, a rebel, his long-suffering girlfriend Lina and the beloved AK47 he calls Nancy."

Soo... I'm guessing we're looking at Lina--and she's holding Nancy, who is looking mighty fetching in that rainbow colored strap.

I think it could feel mighty empowering to team up with someone like Nancy.

The screenshot was intriguing enough that I watched the trailer. If you watch through it, you'll see a moment of magic at 1:36. I'd like to see the movie one day.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/896592.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

more on It Happened at the Ball

I’ve finished reading It Happened at the Ball—very interesting to see the directions the stories took the theme.

I have to start with Sherwood Smith’s story, which is the crowning jewl of the collection. It’s a novella, which means you can really sink into the place, the characters, and the situations. If you’re familiar with Sherwood’s Sartorias-deles world, this story shows how Colend became its own nation—but if you’re not familiar, no worries at all. This story is completely comprehensible on its own.

The situation: A great ball is being held; all the nobility of the region will be at it. Warriors from an aggressive bordering state are also in the city, on a pretext of being interested in trade but actually planning an attack. They, too, are invited to the ball—what will happen?

The genius of the story is in the characters, especially the intelligent, charismatic, and above all kind protagonist, Martande Lirende. It is a delight to watch him defuse situations, deflect unwanted attention, and engage enemies without spilling blood (blood does get spilled, but not on screen). Here, for example, is how he reacts when a noblewoman he’s dancing with makes fun of the looks of the king:
“Prince Fish Face. Now the king. Surely you know that [name for him]. Everyone in the first circle says it.”

“Ah, but I find him beautiful,” Martande said.

Luor slanted a glance of derision, assuming shared mockery, to smack into a wall of sincere

“Beautiful,” she repeated, the exclamation half question. “I’ve seen him, when my mother presented me at court. He cannot have changed so materially in ten years.”

He lifted a shoulder as they dipped, turned, and met palm to palm again, toes pointed, shoulders back. “We know the word beautiful,” he said in that tone of calm sincerity, “but I expect we all define it differently. For me, that which delights my heart is beautiful, and King Eniad, in all his painstaking doubt and generosity of spirit, is beautiful.”

But it’s not just Martande whom we get an intimate feel for: it’s pretty much any character who steps onto the page--the elderly (female) Count of Ranflar, tasked with dancing with the warlord Rajin; the warlord himself, whose misreading of the ballroom is an object lesson in cultural blindness; Messenger Yedoc, struggling to express herself in a language she can’t speak well; even little Gelis, a child:
“Everything was fascinating! Even the older people. Usually so boring. It was strange, how expressive elders were when you couldn’t see their faces. ”

Seriously: even if you didn’t like any of the other stories in the anthology, it would be worth it for this one tale.

But I suspect you'll find things to like in the other stories--each has something unusual or interesting to recommend it.

the other storiesCollapse )

And that’s all of them!

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/896259.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Novelette birthday today

Today The Inconvenient God is available for purchase, from multiple sources and in multiple formats! Andrea Johnson, the Little Red Reviewer, gave it an excellent write-up
The Inconvenient God touches on lost history, colonialism, the best (and worst) ways to chat with divinities, culture clash, and how to enjoy the new without forgetting the old.

I love the chatty style of Andrea's reviews. This made me laugh:
To be honest, when I read the back cover copy, I thought this was going to be about an old sky beard who was a professor at a college, and the guy refused to retire even though he had dementia. Yeah, that is not at all what this story is about!!

To pique your curiosity further: there's an apple goddess in this story too. That fact makes its autumn release feel just right.

Don't forget that if you do buy the story and send proof of purchase to the publisher, you can get a coupon to receive the lovely story The Lilies of Dawn for just 99 cents. More on that promotion here.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/896128.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


For reasons that would make a good story, which I will tell any of you if I see you in person, but which I won't go into here, we made a journey to Canada yesterday.

That is a long trip for a day trip, may I just say, but anyway. We encountered some interesting people along the way.

The Leaf Lady

She was from England. We encountered her at a a rest stop and information center on the interstate in Vermont. She was here, apparently, for the foliage, which is looking pretty magnificent in northern Vermont right now, but my phone got itself in a tizzy trying to update operating systems, so NO PHOTOS.

Leaf Lady: Excuse me, where are the leaves?

Visitor Center Staff Person: There's a board out front that tracks the foliage. It's best in the Northeast Kingdom right now.

Leaf Lady: All right. How far is it to Kingdom?

VCSP: You're entering it now.

Leaf Lady: And so I'll see leaves?

VCSP: Well, it's overcast today, so it may not seem as impressive, but yes.


We made up a story that one of her children, who likes mountain biking and free running and recaning old chairs and making cheese, came to the United States and married a Vermonter and wanted her to see this beautiful place, but the mom is very suburban and didn't really want to come and this is her passive-aggressive resistance.

That center had a school parent-teacher group raising money by offering fresh coffee and baked goods fro a donation. Excellent.

The anti-tourism border guard

We crossed into Canada at a very small crossing point. There were no other cars on the road, and only one border guard, a young woman in her twenties.

Border Guard: And what is the purpose of your trip to Canada today?

Thanks to Wakanomori's research, we had a good answer to this question.

Wakanomori: We're going to see the museum in Coaticook.

Or was it a good answer

Border Guard (incredulous): No one goes to see the museum in Coaticook!

Wakanomori (laughing): Uh, well, we are.

Me (piping up from the passenger's seat): It's a holiday in the United States.

Border Guard: It is here, too: Thanksgiving.

Me: Hmmm. I wonder if the museum will be open, then...

Border Guard: And where are you from again? Massachusetts? And you're coming up just to see the museum?

Wakanomori: It's a long story.

Border Guard: I have all day!

Wakanomori then told her the story of how he and the older kids had biked this route to Canada years ago, and how he'd noticed about the museum then, and....

Border Guard: I see--so you're retracing your steps! Well, enjoy yourself. Maybe you can get some honey or cheese!

Interestingly, we saw a place selling honey a little further along the road--so we could have!

The gas station attendants

These were boys who looked to me like maaaaybe they were 14 or so, but I guess they must have been older? They were full of life and smiles, and they were going to pump our gas! It wasn't a self-serve station. Going to Colombia has emboldened me in languages that I'm not fluent in, so I tried out my rusty, rusty French: "Avez vous une salle de bain?" And he answered me in French and pointed out where the bathroom was! 通じた!(This handy word means literally, it passed through and more accurately, I made myself understood. THE BEST FEELING)

The man at the museum
The museum had a definite shut vibe to it, though there were other people walking the grounds when we got there. We rang the doorbell, as requested by the sign. After a bit a man appeared and told us, politely and with a smile but at length, that he was desolé and that it was un dommage, but the museum was closed. We nodded and thanked him but he kept apologizing, and in that moment all I could think of for "we understand" was 分かりました and entendemos.

The fox spirit
On the grounds of the museum, the healing angel spied a fox. It ran under the museum porch, but then came out again and ran up some stone steps leading up a hill behind the museum. It was very tall for a fox, with long, graceful legs. It stood on the steps halfway up the hill and regarded us, very foxy. Then it ran the out of sight. It was a prince among foxes, a god, a spirit.

Annnd then we came on home, long drive back. Hope you all had a wonderful Indigenous People's Day/Thanksgiving/Monday.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/895991.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

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