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A Stranger in Olondria: An Appreciation

A Stranger in Olondria
by Sofia Samatar
2013, Small Beer Press

Jervick, from the Tea Islands, is not only a stranger in Olondria, he’s a stranger in his homeland, too: someone educated in and besotted with the culture of a faraway land, schooled in letters in an oral society, able to recognize and make Olondrian allusions and references but bored by and ashamed of the place where he grew up. After his father dies, he travels to Olondria and briefly gets to experience the heady cosmopolitan existence he has dreamed of, in the consequence- and impact-free way strangers are both permitted and limited to. It’s kind of like being a ghost.

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Describing someone’s self-exile, Jervick reflects,
I see him with the sweat on his brow which has turned the color of tallow and imagine how he will flee to the ends of the earth, putting the fathomless sea between himself and this sweet, incautious girl, interring himself in a country of alien flowers.
A country of alien flowers. It’s a startling, memorable, beautiful book.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/906991.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Wednesday reading--A Stranger in Olondria

Hey, it's Wednesday, and I've actually read a thing: A Stranger in Olondria. I'm going to write up a review of it, because I ended up loving it; I think it's an amazing book, beautifully, powerfully told--and that's not what I went in thinking, or even what I was feeling in the first fifth of the book. Early on I had the impression that it was an admirable book that I was going to effortfully work my way through, but my mind completely, totally changed, so much so that by the end, this passage about coming to the end of a book--used as a heartbreaking analogy for final separation--was exactly how I felt:
Earlier, frightened, you began to have some intimation of it: so many pages had been turned, the book was so heavy in one hand, so light in the other, thinning toward the end. Still, you consoled yourself. You were not quite at the end of the story, at that terrible flyleaf, blank like a shuttered window: there were still a few pages under your thumb, still to be sought, treasured. Oh, was it possible to read more slowly?--No. The end approached, inexorable, at the same measured pace. The last page, the last of the shining words! And there--the end of the book.


This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/906679.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

skateboarding

In 2012, I was briefly a skateboarder. I loved the speed and grace and daring of it--I wanted to touch that and live that.

That time was brought back to me so vividly tonight watching Skate Kitchen (2018), which I requested from Netflix DVD because of [personal profile] osprey_archer's excellent review) of it. The film coveys the feel of skateboarding beautifully (and also the dangers of it--part of why I quit: I loved the daring but wasn't up for the injuries), and I loved the posse of girls--real-life members of the Skate Kitchen, an all-girl skate collective in New York City. The director apparently met members of the collective while riding the subway, and she used Rachelle Vinberg, who plays the main character in Skate Kitchen, in a 2016 short film, That One Day.

The scenes of New York City's skating haunts are ones I remember from a video of skateboarding I found and posted back in 2012--it made the movie feel extra real to me.

The trailer pretty accurately captures the feel of the film:



And [personal profile] osprey_archer, the quote you were trying to find is the voiceover at the start of the trailer (and the scene with the little girl is in the trailer too). You're right: it's beautiful.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/906320.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

addendum to yesterday's entry

The same day my friend showed me the photo from the previous entry, I had a great encounter in a pharmacy. There were two pharmacy technicians, young women, chatting. One came over to give me the prescription I was picking up, and I saw on her name tag that she had the same surname as Em in Pen Pal, and a really pretty, unusual first name (so unusual that when I typed the whole name just now into Google, a picture of her popped up on the first page of results).

I don't know if you've seen that meme on Twitter that goes

don't say it
don't say it
don't say it
don't say it

And ends with you blurting out the thing, but that was what happened with me. Don't say she has a pretty first name; that's intrusive, I told myself. And DEFINITELY don't mention that her surname is the surname of a character in a story you wrote.

But I did, and she smiled and said, "Oh really? My name? Where does the story take place?" So I told her, describing Mermaid's Hands, and said that it was kind of a fantasy, and she said, "I love fantasy! You know, that was one of the things I wanted to do before I turned twenty-one--write a book. I started, too, and got 2,000 words ... but then I stopped."

"Oh no! Why?"

"Oh, I let a friend read it, and she had so much to say. She was really sarcastic."

"That stinks! What a terrible friend!"**

"I know, right? The story was about the four elements, and now I see so many stories like that! If I had only finished it. . ."

"So maybe if you write your next idea? It sounds like you're tapped into what people want to read."

... I love encounters like that.

**I really believe this. When a beginning writer gives you something to read, it's terrible to close them down like that. I'm not talking about a situation where you're in a writer's group together and sharing critiques, or if an experienced writer asks you to beta read something--that's different. (Though even then there are ways and ways of giving criticism.) But if a friend shares something they've created with you, you don't shit all over it, any more than you would if they showed you their first photos or their first pottery or knitted item or sketch. If the thing genuinely appalls you, there are still ways of begging off without giving the creator a world of grief.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/905771.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Sabelle Morning's Cup

A friend (no longer on DW, apparently!) found this beautiful photo, part of Gordon Parks's "Segregated Story, 1956," and shared it with me. She said it reminded her of Pen Pal, and it did me, too.



(I’ve been setting out Sabelle Morning’s cup every night so it can catch the dawn light,)

The girl on the right could be Em; the girl on the left could be her sister Tammy; the house, if only it were floating, could be their house.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/905721.html. Comments are welcome at either location.
In this entry, [personal profile] osprey_archer talks about short films she's watched recently, and one of them, "Lost World," by Cambodian American director Kalyanee Mam, captivated me.

It's narrated by a young woman, Vy Phalla [surname comes first here], who lives on the island of Koh Sralau. The way of life there is threatened by sand dredging: sand is dredged in Cambodia and taken to add landmass in Singapore.

Scooping up Cambodia ...



... To create more Singapore




The film's write-up at shortoftheweek.com says, "Kalyanee Mam’s film encompasses vast juxtapositions in a slow-motion lament against environmental degradation, loss, and rapacious capitalism." Yes. It is that, powerfully.

But I was also there for foraging clams at low tide, in among the mangrove spiracles:





And for hopping from prop root to prop root, looking for snails (though the kids did complain about the mosquitos).



Beautiful place to live...



... very different from futuristic Singapore**



At one point Phalla sings a beautiful song about the mangroves. "The beauty of the mangrove forest / rivals the palace gardens" So right.

mangrove seedling



And Phalla goes to see the palace gardens, so to speak: in Singapore she visits an artificially created cloud forest. "Lost World," the exhibit is called. Please do not touch, the signs admonish. "Camelia," Phalla says. "I've only heard the name. Now I see its face."



Back in Cambodia, watching the dredgers, she says, "The law has given us all kinds of freedoms. Here we only have the right to sit, shed tears, and witness the destruction." ... I would like to say something in answer to that, but I think maybe the appropriate thing is to sit, witness, and maybe shed tears.

Thanks for sharing this with me, [personal profile] osprey_archer!


Lost World from Go Project Films on Vimeo.



**Don't take this entry to be anti-Singapore. You can point out a wrong practice without condemning a country (or person or organization or....) wholesale.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/905330.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

"you don't know where that's been"

In the supermarket the other day, a mom scolded her baby, who was sitting in the little seat at the front of the shopping cart, when the baby leaned down and started chewing on the cart handle. "Don't do that! You don't know where that's been!" the mom exclaimed.

AND HOW RIGHT SHE IS! Just **think** of the adventures shopping carts get up to!

The cart you are sitting in right now, baby, may recently have been sunning itself on the beach...


(source)

Or it may have been tangling with rival gangs in shadowed alleys... (though your shopping cart seemed more hale and hearty than this one)



(source)

It may have been for a refreshing swim...



(source, an old LJ friend's journal)

Or perhaps spent time communing with the mountains...

Abandoned Shopping Cart At The Banff Railway Station

(click through for source, Flickr user "Malcolm").

Baby, if we were to give you a blessing, it might be to travel as widely as a shopping cart.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/905058.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

"No, but" versus "yes, and"

I was listening to a talk the other day, and the speaker was talking about how she preferred "yes, and" phrases to "no, but" phrases when talking about someone's ideas.

In general I favor this approach too. Conversation that builds up rather than breaking down is energizing and encouraging. But you can't only use "yes, and." Sometimes you want to disagree or criticize. The speaker seemed to think that even in those situation you could/should cast what you're saying as a "yes, and." The example that came up was the speaker's criticism of the Black Panther movie. She was saying that she loves it, that it's great, but that it has problems--among them, it holds up a model of a single important person, a king, who makes all decisions. But unlike me in the previous sentence, she didn't phrase this using "but." She used "and." ("It's a great movie...and it has this problem")

You can do that, but changing the conjunction doesn't really change the valence of what you're saying. Why not just acknowledge the criticism by starting what you say next with a "but"? Sometimes it's fine to criticize! Furthermore, criticism doesn't have to be destructive--as the speaker herself was showing. She clearly did like the movie.

Maybe what would satisfy both her desire to stay positive and my desire to own the criticism is "yes, but." Yes, I agree/like this, but I have a refinement or criticism to add.

Hey, and then there's also "No, and," which is even more negative than "No, but," right? Like with "No, but," you're saying no, but you're also saying "but," which means there's some point of commonality, whereas with "No, and," you're going to town with your criticisms--you've got more than one!

Wohoo, I think we can do a business-article-style four-quadrant graph:


OMG my dayjob is invading my journaling...

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/904855.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Butterburs bud

In Japan, today through January 24 is the microseason called "butterburs bud"

One fond memory I have of living in Japan as a family was the 60-plus-year-old director of the daycare where my kids went teaching me how to prepare fuki. In spring you could buy it in markets, but it's also a wild herb that you can forage. I remember where we foraged ours: there was this cut-through with a little bridge, and then you came up behind/beside the Watanabes' shop, which was a sort of convenience store in their house. We bought our kerosine there. I think I still have the director's hard-to-read instructions somewhere--maybe stuck inside a Japanese cookbook. I hope so, anyway.

I've seen butterbur here and thought of picking it, but I've never done it because I'm afraid it might not be exactly the same plant. It also gets translated into English as "coltsfoot."

Here it is--not a bud, but vigorous leaves:


(source)

And here it is, prepared:


(source)

Wow, I guess when you cultivate it, it can get quite large! The stuff we picked is much, much smaller.


(source)

Wikipedia tells me that the plant known as butterbur in Massachusetts, Petasites hybridus, is also called "bog rhubarb, Devil's hat, and pestilence wort." Gotta love folk names.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/904637.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

abelha

abelha

"bee"

One word of Portuguese, buzzing in my head

In the cold Northeast soon the snow-bees will be buzzing

while somewhere in Amazonas,

little abelha-cachorro, dog-bee

is pollinating brilliant blooms

epiphytes, bromiliads,

orchids

and passion flowers

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/904342.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

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