Friday, March 27, 2009

Ou sont les sakura d'antan?

Among the many things that I enjoy about living in Japan: specialty flavored KitKats. That one is jasmine tea-flavored, and very delicious. They're usually seasonal, and many never appear again.

Sometimes that's okay. See below for examples of powdered soybean KitKat and edamame KitKat.

Most are delicious, though. I'm looking forward once again to the cherry-blossom-flavored KitKat that are timed to come out when the blossoms do, which is also (not coincidentally) the beginning of the new school year. Parents see their children off to a new year of school as cherry blossoms--the ultimate Japanese symbol of ephemerality and the sweet sadness of passing time--float down around them.

Ephemerality in chocolate form. I like it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"The Mother of All Funk Chords"

This here is awesome.

Someone named "Kutiman" collected a whole bunch of amateur Youtube videos of people goofing off on musical instruments. Then he remixed them all and spliced them into an actual song to make it look like they're all performing together. Once the theremins kick in and the Asian schoolkids start dancing, well, it's infectious.

Part of what's cool and spooky about the video to me is how well it works as a metaphor for communication on the Internet. Each of these folks was just doing their own thing, and yet--without their even knowing it--somehow they were also part of a gigantic funk jam. Ah, Internets.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jen's Writing: The Early Years

My mother sent me some boxes of stuff from my youth. Some of it is impossibly cringe-worthy--God, could one be more pretentious in high school? I want a TARDIS just to go back and slap myself upside the head.

However, my early attempts at fiction writing reveal a...vigorous style. All misspellings are retained from the original!

From third grade:

I'm Grumpy

My mother doesn't understand me. Once I was talking with my sister and she said. I lost some of your marbels No. I fond some of your marbels. I said who did wat and wat did who?! Unlukuly. I said it vairy lowd my mother head and Zap! I was on my bed in my dark gloomey room.


Only a year or so later, I had developed a great deal as a writer, one suspects by cribbing phrases and plots from books I was reading at the time:

My Freind Bananas

I had just gone to bed on the Lynn Rose, a real good ship. I am twelve and just been sent on a vacation to England. I had broght my pet dog Darcie, a dachound. Suddenly someone yelled "The boat is sinking! Abandon ship!" I was scared silly. I put a life raft on me and one on Darcie. Then I dived into the ocen. There was only one problem. Darcie is terrifide of water. I finley got her to stop yipping by putting her on a piece of drift wood. By then it was dark and I went to sleep. The next morn I was awakened by Darcie's yapping. "Be quiet" I said but then I relised we were not moving! I looked around. There was a sparkling stream, a cave, and wonder of wonders, trees full of bananas! "Darcie!" I cried "Lets roast bananas!" Darcie started to howl. I said "ether shape up or starve!" So I made a fire and roasted bananas. One taste and Darcie dissipered in to the woods. I've often heard dachhounds are hunting dogs but that was redicules! Darcie brought back three spparrows and one parrot! I ate the parrot and Darcie got the sperrows. One day I went down to the beach and I brought some bananas. Suddenly I heard a wislling and I turned around and saw that a dolfin had eatin all of my bananas and wanted more! I laghed and laghed. After I stopped laghing I said "I'll call you Bananas." I told Bananas all about my seaside home at Burrow. Bananas dived below the surfase of the water. When he came up, he "told" me where my town was. I worked days on my raft and then I filled the raft with bananas, roasted and raw, twelve coconuts, six parrots, two cockatos, and ten sparrows all cooked and ready to eat. I tied the rope around Bananas waist, Darcie and I got on the raft, and we sailed toward Burrow. It took us twelve days to get home, and by the time we got there we had eaten: all of the coconuts, both cockatos, three of the parrots, twenty of the twenty-five bananas, and Darcie ate all of the sparrows. And now whenever I go to the beach, I get to play with my freind Bananas. The end.


I'm "laghing" at the stilted language: "In the morn I was awakened"? I can't help but wonder what in the world I was reading to get such archaic forms from! Sadly, these stories eventually give way to gloomy emo poetry about being the only soul who has ever suffered as I have. I clearly should have stuck to fiction!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

In Search of Lost Time

Fresca encouraged people to answer "The Proust Questionnaire." So here it is! Happy birthday, Fresca!

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Wanting what you have.

2. What is your greatest fear?
Letting people down, failing in my responsibilities.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
A need for approval by everyone and an inability to understand that's simply impossible--by taking action to please person A you are inevitably going to displease person B and so on.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
At the moment (it changes week to week): narcissism, an inability to see other people as persons separate from yourself.

5. Which living person do you most admire?
Tough one. Possibly Neil Gaiman, for being insanely talented and wry and humane.

6. What is your greatest extravagance?
Probably food. I decided years ago that to keep my id satisfied living in Japan I wasn't going to wince at the cost for imported Western food, so I pay a lot more for Doritos, pasta sauce, and bagels than I probably should.

7. What is your current state of mind?
Well, the sun is out and I have no meetings, so I'm feeling pretty content and happy.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Moral purity, usually a nice phrase for "passivity."

9. On what occasion do you lie?
When people start wondering how involved in fandom I am. Unfortunately, I am a crap liar.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I suppose my toothy smile.

11. Which living person do you most despise?
Probably Fred Phelps, the guy who goes around protesting gay peoples' funerals and saying God is laughing because they're dead.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"I can see that."

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Trite, but my husband.

16. When and where were you happiest?
One morning when I was coming out of a long time of deep stress and personal pain (losing friends, failing at my job, pets dying). I woke up at 6:30 with the sun streaming in and instead of feeling depressed resignation I felt happy to wake up, eager to get out into the day and start living it.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to pick up languages easily.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Moderate #3 a bit.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Probably passing the second-level Japanese Language Exam.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
Maybe a sparrow? I don't know why, I just like them, they're scrappy.

21. Where would you most like to live?
Anyplace with Internet access would make me happy, but either San Francisco or Boston if I had my choice...

22. What is your most treasured possession?
My house? Is a house a possession?

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I have to agree with Fresca's answer to this: watching people suffer and being powerless to help them.

24. What is your favorite occupation?
I assume this means "Way to pass one's time," in which case, probably writing.

25. What is your most marked characteristic?
Probably timidity.

26. What do you most value in your friends?
Introspection and self-awareness.

27. Who are your favorite writers?
Ursula LeGuin, for humaneness and world-building.
A. A. Milne for whimsy and wonder.
Neil Gaiman for a little of all of those.

28. Who is your hero of fiction?
Stupid answer but true: Superman, who in the more modern versions is a much less shallow and much more existential hero.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Abraham Lincoln--not so much for the greatness as for the constant self-doubt and desire to do the right thing.

30. Who are your heroes in real life?
Teachers, social workers, nurses--anyone who manages to get up in the morning and keep going despite high levels of burnout and little hope of making a difference.

31. What are your favorite names?
I always liked Tristan for a male name, maybe because the idea of "sadness" being a name pleased the romantic in me. I always liked Genevieve as a female name because it seemed to be a prettier (and less common) version of "Jennifer."

32. What is it that you most dislike?
People treating each other badly, especially for petty, selfish reasons.

33. What is your greatest regret?
Treating people badly for petty, selfish reasons while in college.

34. How would you like to die?
"Like" is such a strong word...I guess fairly quickly and without losing my mental abilities beforehand?

35. What is your motto?
When I was in high school some gifted class required me to create a motto. I went with "Je Cherche, Je Trouve," which is French for "I seek, I find." Rather more an ideal than the actual way I live my life, but it will do.

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