I am writing now, having recovered from something of a bummer weekend that was redeemed by girlfriends. It was a bummer because it SNOWED yesterday and because of the snow, my parents decided not to come visit us, as they had previously planned. I was really sad about this, but I was able to have a good weekend overall. I spent the whole of my Saturday with my friend Anna and then Guion and I ran errands together on Sunday and then Liz E. came over for tea. We all pretended like the disgusting and wrong snow wasn’t there and that certainly helped. It’s also supposed to snow on my birthday this week. SUPER. Really super, Virginia.
In other far more exciting news, Guion’s band Nettles is opening tonight for The Welcome Wagon at the Haven in downtown Charlottesville. We are so thrilled and it’s bound to be a really excellent show. If you’re remotely around town, please come! Doors are at 7 and tickets cost $10.
Snax with a cup of hearty black tea:
Behind the Scenes, Nepal Documentary. My little sister never fails to amaze me. I can’t believe she got to do this! The documentary sounds absolutely incredible, too. I can’t wait to see it! (Como Say What?)
Book Cover Archive. This is one of the main reasons why I find it hard to embrace Kindle or Nook or whatever e-reader people use these days. What is going to happen to all of these truly beautiful and amazing book covers when we don’t read paper anymore? This I ask you with furrowed brow, 21st Century. For the book- and design-minded among you, enjoy this excellent collection. (Book Cover Archive)
Vintage Basketball. Awesome photographs of women’s basketball teams from the early 1900s. Love it. Love the Victorian coiffures mixed with the determined grin of these early female athletes. I feel proud of them and yet I don’t know a thing about them. (Wolf Eyebrows)
Rough Scans from My Recent Trip to Japan. Emily Shur is an incredible photographer and here she shares some recent photographs from Japan, prior to the earthquake and tsunami, I believe. Her photographs are so beautifully composed. To me, they speak carefully of the symmetry and silence that pervades so much of the Japanese landscape. (Emily Shur)
In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Of all of the challenges I have planned, this week was, by far, the easiest challenge. But it’s in homage to my dear friend Catherine (who also invented the phrase “Monday Snax”). Catherine has impeccable fashion sense and during our years together at university, she would go through weeks during which she’d wear one accent piece–be it a scarf or a pair of earrings or a bag–with everything. I was always impressed by her stylistic bravery and her ability to incorporate so many different styles and colors into a coherent outfit.
This week, I wore the necklace above with every outfit. It’s one that I made out of an uncomfortable ring and a now-retired Japanese 5 yen coin. In some ways, this was a silly little fashion exercise, but in other ways, the coin was a reminder to pray for Japan, for my host family, and for the ongoing recovery efforts there. I liked the reminder each morning as I put it on.
Next week, I will be writing a thank-you note each day to the memorable teachers in my life. Onward!
After the earthquake and tsunami, I wrote a hasty and concerned little e-mail to my wonderful Japanese host family. To my great relief, I just heard back from them this weekend and I wanted to copy my host father’s e-mail here. It is so sweet and moving to me and made me cry a bit from relief. I wish I could see them all now and I wish there was anything I could do to help the situation.
We are many soory for our delay reply onto your heartwarming and kindly email and many thanks. We family still survive. It means OK at this moment.
However our home town in Chiba close to Pacific was some struck by this catastrophic desaster.
Honestly I can not find the appropriate the word to explain our mind.
Yes we are very sorrow for uncountabled victim of this disaster and still scarely for the hazadous by nuclear power. My home locates just 250km from the plants. Especially we worry about children’s health
but no choce to live in here.
In our long history in Japan, we have suffered many these kind of extraordinary accident in past but overcame
in each case. So we Japanese will,must rise from ashes even for many years.
And We highly appreciate United States for biggest supports to our country,we need your help.
Please keeping in touch.
Very best regards, please pass my best regards to your husband and family all.
In near future we are very looking forward to seeing you!
Mikio KOYASU and my family, Keiko,Youtarou,Lisa and Nana.
As you can see, we had a wonderful weekend in North Carolina, even though it was jam-packed with activities and even though we didn’t get to see everyone we’d hoped to (e.g., Danielle, Meller, Logan, Sam, Carmen, Sarah, etc.). I feel absolutely exhausted today and felt like falling asleep several times today at work. The dark and stormy skies don’t help that feeling, either. But we’re home and happy to be back even though we miss everyone dearly.
Snax as a garnish around a stuffed swan:
Shaun and Ann-Marie’s Engagement Shoot. We got to spend a handful of time with Shaun, one of G’s best friends, and his utterly fabulous, funny, and beautiful Aussie fiancee, Ann-Marie this weekend. They just got their engagement photos back and I think they are just perfect! Can’t wait for their wedding in August! (Sarah Der Photography)
Mixed America’s Family Trees. This is such a fascinating feature from the NYT: A series of interactive family trees with photographs from families with mixed racial heritage from across the country. I was really into genealogy in middle school. If I had to take a stab at my multicolored leaves, I think my mix is predominately Irish-Scotch-Dutch. How about you?
Daddy-O. I miss my dad. I love this photo of him and Dublin. (Como Say What?)
Leaving Tokyo. These photographs of pregnant women and families with little children fleeing the Tokyo area are so heart-wrenching to me. The children look so frightened and serious. I think about Japan almost every day and I can’t get the Japanese out of my mind. (Tokyo Photojournalist)
I checked the New York Times this morning just before I headed out the door to work and I felt my heart catch in my throat when I saw the front page. The devastation in Japan is unreal right now. Some of the photographs on the NYT home page show unimaginable devastation not too far from where my host family lives. My heart and my prayers go out to the Japanese people, to all of the aid and relief efforts, and to those who are still missing loved ones. May God have great mercy on Japan now.
In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.
I have been studying Japanese since I was 10 years old. Whoa, I should like, totally be fluent now, right?
Wrong. For a few reasons. One is that I live on the East coast and currently in Charlottesville, where I have seen perhaps five actual Japanese people. Essentially, there are no true opportunities to keep the language alive where I live. Two, I was one class away from a minor in Japanese at UNC when I was confronted by the choice of keeping my minor and losing my majors. I kept the majors and lost Japanese as a minor and thus had to drop the classes. I cried about it for a little bit and Emily consoled me in a way that only my fellow non-Romance-language comrade could. But, honestly, I was slightly relieved, because there was no way I could have taken and survived advanced Japanese my senior year (during which I was writing an honors thesis, working an internship, applying for jobs, and oh, planning my wedding). Japanese is a very difficult language to learn. This week, I’ve been remembering that fact with fresh attention.
I decided to learn Japanese when I was a child. My mother’s good friend Janet had lived in Japan for a number of years and had managed to maintain her knowledge of the language. She would tell fascinating stories about her life there and I quickly became enchanted. Japan sounded like a living fairytale kingdom to my 9-year-old ears. I announced to my mother that I wanted to learn Japanese. She told me that was great, but she didn’t have the ability to teach me such a difficult language. She wasn’t about to let my dream die, though. My mom found a handful of native Japanese women that lived in our city and hired them to teach me Japanese once a week. I learned the language through private tutoring from late elementary school through high school.
By the time I got to UNC, I placed into the second year of Japanese classes there and began more intensive study of the language. My primary goal was to get the chance to study abroad there. Through a series of amazing blessings, I was able to get a handful of scholarships to study abroad in Tokyo during the summer of 2008.
Living in a Japan for just a few months felt like the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Even though it was one of the hardest summers of my young life, I loved my time there. My host family, especially my host mom, was unbelievably great. We would stay up after she had put the kids down and talk about culture, politics, and families in a wonderful mix of Japanese and English. My ability to speak and comprehend the language improved exponentially in just a few months. But the minute I returned to America, I came crashing down from this pinnacle of Japanese language achievement. After having to relinquish my minor, I lost almost all contact with the language that I had devoted myself to for so many years.
I don’t regret learning Japanese. I love the language–its crisp sound, its organized grammar structure, even its impossibly complex writing systems–and I love the Japanese people and culture. But it is not a practical language to learn. Unless you are a businessman from the pre-bubble 1980s or a total nerd about anime and manga, there isn’t much use for an American to learn Japanese today. This saddens me, but only briefly, because I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to learn this beautiful–if increasingly obscure and “useless”–language.
For my weekly challenge, I bought this book at Barnes & Noble and it has been an excellent re-introduction to Japanese for me. The book, edited by Japanese scholar Michael Emmerich, takes six contemporary short stories by Japanese authors and then provides a gloss of the more difficult phrases for English-speakers and furigana over the kanji. The reading level is about what mine used to be and I have found it surprisingly easy to fall back into a pattern of comprehension. Kind of like getting on a bike again after a few years or something. I’ve also been studying old word lists, kanji sets, and trying to get into the habit of writing journal entries in Japanese again. So far, it’s been my most intellectually challenging week, but I have been very grateful for it.
WHAT I LEARNED:
Well, for one thing, dozens of new words that I will probably forget again because I have no real opportunity to use them. Although I have been told that the CEO of my company is fluent in Japanese…
Visual memory aids help me to retain my recognition of new kanji.
Reading out loud was very helpful for my comprehension. Although, when I listen to natives speak Japanese, I get lost in the words. My listening comprehension is not superb.
I don’t want to lose this language entirely. It still means a lot to me. I hope that when I’m 50, I’ll still be able to form sentences and recognize basic kanji. I need to find a way to keep this language present in my life.
Next week, I’ll be writing one letter each day to a series of my favorite correspondents. Stay tuned!
Another full, enjoyable weekend, despite the weather. I am at the stage in which winter has become personally offensive to me. It is a terrible stage to be in. The first thing out of my mouth in every conversation is now: “Yeah, I’m fine. But WHEN DOES SPRING COME TO VIRGINIA??” I ask it very aggressively, too, as if it were my companion’s fault that sleet, hail, and snow were still on the not-too-distant horizon. I have had enough. Sometimes, if I feel like sinking myself even further into depression, I’ll look at the weather forecast for Davidson or Chapel Hill and a faint tear will form in my eye as I think, “Ah, balmy North Carolina. How I miss thee.”
Winter aside, Nettles (aka my husband, accompanied by other wonderful local musicians and friends) played a great shut-in show at The Garage on Friday night. He dazzled. You really should have been there, but you probably wouldn’t have fit, since The Garage can hold about 10 people inside it, instruments included. And on Friday night I think we had about 20. It was great.
Snax with fistfuls of kale, since kale is having The Best Year Ever, in the words of one J.Hecht:
59 Things You Didn’t Know About Virginia Woolf. I mean, OF COURSE I was going to talk about this. It was, after all, my all-time muse’s birthday last week. Some of these facts are kind of stupid, but some of them are quite interesting. For instance, did you know that Woolf was “a formidable bowler” as a child? Naturally. Anyway, happy belated birthday, Virginia. Thanks for being a constant fountain of inspiration in my life. (Flavorwire)
Living In: Howards End. I am leading our church classics book club on Howards End this week and so I was naturally delighted to see this feature on “Howards End,” the 1992 film with Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, and Helena Bonham-Carter, which is incredibly beautiful and perfect–much like the novel. (Design Sponge)
In Another Man’s Prayer Cap. Jonathan Pinckney–the son of one of our good family friends and husband to Grace’s mentor in India–undertook an interesting social experiment: He dressed as a conservative Muslim while flying home. His experience is graciously expressed and very eye-opening. Highly recommended. (On Islam)
Orhan Pamuk Attacks “Marginalization” of Non-English Writers. Guys, Pamuk is MAD. I think he makes a good point, though. And I think he’s an unbelievably wonderful writer. So, translators, thanks for bringing him to English eyes. But maybe we can bring over some other great writers, too, lest many more go undiscovered. (The Guardian)
The 10 Greatest Child Geniuses in Child Literature. A fun list, because I’ve met most of these characters in my reading life. What do you think? Do you agree with the rankings? If not, who would you vote for as the most eerily brilliant child in fiction? (Flavorwire)
It Doesn’t Get Much Cuter Than This. I don’t know what crimes I have to commit to get a Japanese baby, but I DON’T EVEN CARE. I will do what I have to. Photographs by Kawashima Kotori. (Miss Moss)
FRANCES. The world’s most posh and gorgeous bunny has come home to live with Angela! I swear you won’t be able to get enough of her. I’ve had the privilege of a Skype conversation with Mme Francoise and I must say, she is the ultimate lady. (WXTCHOU)
Magazine Monday: Feng Shui at Work. Can we all just agree that we are totally jealous of Meredith’s gorgeous office and now–completely feng shui–desk? I’m in love! (And Unlimited)
Valentines and Some News. If I ever got a card or letter from famed calligrapher Betsy Dunlap, I think I’d frame it and put it on my wall forever. Such beautiful work. (Betsy Dunlap)
Portraits of Criminals. Haunting vintage photographs of an assortment of Sydney vagrants from the early 20th century. (Wolf Eyebrows)
Better Learning Through Handwriting. Recent study argues that writing by hand strengthens the memory, whereas typing on a keyboard may weaken it. I believe it. (Science Daily)
Am I Compatible With Dad? This is just amazing. And hilarious. And yet I feel like it’s something that would feature in a Franzen novel. (Postcards From Yo Momma)
Model Dude Looks Like a Model Lady. There’s a popular game show in Japan in which contestants have to guess, among a line-up of men in drag, which of them is actually a woman (there is always one woman among them). It’s always very hilarious, because very often, they cannot tell the difference between the men and the real woman. This guy would fool you EVERY TIME. Seriously. He is… upsettingly beautiful. In a thoroughly female way. (Best Week Ever)
With every day that passes, I become more and more excited that January is almost over. I know a lot of dearly beloved people who have January as their birth month, but I’m sorry, guys: It is by far the worst 31 days of the year. I will forgive it once it’s gone. However, the bright side of January is that it has given me ample time to read, drink tea, and–yes, I admit it, world!–watch “Lost” with my husband. He’s doing a pretty good job of convincing me that it’s addictive. We also bought a coffee table yesterday, which was pretty exciting, because I think it means we’re done with buying furniture for our apartment. Mainly because nothing else could possibly fit…
Snax in a white bowl of pomegranate arils:
Sit. Stay. Parse. Good Girl! A Border Collie–who knows 1,000 words–teaches us about language. A quote from the article: “Chaser proved to be a diligent student. Unlike human children, she seems to love her drills and tests and is always asking for more. ‘She still demands four to five hours a day,’ Dr. Pilley said. ‘I’m 82, and I have to go to bed to get away from her.'” (New York Times)
Space Invaders: Why You Should Never, Ever Use Two Spaces after a Period. Slate Writer Farhard Manjoo, I LOVE YOU. FINALLY. Someone is talking about this! “What galls me about two-spacers isn’t just their numbers. It’s their certainty that they’re right. Over Thanksgiving dinner last year, I asked people what they considered to be the “correct” number of spaces between sentences. The diners included doctors, computer programmers, and other highly accomplished professionals. Everyone—everyone!—said it was proper to use two spaces.” Me too, same as me, I’m the same! Please. If you are a repeat space offender, read this article. Spread the word. (Slate)
Same Books, Three Ways. Cate’s excellent post about how she’s chosen to display her books as she’s moved. Beautiful! (The Charlotte)
Fashion of the Future. Probably the best video I’ve seen all week: Fashion designers from the 1930s predict what clothes we’ll be wearing in 2000. Totally amazing. (The Charlotte)
Life on a Farm. Brief thoughts from Grace as she begins her stint on a New Zealand farm. (Como Say What?)
Figure-Figure. Lovely pairings of photographs and paintings. (Miss Moss)
Look: Napping. I’ve never been one who was actually able to nap; I feel guilty for napping. But these photographs could almost change my mind. Everyone looks so peaceful. (Where the Lovely Things Are)
Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day to all! I have the day off from work, but thought I’d bring you a bag of Snax anyway. I’m grateful for the long weekend and the opportunity to hibernate, read, and drink copious amounts of tea. I feel like I’m getting a cold again, which is absolutely unacceptable. I am never this sick this frequently, and so even the slightest bit of illness turns me into an absolute diva. Good thing I have an endlessly sweet and forgiving husband.
Snax in your tea with lemon:
The Charlotte. A handful of my creative, classy friends/acquaintances in Charlottesville just launched this beautiful design and lifestyle blog. I’m loving it and I can’t wait to see what’s next! Do stop in for a visit. (The Charlotte)
UFO Sighting Map. Angela is a genius; I can’t believe she actually MADE this: an interactive map of 15 years’ worth of UFO sightings in the United States. Apparently the aliens really like coasts? Check it out; I could play with it all day. (Slate)
First Few from Wellington. Grace is alive and well in New Zealand! Enjoy these fabulous shots of her first week there. I think she’s now en route to her first farm assignment on the coast. So excited for her; still having trouble believing that she’s actually living down there now. (Como Say What?)
The Hazards of the Couch. New study claims that sitting in front of screens will kill us all. Not even the gym can save you now. I need to get my cousin’s job: Searching forests for black locust trees and then cutting them down with a team of draft horses. No time for blogs if you’re doing that, and ergo, no time for DYING prematurely. (New York Times)
It Doesn’t Matter Why He Did It. A short and insightful piece from the New Yorker about the Tucson assassinations: Perhaps Palin’s crosshairs map isn’t responsible, but rather the body of violent political discourse, which has become acceptable. (The New Yorker)
Women of Istanbul. A beautiful portrait series from this amazing, world-traveling couple. (Mr. and Mrs. Globe Trot)
The Year of Journaling Fearlessly. A great article on the challenges of keeping a journal, from a Charlottesville-based online magazine that my friend Natalie runs. I aspire to this type of “fearless” diary-keeping and appreciate the writer’s shared insights. (The Curator)
We Took Him Home. OK, so you know I’m not a huge cat fan, but whoa. Reading this post made me seriously consider getting one. That first picture with her hand full of kitten? Killing me. (Fat Orange Cat Studio)
New Year Wishes. Reason #1,506 why I’d like to be a Japanese woman: They carry rabbits around on their shoulders when walking in the park! (Tokyo Times)
Gold as a Mindset. A simple iteration of the Japanese aesthetic worldview of wabi sabi: Filling the cracks of broken things with gold dust. (Wide Open Spaces)
And the Snow Fell Quietly. This is the kind of snow I can enjoy: From a window or a photographer’s lens. (The title also makes me giggle a bit, though. Who ever heard of snow falling loudly?) (La Porte Rouge)
A Love Story. A beautiful tribute to one of our family friends, who recently passed away. You can’t read what her husband wrote about her without crying. Thanks for sharing this selection from the blog, Megan. (Thoughts from the Nest)
We are still creeping back to good health, but it has been very nice to have a week at home to hibernate and recuperate. This week I have been fairly possessed by the need to read and exercise. This is good, because they are both included in my 2011 resolution list. I’ve been able to stay active thanks to Rodney Yee (Grace, Kelsey, remember our mornings with him?) and his yoga DVD and the New York City Ballet workout, found on Chinese YouTube by Catherine. Brilliant. Ballet is also freaking HARD. I’m going to keep trying, though. Gotta learn what all those French words mean…
Snax with pastrami, because it is one of the more hilarious meat-like substances:
Books as a Way to Grace a Room. I mean, if you’re not going to READ them–because, really, who does that anymore?–you might as well turn them into home decor, right? I don’t know how I feel about this. Actually, I do. I feel bad about this. I’m all for wall-to-wall bookshelves–it’s my personal dream–but they must be known and read first. Not so for these rich people. (New York Times)
Dream Jobs: So You Wanted to be a Veterinarian. This girl was totally me. Except I decided not to take this path after I endured my first animal dissection when I was 13. I love how quickly this imaginary veterinarian turns into a deranged animal liberator. A hilarious article, at least. The paragraph that describes when the scales fall from your eyes: “As you settled into the routine of your field, it became glaringly obvious that the bulk of a veterinarian’s day is spent giving rabies vaccines, castrating animals so they won’t make new ones, or humanely killing animals whose owners are either unable or unwilling to take care of their supposedly beloved pet. Toss in a prescription flea repellent here and there and that’s the whole job. It was grossly unsatisfying. You weren’t some great caregiver of God’s creatures; you were the enabler of a system that subjugated those creatures for human whimsy.” (McSweeney’s)
Adorable French-Speaking Kids Play with 80’s Technology. And try to figure out what it is. First, it’s true that we wish all children were French. Because listening to them talk is probably the cutest thing ever. Second, I love the boy who thinks that the diskette could be a camera. Twenty-first century children! They think anything is possible. (Flavorwire)
Morimura Ray. I can never get enough Japanese prints. These are so modern, beautiful, streamlined. Also, I also can’t get enough of Miss Moss’s blog. I realize that I link to her stuff all the time. I don’t know who you are, Miss Moss, but I think we’d be friends. (Miss Moss)
A Thoughtful Farewell. I love it when kids express themselves in letters. I remember writing stuff like this. Girls are so mean: Poor Bri and Grandma. (Found Magazine)
Fully Validated Kanye West Retires to a Quiet Farm in Iowa. “So I just want to say thank you to everyone who bolstered my self-esteem by showering me with so much acclaim,” added West, sweeping some dust from his front porch. “Because it worked. I’m good to go.” Also love the picture of him making snickerdoodles for his neighbors. So sweet. (The Onion)
Bangable Dudes in History: Dmitri Shostakovich. This new blog is amazing. Blog creator Megan takes suggestions and then creates pie charts to describe the sexiest famous dead guys. I’m just happy my dead dude crush–Alex Hamilton–made the blog already. Of course he did. (Bangable Dudes in History)
Censoring Mark Twain’s ‘N-Words’ Is Unacceptable. If you use the Internet regularly, then you’re already aware that a publisher has taken it upon himself to scrub The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn of the n-word. I think The Guardian makes one of the many good cases out there why this should not have happened. (The Guardian Book Blog)
The Best Boring Books. More from The Guardian: A list of the 10 best, most boring books. I feel rather proud that Woolf’s The Waves made the cut. It deserves to. Because it is beautiful… and nothing happens. What books would you include? Has anyone read any of these? (The Guardian Book Blog)
How to Make a Decent Cup of Tea. Christopher Hitchens teaches all of us heathen Yanks how to make tea. I drink tea every day, and I daresay I learned quite a bit. (Slate)
Christmas in CT. Brian Ferry, how do you make everything so beautiful? I always want to be exactly where these photographs were taken. (Brian Ferry)
Tilt Shift. Same goes for you, sister. This is from Grace’s new photography portfolio online–which you should all go check out! I really love this technique in photographs and I think my little sis makes great use of it. She is in New Zealand now, about to start her new life on a farm there! So excited for her. (Grace Farson Photography)
The AFP New Year’s Babies. One of the many reasons I’m frightened of having children: What if they turn out looking like one of these!? The chances are high. Why? Premise 1: because we are white, and Premise 2: all these babies are white. (Awkward Family Photos)