I just have to say, I had such a wonderful weekend. I spent most of Saturday with Anna. We met at the farmers’ market, which just opened for the season, and picked up food for brunch. The highlight of the market, though, was the farmer who had a truck bed full of 10 week-old shepherd mix puppies. SO wanted to take one home. Of course. But I resisted. After brunch, Anna and I picked up her family’s young German Shepherd, Heidi, and took her to the beautiful Pen Park, where we roamed with Heidi, who swam in the Rivanna River, chased some deer, and carried a huge log for about a mile (like this, except the log was even bigger). We also got caught in a freak hail storm in the middle of a giant field. It was exhilarating. I want to do it all again tomorrow.
Saturday night, Guion and I went to dinner at the lavish Tavola as a belated birthday event. So good. And then on Sunday, we got a great (albeit short) visit from Dad, Sam, and Sam’s hockey teammate. They passed through Charlottesville on their way home from a tournament in D.C. We had burgers outside on the downtown mall and reminisced about life back home. It was great to see them, even though Sam is HUGE. I am not used to that child being six feet tall.
Drop-Your-Jaw Embroidery. This has been heavily circulated in the lady blogosphere already, but it’s still pretty amazing: embroidered classic book covers. I think Black Beauty is my favorite. (Little Is the New Big)
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)
Well, friends. Your last dose of Snax until the New Year! I’m unspeakably excited about going back to North Carolina for the holidays. We leave Wednesday morning for Southern Pines. I’m looking forward to sitting around the fire there and wrestling with Aoive and her complicated psyche. It’s going to be great. Then we’re off to my grandparents’ place for Christmas day, and then back and forth between Davidson, Southern Pines, and Durham for the next few days. Exhausting! (A wedding in the middle of it all doesn’t help the simplicity.) But I’m looking forward to it all the same.
Today’s featured website: The New York Times
OK. So it’s not like I discovered the NYT or anything, but they’ve just had a lot of beautiful, striking content lately. So I’m going to share some of it with you.
Let It Dough! The perfect holiday feature from NYT. Hilarious, brilliant, and oh-so-tasty. Thanks for the link, Granddad! (NYT blog, Abstract City)
Fourteen Actors Acting. “A video gallery of classic screen types.” These black-and-white minute-long pieces feature well-known actors playing intense, briefly realized characters. What makes it so interesting is that the only sound is the orchestra in the background. The inability to understand anything the character says gives considerable license to the imagination. My favorites: Natalie Portman, James Franco, and, of course, SWINTON. (NYT Magazine)
10th Annual Year in Ideas. The ideas are almost as great as the design of this page. Really fun to tool around in. And so much weird stuff to learn! A bra that converts into gas masks? The world could always use more of those. (NYT Magazine)
In Germany, from Derelict to Pristine. The slideshows from “Great Homes and Destinations” are my favorite way to kill time. I could look at these wild houses all day long. This couple lives in a posh, converted water tower. Crazy! (NYT)
Regularly scheduled Snax:
The Angela Simulator. “No need to miss me over the holidays,” Angela’s e-mail read. Because now you can generate any potential conversation with Angela on her website. It’s brilliant. It makes me feel closer to her, so I just sit there clicking on “What else?” for 10 minutes. (WXTCHOU)
Printable Holiday Gift Tags. Still wrapping? Try out these cute and colorful gift tags; they’ll liven up any present. (How About Orange)
What Languages Should Liberal Arts Be About in 2011? This is for Emily. We liked to hate on romance languages a lot, basically because they are so darn easy to learn compared with Japanese and Arabic. In this piece, James McWhorter takes our side, but argues that romance languages are essentially useless to learn in the new decade and beyond. It’s Chinese for everyone, baby. (The New Republic)
Closet Visit: Momo Suzuki. Basically, I just want to BE a Japanese woman. Their sense of style is impeccable: peaceful, simple, elegant. (Jeana Sohn)
William Merritt Chase. A feature on the well-regarded portrait painter. It makes me want to go to an art gallery. (Miss Moss)
In the Scheme of Things. This dialogue reminds me of the look my mother shot my father when he was choking on the pit of a plum. After his esophagus had cleared and he was recovering from the trauma, he announced, “Wow, that was like having a baby.” I will always remember the look of pure disgust on her face. (Dooce)
Jon Rafman: Google Street View. Somewhat related to a post from last week, but these images will always fascinate me. How does he find them?? Rafman must spend all day on Google Maps. (Sub-Studio Design Blog)
Putting the “Gold” In Your Golden Years. I know retirement is very far from our young minds, but it really shouldn’t be. This is one of the many things I’ve learned in my short tenure at work. This is a great graphic from the folks at Mint explaining some of the basics of retirement saving. (Mint)
G. and I have both been sick since we got back from Thanksgiving. I think I’m getting over it, but he’s just acquired my slew of symptoms (runny nose, sore throat, aches, general yuckiness). As E. Hylton would say, “I feel like a big gross.”
In brighter news, however, my department at work moved to a new building, which has WINDOWS and I get a bigger desk. It feels like an upgrade on life, since I spend so much of mine there. Yesterday, we also had our first snow. It was just a light dusting, but everyone got pretty jazzed about it. On my way back from the grocery store, I saw a dad and his two sons “sledding” down a big hill in the park off Madison. They were basically just sliding down wet grass. But they were having a great time. Oh, and I have this Mac. I’m still getting used to it–it’s kind of a learning curve after spending most of your adult computing life on a PC–but I think I am going to like it just fine.
Snax to cure your sniffles:
Catalog Living. Courtesy of R. Hylton (via Facebook) and E. Hylton (via handwritten letter). Finally, someone mocking the ridiculous spreads that occur in catalogs. The site follows the imaginary lives of Gary and Elaine, who live in the catalogs you get in the mail. Pottery Barn, you’re probably guilty. This post has to be one of my favorites I’ve seen so far. (Catalog Living)
100 Notable Books of 2010. I get really excited when this list comes out every year. I’m generally not very good at staying updated with good modern literature, and this is always a great place to start. Need to start stuffing my book list. (New York Times)
Chloe the Australian Shepherd. I am going to keep posting pictures of puppies until someone tells me to stop. And even then, I am going to keep doing it. (Daily Puppy)
Hideaki Hamada. This Japanese photographer takes the most beautiful and sweet pictures of his son. Some of my favorites: Windows (the comic/seriousness kills me); New Balance (adorable); Another World (they already have his hair groomed to look like every Tokyo teen boy). (One Year)