On Friday morning the weather was cold and wet. We readied to leave for work half an hour before departure, the two of us dealing out rain gear and debating the need for boots. I was going to meet Emmett at the train station after work and then off to Kyoto with us! We were celebrating our fourth anniversary. Four years of solid high fives, dancing in the kitchen, making instruments out of empty containers, packing and moving, making homes, making food, making friends, and participating in spontaneous a capella eruptions of Joanna Newsom’s “Bridges and Balloons.” Leaving the house, Emmett said, “Our adventure begins tonight!” I summoned Cary Grant, “Our adventure began four years ago.” Continue reading
Monthly Archives: February 2009
It’s what every house needs, but no one has done right since the construction of Nijo Castle in Kyoto. Constructed in 1626 as a residence for the Tokugawa Shogun, Nijo Castle is equipped with uguisubari, or Nightingale flooring, that chirps when walked on. Visitors walk through the corridors looking in on the immaculate tatami rooms once used by the Imperial Court, admiring the murals and the woodcarving, and all the while the enormous cyprus floorboards creak beneath their their feet. To dispel the magic, the gigantic nails used in the flooring are designed to rub against clamps and sound like birds in case an assassin should try to sneak along the castle halls. The softer ninjas walk, the louder they creak. This bad cat was not supposed to use a camera in the castle, but here is a YouTube video of the floor in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJThECzA1bc&feature=related
This post is also featured on the Japan page.
In Kentucky we used to walk a mile to Kroger’s grocery store to buy Soy Delicious peanut butter chocolate swirl ice cream. We would bring our own spoons and eat out of the pint on the way home. We didn’t keep soda in the house so that I could take thesis writing breaks and walk to the corner store. Earlier on than that, a few friends and I walked to a creek 15 miles outside of town. We packed olives and bread and apples and forgot to apply sunscreen to the backs of our necks. Our long hikes on the trails of Mammoth Cave National Park and through Daniel Boone Forest changed what we considered “walkable.” Continue reading
People have been harbinging the decline of America for decades. Our rapid ascension to power combined with a near apocalyptic sense of our own national destiny has made the American landscape an inspirational setting for fictional takes on what an empire in decline will look like. Canadian filmmaker Denys Arcand’s suite of films, Le Déclin de l’empire américain (1986), Les Invasions barbares (2003) and L’Âge des ténèbres (2007), engages the question of North American cultural decay in a decade long dialogue so well written and performed that it seems to negate its own argument through the talent of its execution. Continue reading
We’ve only known her for one day and we might already Ω her. Capucine is a four year old little girl who lives in France with her family. She is a riveting storyteller and skilled actress. Her mother has been posting videos of her on Vimeo.com for over three years. Now, that which was probably an effort to keep Miss Capucine in touch with friends and relatives has made her a global sweetheart. Our friend Bonny sent me a link to this video—THANK YOU—it made my day. Continue reading
As part of my brief and unstudied education in Japanese I have been working out how to read family names. This is a manageable place to start, for nearly all names are made of only two kanji, pictographic characters descended from Chinese. Once I stopped associating each character with a phonetic counterpart, I was able to divine the symbolic meaning of the names. The characters’ sounds change depending on placement, noun-consonant morphology, or age of the name. The character 山, for instance, almost always reads as “yama”; however, in older family names and place-names 山 may read as “san” as in “Fujisan,” the famous mountain. In the greater picture, 山 means “mountain.” Once I focused on this, the names of the people around me began to tell a story that is not always obvious in the wake of Japanese modernity.
A few years back, my roommates, some friends and I were sitting around the dinner table making lists. The lists were of our top ten favorite smells, tastes, sounds, textures and the like. I filled mine out carefully, each decision sifted from a wide variety of synaesthetic moments in my life. In my sixth month of living in Japan, I now feel so strongly about one of these items that I could forgo the other nine and fill the entire textures list with one word: mochi.
Mochi is rice pounded into a paste and then shaped into or wrapped around whatever its maker wishes. It is the Plaster of Paris of Japanese food and it is divine; it feels like baby cheeks. Along with the apparent magic of mochi, it factors beautifully in Japanese culture, becoming not only a triumphant symbol of Japanese cuisine but also the industriousness of rabbits.