asakiyume: (more than two)
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...
asakiyume: (miroku)
A friend sent me a PDF of 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature winner Herta Müller's Nobel lecture, "Every Word Knows Something of a Vicious Circle," and it is stunning--wise on love, words, steadfastness, solitude, totalitarianism. It starts like this:
DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF was the question my mother asked me every morning, standing by the gate to our house, before I went out onto the street. I didn’t have a handkerchief. And because I didn’t, I would go back inside and get one. I never had a handkerchief because I would always wait for her question. The handkerchief was proof that my mother was looking after me in the morning. For the rest of the day I was on my own. The question DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF was an indirect display of affection. Anything more direct would have been embarrassing and not something the farmers practiced. Love disguised itself as a question. That was the only way it could be spoken: matter-of-factly, in the tone of a command, or the deft maneuvers used for work. The brusqueness of the voice even emphasized the tenderness. Every morning I went to the gate once without a handkerchief and a second time with a handkerchief.

And it goes on from there--a visit from the secret police (Müller grew up in Ceauşescu's Romania), a conversation with a former internee of a Soviet labor camp, thoughts on an uncle who became a Nazi--and through it all, the handkerchief:
Oskar Pastior had knocked on her door, a half-starved beggar wanting to trade a lump of coal for a little bit of food. She let him in and gave him some hot soup. And when she saw his nose dripping into the bowl, she gave him the white batiste handkerchief that no one had ever used before ... For the woman, Oskar Pastior was also a combination: an unworldly beggar in her house and a lost child in the world. Both of these personae were delighted and overwhelmed by the gesture of a woman who was two persons for him as well: an unknown Russian woman and the worried mother with the question: DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF.

Ever since I heard this story I have had a question of my own: is DO YOU HAVE A HANDKERCHIEF valid everywhere? Does it stretch halfway across the world in the snowy sheen between freezing and thawing? Does it pass between mountains and steppes to cross every border; can it reach all the way into a gigantic empire strewn with penal and labor camps?

This vignette spoke to me especially:
When I was a staircase wit, I was as lonely as I had been as a child tending the cows in the river valley. I ate leaves and flowers so I would belong to them, because they knew how to live life and I didn’t. I spoke to them by name: milk thistle was supposed to mean the prickly plant with milk in its stalk. But the plant didn’t listen to the name milk thistle. So I tried inventing names with neither milk nor thistle: THORNRIB, NEEDLENECK. These made-up names uncovered a gap between the plant and me, and the gap opened up into an abyss: the disgrace of talking to myself and not to the plant. But the disgrace was good for me. I looked after the cows and the sound of the words looked after me.

And whoa to the whoa-th power, this:
After all, the more words we are allowed to take, the freer we become. If our mouth is banned, then we attempt to assert ourselves through gestures, even objects. They are more difficult to interpret, and take time before they arouse suspicion. They can help us turn humiliation into a type of dignity that takes time to arouse suspicion.

I recommend reading the whole lecture; all parts of it are beautiful and strong. The link I found for it on the Nobel website is very unpredictable--50 percent of the time it seems to be down. But persevere, and hopefully you'll get to it. (Link here.)

with fl--

Oct. 20th, 2018 11:34 pm
asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
I turned off the radio in the middle of an ad:

"The newly renovated Albany Marriott, with fl--"

--with fl-?

what could it be? What does this newly renovated Marriott have?

flocked wallpaper in every room?

flight simulators available for all guests to try?

flambéed eel, as a dinner speciality?

What do you think?
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
This doesn't qualify as a poem; it's just playing with sound.

誰のせい? [dare no sei/ whose fault]?

no sé [I don't know]

say what?

no dice nada [says nothing]

dime [tell me]

だめ [dame/ no way]
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
I tuned into an episode of The Moth Radio hour about halfway through a segment called "The Hat," by Omar Musa, a Malaysian-Australian author, rapper, and poet. The things he said about machetes and words stuck with me enough that I want to share them--those things, and an almost fable-like story of his father, which comes in the middle.

First, the machetes. At one point, as a teenager, Omar goes to visit his grandparents in Borneo, and they go to some family land, and his grandfather has to cut a path for them to get to the house. Omar reflects that the parang, the Malay machete, is associated with piracy and headhunting, but as he saw his grandfather clearing the path, he has a different impression:

suddenly in my head I realized that the parang ... can be something that forges a path between places that don't usually connect, places that don't usually communicate.

Hold that thought for the end, when he talks about words. And now comes the entrancing story of his father:

So we get to this hut in the middle of the jungle, and there's a family of orangutans living there, and we have to shoo them out of the house. And my grandparents tell me that when my father spent time at this little piece of land, he would sit in front of the hut, and he would read the Quran with this very deep, mellifluous, beautiful voice, and suddenly dozens of orangutans and families of monkeys would start climbing down from the trees and sit in front of him like a rapt audience ... and listen to him reading the Quran.

I couldn't stop thinking of it: his dad, like Saint Francis, sharing sacred text with the animals. I could picture it so vividly, all those orangutans and monkeys, gathered round, listening.

And then the last part: when Omar goes to his cousin's wedding and his cousin asks him to come on stage and do some hip-hop:

"Hey Omar, I want you to get on stage, I want you to do that thing that you do, that type of poetry, that hip-hop, that thing that you do in Australia, I want you to perform for us for the first time."

So he does, and then afterward...

And I stood there, and they were cheering and applauding, and I went and I sat down next to my grandmother, and my grandmother looked at me with these piercing eyes, and she said, "You know, I never learned how to read or write ... I've been illiterate my whole life; I left home at the age of nine, and tapped rubber and lived on the streets ... but I have 150 poems in my head that I created when I was living out there, kicked out of home at the age of nine, A-B, A-B, pantoums, the traditional improvised form of Malay poetry. This poetry that you're doing now is like the poetry that I used to help me get through these hard times."

And it was then that I realized I had found my own parang, my own machete, my words, my words that could cut through worlds, that could cut through time and even generation.

And I thought that was brilliant, because it was was the cutting that was doing the connecting, the sharp slicing not to hurt but to cut down barriers, so that people can find a connection.

Link to the complete segment: "The Hat"
asakiyume: (man on wire)

Left to his own devices
phone fitbit
desktop laptop tablet tv
xbox one ps4
thumb drives earbuds multiple remotes
computerized car intelligent fridge
microwave keurig alexa echo

He reads shares shoots maps
plays lurks cheats hacks
streams plots blocks compiles
inputs measures messages
commutes reroutes preserves renews
mixes secures monitors








where are the lever
and fulcrum
with which to move the world?
asakiyume: (God)
A truck was pulled up in a driveway in my neighborhood. It said "Devine Overhead Doors." (Here's a photo from the company's website, if you'd like to know precisely what it looked like.) Now, it seems that "overhead door" means a garage door that rolls up, but my thoughts went like this:

Devine Divine Overhead Doors

Divine overhead doors

It reminds me of one of the stories in The Ladies of Grace Adieu, where angels poke their heads out of windows in the sky.

In very slightly tangential news, I gave up on Every Heart a Doorway, not for any flaw on its part, but because I realized--belatedly--that I don't like sucking all portal experiences into one framework.
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
I'm doing a little bit of writing with some adult learners (there may be some high school students in this class as well)--just ten minutes or so. I don't have any pedagogical reason to believe this is beneficial, except for believing that when people have pleasant experiences doing something, then that thing becomes less daunting. In other words, maybe, if the students enjoy this time writing, they'll feel more able to tackle the sort of writing you need to do to clear the hurdles in front of them. But even if that's not the case, I think people deserve a chance and a place to try out writing, just for its own sake and their own sake. So.

My first prompt for them was this quote from Fred Rogers: "You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind," which I recalled from this autotuned song made from that and other remarks of his.

I showed them some gardens.

A garden in Holyoke, created by "self-proclaimed plant geeks":


Randyland, the garden created by Randy Gilson, a waiter and son of a single mom, in Pittsburgh, PA:


The magic gardens of Isaiah Zagar in Philadelphia:


The blooming Cadillacs at the Cadillac ranch in Amarillo, Texas:

(Source is this Google image, whose original location is given as this video.)

The famous Zen garden at Ryōanji, in Kyoto, Japan:


And I said, even when you think a place is barren, nothing growing, life pushes through, like in this parking lot in Boston:


And then I asked them--what's growing in the garden of your mind? Several people wrote that they felt like the parking lot and talked about worries, but one wrote about a painting she's planning, and another compared his mind to a potato (and gave me a diagram to show it growing). It was wonderful.

What's growing in the garden of *your* mind, these days?
asakiyume: (nevermore)
Out of the corner of my ear I was listening to a Cornell West lecture from the 1990s, and in it he said "witness bearers," but I heard "witness bears," and I know bare-bear-bear wordplay is low-hanging fruit, but here is a witness bear.

witness bear

In other news, Wakanomori and I are nearly done watching Person of Interest. I *really* have liked this show. Not every single everything--I'm not into gangster plotlines--but all the characters, intensely, and the care with which the overall story arc was handled, and the AI, free will, ends-means, creator-created stuff, very much so.


Jun. 1st, 2017 12:06 am
asakiyume: (feathers on the line)

Here's something I just learned:
According to some of the chroniclers, particularly Pané and Las Casas, the Amerindians from Hispaniola recognized the existence of an eminently benevolent being. His name has been spelled in different ways, but in Puerto Rico it is commonly written as Yuquiyú. There was also a furious and malevolent being known as Juracán, from whose name the word hurricane is derived, which denotes the Caribbean's extraordinarily destructive storms.
--Fernando Picó, History of Puerto Rico: A Panorama of Its People (Princeton: Marcus Wiener Publishers, 2006), 17.

Coincidentally, we had some fantastical clouds prior to a thunderstorm today. The clouds looked Jovian:

wild clouds



May. 27th, 2017 12:59 pm
asakiyume: (the source)
When I started off on LJ, I created a super-beautiful, idiosyncratic password that gave me pleasure to type. When I re-started a DW account, the password I created was ... way less beautiful. And yet it turns out that I feel just as happy to type in the DW password and to write an entry or read other people's entries as I did/do to type in the fancy-special password.

... I guess it doesn't hurt to make marvelous passwords that you love, but on the other hand, it really is just a password, and it's getting on the actual site and doing stuff there that's The Thing.

This video is unrelated to passwords--it's Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner reading one of her climate change poems. The words are beautiful and heartbreaking, but also hopeful: They say you . . . wander rootless with only a passport to call home, and when she read it in 2014 at the United Nations climate summit, she got a standing ovation; people were very moved. Watch all the way through.

asakiyume: (dewdrop)
It's cold today; the heater is chugging along, making my living space warm, and I feel so grateful. Outside, in the nearby city, the sparrows by the bus station are fluffed up like little feathered pokéballs. They're very tame; people feed them crumbs and things, either by accident or on purpose.

Around here people say "on accident," to go with "on purpose." How about the other way? By accident or by purpose.

Safe from the cold are these loquat trees I grew from seeds that [ profile] 88greenthumb sent me. I've never eaten the fruit of the loquat--have any of you?

Their leaves are generously large and a rich green color, and apparently you can make a tea out of them, but I won't, because my trees are up against enough difficulties, growing in pots and kept indoors for half the year, without having their leaves plucked.

In China, and then by extension in Japan, the tree is called pipa (biwa in Japanese), like the instrument--maybe because the fruit look like it?

a pipa (source)

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)

One of my heroes is Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke. In this scene, from after the death of the forest spirit, San speaks in desolation, and Ashitaka answers her:

San: It's over. Everything's over. The forest is dead.

Ashitaka: Nothing is over. The two of us are still alive.

It's true. So long as we're alive, nothing is over. The good things I (or you) wanted to do yesterday will still be good to do tomorrow. If anything, the kindness and hard work you (or I) offer today and tomorrow and the next day are even more important now than they were before.

It's not as easy as just saying the words, but I do want to try. And I want to keep you company in your trying, too.

asakiyume: (glowing grass)
Scylla and Charybdis

the devil and the deep blue sea

... any others?

In my personal experience, it's Between the Busy Road and the Poison Ivy

That dappled sidewalk may look inviting, but if you step from the curb YOU ARE IN THE PATH OF TRUCKS AND CARS and if you brush against the foliage on the right, you will have itchy ankles: it's poison ivy.

Two people can't walk abreast very easily there. One person could practice their balancing on the pale curb, or the other could practice elf-walking lightly over the top of the poison ivy like Legolas on snow, but...

... would you like another moonflower?

asakiyume: (squirrel eye star)
I heard something on the radio this morning, a story I don't remember any details about, but it used both the words "contentment" and "complacency," and since then, I've been asking everyone (well, three people):

How do you tell the difference between contentment and complacency?

I'm not asking for the dictionary definitions of them--I know what they both mean--but both from the inside (in other words, if it's yourself and your feelings you're talking about) and from the outside (if you're talking about other people and your perceptions of them), how do you know the difference?

In other news, I made a tumblr for quotes from Sphene in Ancillary Mercy. I haven't yet filled it up with all the quotes, but I've got a good bunch. It's at Ancillary Sphene. I hope to make a picture, too, of Sphene and Translator Zeiat at their game.

In other, other news, if it's nighttime where you are (as it is for me) and not overcast, you can take a look at the moon and all its craters and mountains in high relief, because the sun is shining on it slantwise. I got the idea to look from a two-days-ago broadcast of Strange Universe.

All right then... see you around the Internet.

asakiyume: (Iowa Girl)

One of my students at the jail was talking about all the stuff she's dealing with, and how alone she feels and what hard going it is.

"I'm carrying around so much luggage with nothing in it," she said.

That hit me instantly. So much crap to lug around, and all the bags are empty.

"That's really poetic," I said. "It says a lot."

She gave me a smile and a seriously? look and said, "You know that's just a phrase, right? A thing people say when they're high: You're tripping without no luggage."

"Hah! No, I didn't know that. I thought it was totally new with you."

But a little later I realized--should have realized in the moment--that was new with her. The thing everyone says, Tripping without no luggage, is clever, but she's turned it on its head: burdened with luggage with nothing in it.

asakiyume: (bluebird)
The peepers were peeping in the lake behind the baseball field and in the low-lying area next to the Dunkin Donuts, where a duck was sleeping in spite of the singing.

By the rec department, the skate park was getting some use:

At the dump, a sign said, "New stickers are pass due!" They meant past due; they meant, you need a new sticker, for 2015, if you're going to be dumping trash here, but they'd written "pass due," because in American English, that's what it sounds like, and if you think about it, the sticker is a pass, a pass for using the facilities, though the pass isn't due, it's past due, which takes us back to the initial problem.

asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
Most Fridays I go to the jail to do some essay tutoring, and on the way I listen to Reggae Jam with Sunshine Girl on WTCC. A few weeks ago Sunshine Girl and the King (who's in the studio with her--he does a segment of soca music) were talking about Ben Johnson Day.

I at first thought it was Ben Jonson Day, and I was wondering why Jamaica should have decided to honor Ben Jonson.

Well, it hadn't. Ben Johnson Day, I discovered, is the Thursday before your Friday payday, when your money is at its lowest. On those days, the cupboard and fridge may not yield much to eat, so you may have to make do with porridge and salt fish, or bammy (which, when it gets stale, you have to soak in something like milk, if you're lucky, or water, if you're not--reminds me of the bread the folks on Nilt ate in Ancillary Justice).

No one is sure how it got that name, though one legend is that Ben Johnson was the name of an overseer in charge of bringing the pay packets in on Thursday night. Some associate the name with the Jamaican sprinter Ben Johnson, but others point out the term has been around a lot longer than the athlete has.

I don't know how Sunshine Girl and the King happened to be talking about it--I must have stopped for a coffee at that point--but I did discover that there's an old reggae song from the 1960s called "Ben Johnson Day," so maybe that's how.

You learn something new every day.

asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)
A lot of the inmates at the jail have amazing tattoos on their necks or arms, often swirling words that I mainly can't read because of the loops and flourishes of the design. This past Friday, though, it was one of the corrections officers, one I hadn't met before, who had a really fabulous tattoo.

At first I saw only that it was a lot of words, in different fonts, some of them quite cool (like the font of seventeenth-century books, for instance). Then I saw that it was a series of quotes--I recognized first "I'm nobody! Who are you?" from Emily Dickinson.

tattoo quotes

"Hey, you have Emily Dickinson on your arm!" I said.

"Yeah," she said with a grin.

"And 'Spiritus Mundi,' from . . . not Shakespeare, it's TS Eliot--no! Yeats," I said, and she nodded.

"But I've got Shakespeare too," she said, and sure enough, she had "All the world's a stage." She also had "Nevermore," and "It is the strangest yellow, that wallpaper," which she confirmed came, indeed, from "The Yellow Wallpaper." She told me some of the others, but I forgot them.

"They look really excellent, too," I said, thinking of the spacing, and of the different fonts. "Did you design it yourself?"

She said she did.

Pretty cool. It's not every day you meet a corrections officer with literature embedded in her skin.

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. Here's what the jail looks like.

P.S. Later in the day, a guy behind the counter had a tattoo of the state of Massachusetts on his arm, with a star slightly left of center. "You are here," it said under the map. I guess he doesn't travel much?

asakiyume: (bluebird)
This is the season for tiny green inchworms to be suspended from nearly invisible strands, which they're climbing either up or down. Someone in the sky ocean is fishing.

fishing (photo by Chris Kendig)

I suppose the fisher might catch some worm-eating birds? Robins, maybe, or starlings. Or maybe a bluebird. They generally eat insects and berries, but they "have also been observed capturing and eating larger prey items such as shrews, salamanders, snakes, lizards and tree frogs," says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I'm sure a floating inchworm is not beyond the skills of such a potentially fearsome hunter. And yet if it takes this inchworm . . .

Then again, maybe sometimes you can catch people this way.

(photo from

* * *

Isn't it funny that a fugitive dye--a dye that runs away--isn't fast, and in fact a dye that sticks around is what we call fast. You'd think a fugitive, fleeing, would like to be fast. Different senses of fast though: the permanent dye is steadfast.

fleeing, but not fast


asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)

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