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Here is a monologue that I wrote, had corrected, and am now in the process of memorizing for Japanese class. It has the sort of stumbling simplicity you'd expect from a second semester language student. Having such a drastically limited ability to express myself is one of the things that's actually pretty frightening about my attempt at bilingualism; another is having to accept that words and the concepts they refer to are fundamentally not the same thing.

カット )
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Few-months-old writings that I'm getting around to posting in my livejournal: poem, song.

On Tuesday (which was the first day of school), sometime during the two hour gap between Ethics and Japanese, the power went partially out. Some halls and classrooms were still lit, and others dark; about half the lights in the library were on, and a third of the computers. I went to Japanese, anyway, but before we were even through the roll call, the Langara security guard with the bushy moustache came in and told us that they were evacuating the building.

I hung around outside long enough to pick up on the general gossip that all the classes had been cancelled because of the power, and to run into Jen, from the Japan group, who was something like the third of the Japan people I'd seen that day, though aside from Marilee I haven't seen any since. It's good to know that they still exist. We talked a little (ruefully) about the tendency of that sort of group trip to develop a close camraderie among people who afterward, for the most part, immediately get about the business of never seeing one another again, and made vague suggestions toward counteracting that; eventually.

Most of the power was back on for Wednesday, but there are lingering aftereffects, the most noticable of which is that all the air-conditioning is down. This does not make it as fun as it might be to take classes on the stifling-even-in-late-autumn third floor of the A building. (Handy guide to Earth's northern hemisphere seasons: it is right now a late, and rallying, summer.) Estimates vary widely as to when this is liable to be corrected; Leduc-sensei, in Japanese, reported direly that she'd been told that it could be as long as six months, whereas Marilee on Thursday told me that she'd heard it would be fixed the next day. There was another power-down today -- that is, Sunday -- this one scheduled, for maintenance, so I suspect that this, if it didn't solve it outright, was at least part of the effort.

I've been kind of exhausted the whole week, stumbling over the sudden need to get up about three hours earlier than I'd been accustomed; this combined with the heat and the starting-school hecticness has often left me feeling in a sort of haze of mental slowness and clumsiness communicating. Because of this in turn I've been responding to my classes in general with slightly more anxiety than I might have otherwise, and feeling out-of-breath already keeping up. They justify this to greater and lesser degrees; Dale, teaching Ethics, is as charming and comfortable as always (he made all the same jokes the first day), while the English teacher has informed me to my horror that he expects handwritten drafts of all the take-home essays.

I do not remember if there are other things I meant to talk about. Wait, yes I do; I've been wanting to say at least a little bit about my impressions of Ursula K. LeGuin's original Earthsea trilogy, which I read for the first time immediately before school began. But I'm pretty tired, so I should probably do that later.
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Here are the classes I'm planning to take this fall, plus helpful annotations. They have the interesting and convoluted property that none of them are on quite the same set of days (which unfortunately means that there are no days off this time, though Friday is but lightly loaded).

Monday Tuesday Thursday Friday

11:30 - 12:30: Philosophy 2202 - "Ethics"
Both the philosophy courses I'm taking this term are second year, which feels pretty daring because I've never taken a second year course before; but it's philosophy, which I sure do like. This one is by Dale, who also taught the first year course on ethics that was one of my first classes ever at Langara, so there is some continuity for you.

Monday Wednesday

12:30 - 2:30: English 1128 - "Short Prose Sls & Composition"
This class also evokes the past. Remember a long time ago when I took the Langara English Test and failed, or so I thought, because I didn't finish my essay, and the rules for the test said that this meant automatic disqualification? (I guess that was here.) Some time possibly measured in years later, I was poking through my information on the langara website and discovered there that I was recorded as having completed the test with a '5' (which is, for extra surrealism, the highest mark). So, yeah. Either the rules lied to me, or the examiners liked my essay so much that they wrote a computer simulation of me that finished it within the allotted time, and declared that good enough. In either case, nobody thought to mention it to me.

This is the beginning English course recommended for people who got that score, which I'm finally taking because I might transfer a university which would expect it of me, and because there are interesting English courses later on for which it's a prerequisite. I don't know what an 'Sl' is, but it probably involves writing essays, sigh.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday

2:30 - 3:30: Japanese 1215
The second part of the first year Japanese course I began in the fall. I wanted to take this from Hayashi-sensei, who went to Japan with us, but alas, he isn't teaching it this term, so I'm back with Ms. Leduc (who isn't terrible; I just like Hayashi). If they tend to stagger the classes like I suspect they do, then he may never be teaching the one I need next, unless I wait a term fallow; that would be sad.

Tuesday Thursday

3:30 - 5:30: Philosophy 2225 - "Existentialism"
And here is the other of those second year courses, taught by Bernelle Strickling, the mysterious and reclusive* head of Langara's philosophy department. I am extraordinarily vague on what existentialism is (except I think it convinces people to drink themselves to death?), so I look forward to a great deal of education.

(* I've actually just never had her.)

So, that's four. (Pictorial representation.) I have fond hopes of not dropping any of them; we'll see how that goes.
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They're (almost all) up here, hosted by a gracious codepoetica. (I thought that I was going to be getting a flickr account, but it turns out that they only let you upload 20 MB a month unless you pay them.) Still missing, for most of the photographs, are names or descriptions; I'm adding those, slowly, but I thought that some of my readers might like to see pictures of Japan as soon as possible, even if they are only able to guess at what is depicted. Here you go, those readers.

Eventually more people from the trip will upload their photos, and then I'll link to those, which will probably be more satisfying in many respects because A) I'm not a very good photographer, and B) there are significant gaps in my pictures -- including especially anything after my camera stopped working in Tokushima and any picture of me that is not an arm-length self-portrait -- which the more prolific in our company will no doubt have done much to fill. A few of Marilee's are already up.
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I don't have a great deal of faith in Stephen Harper as a leader; back when he was leader of the opposition, I thought that most of his arguments were outright bizarre, and I've never heard of an important political position making someone saner. I remember, though, in my Canadian Politics and Government class, learning that Prime Ministerial hopefuls have a tendency to campaign to curtail the enormous power of the office, and then, when they get in, completely forget to do that, because the power is much too useful. So it's pretty impressive that he actually seems to be doing it after all.

("I worked with Stephen Harper for five years and never once did he, in that time, eat a baby," he told the newspaper.)

Yesterday passed through, got late and ended much sooner than I've been used to, all of the reasons for which are probably variants on "I'm back from Japan". I'm jet lagged, and recuperating; I got up later than I have been, and didn't have any larger schedule of the day to conform to; I'm in an environment that doesn't require a great deal of consideration or concentration for me to interact with. Here are some things I ought to do before much more time surprises me by passing:
  • Finish my Buddhism reflections journal, two very short essays, and a website showcasing pictures of animals, so as to properly complete the academic portion of the Japan program.

  • Start looking for a job.

  • Shop some more for my sister's birthday. Actually, I did that yesterday. (In addition to which I brought her a stuffed Totoro from Japan.)

  • Start partaking of the advantages home has over abroad (other than my own computer), especially including the company of people I know here who aren't in my family. I miss you guys!

And then

May. 27th, 2006 05:02 pm
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I'm back.

I saw Keely the Friday before I left, by happenstance on Commercial Drive; she had just come back from Cuba, and she was really tanned, which may have predisposed me to think about this in terms of tans. I have not physically tanned this trip, but I have a tan of the mind, a strange cultural surface colouration that will take a while to fade. It will be at least a day or two before it feels natural to thank someone for a service in english, without bowing.

I thought that there would be more of that; that the not-Japan in Vancouver would be more sharp and shocking for me. But the plane ride provided a kind of liminal decompression, a ritual transition, so that by the time I was here the familiar shapes, colours and language seemed almost natural. Here I am, then. It's the first time I've ever come back to my city from a place that made it look drab.

My moustache is too long (though not unsightly, just uncomfortable), and my mind and prose are stumbling a little from the lack of sleep, and I haven't listened to music of my own choice in three weeks, and I kind of smell. I'll correct all of these, eventually, as I grow generally less tanned.

This trip was huge; I feel like I only wrote about the barest outlines of it, here. There wasn't time; the rest wouldn't fit. I feel like I should apologize for that. I wish I could have given the whole thing, in exacting detail.

There will be pictures.
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We spent two days in Koyasan, which is the name of a mountain and also of the village on that mountain, which is a holy place -- there's a temple every five buildings or so -- established by Kobo Daishi, the monk who founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism. He chose it because the mountain is surrounded by eight other peaks, which resembles the eight-petaled lotus flower, which is a symbol for enlightenment. It is considered a pure-land-on-earth.

(There's a bit of an interesting tension there, because one of the benificent characteristics of the traditional Pure Land, the western Buddha-land of the Buddha Amitabha, is that it's absolutely flat, so that it's never necessary to walk uphill. There are a lot of lotuses there, though.)

Kobo Daishi really was here*, and this is where he died; you can go to the place where apparently his body is, though not actually close to or into the building that houses it. He is said to be in a state of eternal meditation, and to grant boons like a saint; people light lanterns for him, and the monks bring offers of food and clothing to symbolically sustain him. To get to where that is, you pass over three bridges; the first bridge takes you from the village to the World of Death, the second from there to Purgatory, and the third from there to the World of Enlightenment, where Kobo Daishi is (and the temple for his offerings, and some burial mounds belonging to emperors from the Edo period). From the World of Death onward, the whole thing is actually a huge graveyard, the path winding between long dense clusters of ornate burial markers, Buddha statues, and huge evergreen trees, similar in kind to but much older and larger than anything we see in Vancouver, so that it didn't feel so much like home as like some mythic and magnified version of home, our land as the gods know it.

(* This is worth mentioning because we walked three of the eighty eight temples -- #3, #5 and #6 -- on the Shikoku pilgrimage route, when we were in Tokushima. Kobo Daishi is also said to have been the first to walk that, but it's historically impossible for him to have done so, at the time it was credited.)

That wasn't the only beautiful thing on Koyasan, though it was the most striking. On a purely visual level I think that it's my favourite place we've been.

Now we're back in our hostel in Osaka, where I am on the tenth floor using internet that costs ¥100 for 15 minutes. That's a dollar. (A Canadian dollar -- no easy conversion for my American friends. Haw!) All the first times of this trip are melting into this string of last times -- the last place (here) that we'll be, the last time (yesterday) that we'll go formally as a group to some educationally relevant place, the last time (today) that I'll need to do laundry. My flight home is in two days; I'll get there at 11 AM, which will be 3 AM for me, which will be Interesting. I'll be happy to be home for a lot of reasons, but I'll miss this place, and its beauty, and the wonderful cultural idiosyncracies, and the people in our group.

I spent, like, three dollars to write this entry. I hope you like it.
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Today my sunscreen came open in my backpack. Most of my stuff weathered the storm surprisingly well, but cleaning the bag itself will not be fun.

Have you heard of Tenrikyo? It's a fairly young Japanese religion which has its Mecca and Salt Lake City in Tenri, where we spent three days. I had previously known nothing about it, so I had only barely just realized what was going on by the time that, an hour or so after we got off the train, we entered the sprawling and beautiful temple which surrounds the spot that, according to Tenrikyo, humanity was first created. We've visit a lot of holy places, but I haven't felt the wonder and humility of being an accidental pilgrim quite so strongly anywhere else as I did at that moment.

Tenrikyo is interesting. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Mormonism, though all my reasons are superficial enough that I doubt Rachel would see it: its youth (it was founded in the mid-1800s by a housewife-become-prophet), its active missionary effort and boasts of worldwide membership, its everyday overtness, its monotheism. (Though theirs is not the God of Abraham.) Unfortunately, it also shares a difficulty I encounter with a lot of evangelistic religions, which is that when its adherents are talking about it, rather than ritually practising it, it tends to sound a lot more like advertising than like sacredness. It gets glossy and white-smiled, and I get cool and wary. Say what you will about Buddhism, but not once on this trip have I felt like it's trying to sell itself to me.

The second day, we went to Horyuji, which temple is supposedly the oldest wooden structure in the world. It was built by a guy named Prince Shotoku, who I thought sounded pretty awesome. (On the morning of the third day, we visited another very old temple - Asukadera, which was, I understand it, actually the first outpost of Buddhism in Japan - which turned out to have been constructed by this guy who eventually assassinated Shotoku (and his son) in a bid for power. (We also visited that guy's probable tomb - he was himself killed, shortly after, by a pair of dashing young partisans of the aristocracy.) Obviously our prince was dead, but I didn't expect him to go quite so violently; it was a little shocking to me, like having your favourite character killed off unexpectedly part way through the movie. This parenthetical is totally out of control. I'd better start a new paragraph.)

After Horyuji we went to Nara, where there are incredibly tame deer wandering everywhere; I pet one, which is another in the long list of things I got to do for the first time while on this trip. In Nara is a temple called Todaiji; the name means 'big eastern temple', which really doesn't prepare you for how big the temple is. I mean, you might think that it's a long way down the road from your house to the drug store, but that's just peanuts to Todaiji.

Okay, now we come more properly to the third day. After we'd seen Asukadera and some old, proto-Shinto structures built from boulders*, and eaten lunch, we went to this big shinto shrine whose name I totally forget. (* Larry, in his most authorative teacher-voice: "Okay, so, that's something that was made by... People... Back before they realized that you don't really have to do that.") It's a shrine to the semi-mythical first emperor, and thereby very important in Shinto. In order to enter the sacred inner courtyard, we underwent a ceremony of purification for our 'outer body'; we bowed our heads, and the priest, a very composed and articulate man, waved a sort of spirit-duster around us, a stick dense with white cloth or paper fronds, all immaculately clean. Then we all approached the home of the kami (the emperor and his wife), and stood in a line as he led us through a ceremony of greeting and respect for them.

Then, before leaving, we went through a ceremony of purification for our insides, which involved taking a sip of ritually prepared sake. I'm not sure whether I would have gone through with this, had I known about it before we began the ritual at all. As it was, because I had already begun, because the context was so religious, and because it was such a small quantity, I decided that I would.

The taste was remarkable; I can only imagine what sort of bulge-eyed face I made at the miko conducting the ceremony. I had sort of imagined that it might just be like some strange and exotic juice, but it was awful, in that sickly-sour way that the smell of alcohol also has; and, just like in fantasy novels, once it reached my throat it seemed to be converted into fire, which I could still feel for some time afterward, travelling slowly down my esophagus. I guess that alcohol in general is an acquired taste that I have never acquired. Afterwards, I felt sort of cautiously off-balance, which I decided was probably psychosomatic (Marilee confirmed this afterward; she says that a whole orange has more alcohol in it than what we drank. Not so concentrated, though, I'll bet).

That was the sacred side of our time in Tenri. Allow me also to mention that we did our grocery shopping at one of the largest supermarkets I have ever seen. It had several mini-restaurants, including a Baskin & Robbins, for which I was inordinately grateful; there is iced cream everywhere here, but it's all vanilla or green tea, and that was the first place I've been able to get chocolate. It had groceries, of course. It had toiletries. It had an alcove full of UFO catchers. It had video games, including FFXII, and Mother 3. It had wacky Japanese t-shirts with their peculiar english. It had music. It had manga. It had one place where you could buy a Famicom for about 15 dollars (but I didn't). It had basically no walls at all between these things. Also, the music: unlike the banal

And that was Tenri. I am now in Tokushima, Tokushima, the city so nice that they named it 'Tokushima', where the local university has put us up in a really nice hotel (we all have single rooms) but where apparently it's going to rain a whole bunch more. (We're actually catching the edge of a typhoon.) I have taken a significant time to write this, and now I'm very hungry, so I'm off to have dinner.

The trip is halfway done.
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Today it woke me up by raining, hard and loud; since it's our day off, it would have been a perfect time for it, except that Hayashi-sensei was to take us to a forest full of monkeys, were the weather better. We are all very disappointed not to have seen the monkeys.

I lounged around the hotel all day, though, which I probably really needed; hopefully, anyway, this will lead to my feeling refreshed and ready for adventure tomorrow, rather than breaking the flow of industrious energy that has carried me this far. Knock on (one of the many) wood(en buildings in this city). I read two books, anyway (the first two of Pamela Dean's Secret Country trilogy; foolishly, I neglected to acquire and pack the third), which makes me feel better about my decision to bring eight.

Yesterday we took some classes as guests at a local university, including a class on the history and philosophy of haiku, which I enjoyed as much as most of you no doubt expect (I got in an interesting argument with the professor). After that and the others we met up with some Japanese students and did an exercise where we tried to communicate with them. My very little Japanese availed me very little, and because I was nervous and rusty I kept making elementary mistakes like forgetting the past tense. This is, if you're looking for one, a good way to feel like an idiot.

My partner was very friendly, though. Actually, everyone is very friendly, both among my traveling companions (who are seriously almost absurdly nice) and the Japanese. It is possible that the Japanese are just being polite.

We are leaving Kyoto tomorrow, so I have no idea when I'll be on the internet again.
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This keyboard is wrestling me for control; the button that turns on the katakana is very easy to hit in place of the space bar. Also, I cannot find the apostrophe, so I suppose that I will have to avoid contractions or possessives.

I have been in Kyoto, which for years has been at the top of my list of places to visit that I never yet had, for two full days now. I want to talk about that, but it is difficult to figure out how. There is so much that is just experience; I cannot break it down into words yet. It is, as prophesized, very likely the most beautiful place I have ever been.

Our temple schedule has been very intense. We visited something like six yesterday, and passed countless more as we walked between them. By the end of the day, our eyes were glazed and our legs sore (I personally was also dehydrated). Today we did less, and did more bussing than walking, but my legs were already primed to soreness. I did see the famous rock garden at Ryoanji, which surprised me by being beautiful, not in an abstract or intellectual way but in a very accessibly visceral one. It really does look like islands.

There are a lot of Japan-things, most of which are what you would expect. They have a mascot for everything, down to the garbage cans, which display proudly on the sides a pair of egg people whose greatest joy is apparently to sweep up litter. Schoolchildren, especially girls, wave and shout, Harro! and, See you! (I cannot find the quotation marks, either.) The vast majority of written or spoken warnings and advisories I cannot understand. English shows up in strange and whimsical ways, often grammatical, or almost so, but clearly constructed from the outside. When I hear it, I fall naturally back into my pattern of unconscious comprehension, before recalling with a shock that it is not normal here.

Last night a bunch of us went out for dinner at a restaurant with a vast menu full of tiny pictures that we could not really interpret. (Everyone but me was also going out drinking, but, surprisingly, I did not mind this. I have discovered that if I like someone, there is a good chance that I will enjoy their company even drunk. They get clumsier and inappropriately loud, and laugh at stupid things, and repeat their jokes in case you did not hear, so it is kind of like they all turn into me.) Some of our number had rudimentary or even complex Japanese, but this did not much help; we got into a series of strange and remarkable misunderstandings, which included accidentally ordering three dishes and spending about five minutes cycling through the same dialogue as we tried to indicate that crab was okay. They kept trading out for serving staff who were slightly better adept at English (after the first lady, who tried, just like anyone else dealing with a foreigner, shouting slowly at us in her native tongue); finally we ended up with a guy who asked where we were from.

Vancouver? He had been there. I like (he said) winter sports, and then he turned and did this strange illustrative bum-wiggle, and left. This, for me, was the last straw, and I laughed confused and helplessly for a very long time.

There were more misadventures, before the meal was over, but now I need to get off because a lot of people are waiting, and I have been on way too long. I will try to write more later.

Okay

May. 7th, 2006 08:41 am
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Here I go.
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I feel like I'm already gone; some of it is the weather. This week, it's been vacation weather, warm and clear and slightly windy, and it makes all the places I know into places I'm visiting, preparation-places. It seems like I'm constantly seeing some person or performing some activity for the last time before I leave. It seems like the air is telling me something, but I don't know what, unless it is to ache.

People have teased me, because I'm treating this like it will be so big, holding get-togethers to say poignant goodbyes to friends I'll actually be back in the city with in less than a month. Three weeks is less than a Teen Trip*; most of the people staying here will probably only just have started to miss me when I'm back. Many of them I may have gone that long without seeing, anyway. But it's so large and looming from my perspective that everything afterward is hazy and vague.

(* In time span, obviously; in geography, it's rather more ambitious than any of them. In shape, it's probably the closest thing I've had to one in the five years since the last.)

This will be my first time off this continent since I was too young to remember it. (I remember some things from being one year old, but not my trip to Greece.) Isn't that strange? There's such a gap sometimes between the comfortable reality of my experiences, in which it's cheerful to accept that I am at best a modest traveller, and the fiction-spanning space of my sensibilities, by which I often feel as though I am pretty backwards for never having left my planet.

I leave on Sunday, at 1:35; I'll have left the house by 10. All those who've argued over the likely span may be interested to know that my flight will actually last 9 hours, 45 minutes; my guess of 'ten hours' was pretty much on.
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Yesterday I got up and went to a Japan trip briefing. )

Then I saw a bunch of people for lunch! )

I gave Elise Young Miles to borrow and read, and she gave me a mix! I've only listened to it once, and, because I've made so many more mixes than I've received, my listening protocols in this situation are really clumsy; I haven't really managed to form an opinion of the thing as a whole, yet. I really like a lot of the songs, though (and am familiar with more of them than I'd realized; one was known to me by a different title, and one not by a title at all, and one is an honest to goodness hidden track, with two minutes of silence carefully prepended and everything! Awesome). The opener is good as an opener, and the end a good end.

After the lunch, we slowly dissolved; four of us bought a big slice of watermelon and went to eat it in the nearby park (did I mention that the weather was excellent yesterday? The sun is starting to get hot, but it's not yet unbearably so), and after that Andrew and I went to the library and then to start to see to my third important thing. This was last night's Franz Ferdinand/Death Cab For Cutie concert, which I was getting to go to, even though I'd long since decided that it would be too expensive, because Conor had won tickets, and I had successfully convinced him to take me. Transitions cut, plus asides. )

This one has the concert in it. )

We left happy, and crowded onto separate buses, and I went home and fell almost immediately asleep.

And this morning I woke up around noon, which explains why I was able to stay up so late to post this. This entry took me a really long time to write.
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Leonard and Sumana are marrying one another. Everybody wins!

Today I applied for my passport way later than I should have. It will work out anyway; I'll be able to pick it up two days before I leave. I'm pretty sure that's everything done that I need to do before I go* (and that I'm currently able to have done), and also the last of the things I was working on that I basically dropped on the floor when my computer died.

* Crucial exception!: I'd like to hang out with all or as many as possible of the various local friends that I by necessity won't be seeing for the month of May. Perhaps some sort of 'get-together' is in order; what do you think, local friends?

The Vancouver Public Library has a book return drop which is a rectangular concrete metal tube, with a hinged lid, jutting out at an angle from the sidewalk at the less used back side of the building. You lift the lid, drop your book down a chute inside, and watch it vanish smoothly underground; I have no idea how it gets from there to the library area proper, but I fondly hope the journey is convoluted. It brings me an unreasonable amount of joy.
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(I wanted a longer and more meandering subject, but apparently that's after a certain point discouraged.)

Last night, I went to a free advance screening of Brick, which I enjoyed so much that I'm afraid to talk about it here at any length. I don't think I could give a rational description.

It is now only slightly over a month until I am going to Japan. (!) For those readers who don't yet know, I'm leaving the 7th of May, returning on the 27th ("That's twenty... One"). Before then, I need to

  • Apply for and receive my new passport. I've left this ridiculously late, but still not late enough that I'm particularly worried.

  • Figure out what it makes sense for me to take along, and particularly whether that category includes my laptop (also, regardless of the answer to that, whether I'll have the regular opportunity for weblog posts or e-mails).

  • Go in early tomorrow morning to give a travel agent a cheque for a fair deal of money.

  • Finish up the current school term by writing a couple of final exams and an essay.

Probably it's this last that will absorb most of my attention for the next week or two.

Those 'Isaac Mizrahi' bus stop ads (which I guess are for clothing?) have a really successful model; whenever I see them, I want to stop and look at her. It's not exactly physical attraction - at least, not in the traditional variation - but there's something arresting about her face, and its expressions. She looks... Clever.

Cherry blossoms!

I have a painful pimple, right now, on the edge of one of my earlobes, and of course I keep touching it. In addition to the usual irrational impulse to keep poking at things like that, there's the fact that I've discovered that, though the pimple itself is on the front of my ear, I can feel it at the back, through the skin. It feels really weird.

I conceived of most of this entry early in my bus ride home from school, but I had to wait until I'd arrived before I could write it; no doubt it mutated, some, in that time (in addition to the certain mutations that are inevitable in the setting down of any narrative, given the brain's ability to fill in or skip over gaps or awkward places so thoroughly that it doesn't even recognize them until it comes time to lay a thing out, in order). It seems like livejournal's newfangled 'current location' field can't be very interesting* until I'm able to make an entry from any arbitrary place it occurs to me, rather than having to seek out these sorts of weblog 'save points': home, schools, libraries. Probably some people, with their cell phones, already have this. This reminds me of cola's idea of the 'blog fight', where two people would stand in some public place, with spectators, and post furiously at one another, until some victory condition was achieved (the other duelist's hands getting tired?).

(* Though it may serve me well in Japan.)
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I should mention that I did, in fact, put in my $500, and so will almost certainly be going to Japan this May.

"Chutes Too Narrow", which is the Shins CD my sister bought for me, is about 34 minutes long; this puts it considerably less than half the length of "Illinois" (which I finally found used a week ago, and which I continue to think is delicious). The peculiar thing about this is that I'm pretty sure they're sold for the same price. It's tempting to say that the Sufjan Stevens is a much better value, except that, of course, minutes of music aren't all equivalent to one another; "Chutes" is good, and doesn't feel truncated as an album, and I'm sure that there are any number of longer albums around which would be giving me less enjoyment, if right now I had them instead. Still, something doesn't seem right about the situation.

One of the things I'll need to deal with in figuring out how I feel about this is that, if I'm ever responsible for an album, it's probably going to be on the briefer side (I write short songs). On the other hand, it's pretty unlikely that my method of distribution will be to sell it next to Sufjan in the record stores.
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I need to figure out what I plan to do this coming Summer; there are two trips that I might take, both of which would be awesome, so it's sort of an antidilemma*. First, there is Otakon '06, which, it looks like, is intended to play host to another great convergence like 2004's, and at which my attendance has been strongly suggested by some people I'd like to see. Second, there is a program at Langara where I could go to Japan for three weeks and study Buddhism.

(* Since they're also very likely mutually exclusive, it of course also contains the ordinary dilemma of having to give one of them up, but I hope you'll understand why I prefer to think of it this way.)

Let's look at how they compare. Japan is clearly preferable in terms of destination, because, Japan! Baltimore is too hot, and besides, I've been there already. It also wins out on the formal activities of the thing; con panels can be fun, but they clearly don't compare to wandering about Japan, visiting temples and talking about religion. (Have I mentioned Japan?) On the other hand, there is price - the Langara trip would cost me $2350 even before tuition and airfare, whereas all of Otakon could probably be done on less than $1000 - and - the real reason that Otakon isn't ruled out already - company; Marilee is going on the Japan trip, but she would probably be the only person I know, and Otakon is a chance to hang out with several awesome friends of mine I almost never get to see.

Does anyone reading this want to attempt to convince me one way or the other? Especially those who plan attendance at Otakon, since that is, at this point, a little bit the underdog?

The assorted otherwise:

Pictures J Pictures! The wedding pictures are still being sorted through.

Music/Circles I Know The first New Pornographers album began recording at the Gate; the latest one, I've just noticed, contains the musicianship of Todd McDonald, of The Winks and former Windsor House fame (also, Jim is thanked). The album is really good.

Election The Liberal government fell on Monday; yesterday morning, on the way to school, I saw the first few federal election signs already up. I guess that everyone was ready.

I have no idea yet how I intend to vote among the three parties that are not the Conservatives.

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Andy H.

February 2013

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