Wednesday, 30 September 2009

I may be biased, but my cats are freaking adorable!


Soushi's favorite places are in a box, on the carpet of his scratch post, in my wardrobe (on my pillow...>_>), or on the windowsill.  I love cats on windowsills!  Ophelia's favorite places are under the curtains of my wardrobe, in a box, or on top of her carrier (which is at Lindsey's at the moment...).  She also likes to sit on Soushi.  Moments ago I was playing fetch with Ophelia, but she got her toy stuck at the top of the ladder, and currently the two of them are working together to get it un-stuck.  My opinion? World's.cutest.cats!

I fell alseep reading today.  Totally had intended on staying awake all day, cause I really can't mess up my sleep schedule, not that there's much of one.... Of course, saying that, I'm eating dinner at 11 o'clock... Oh! And the cats got the toy free! (And dropped it on my dresser.)

The meds from the doctor seem to be doing the trick.  Hopefully I won't have to go back.  Problem solved and everything.  This would be good since, while the insurance fiasco (tm) is at a lull, I really don't want to poke the sleeping giant... thanks, pass.  And I'll refrain from getting up on my soapbox about socialised healthcare and how much it sucks... mostly cause I'd like to never have to think about it again... EVER. ><#

So, I'm really worried about what I'm going to do when I move back.  I've seen lots of office receptionist/secretary type jobs around Lansing and Jackson that pay well enough, so part of me isn't too worried about work - though I'd rather do something, eventually, slightly more applicable to my field (which is what????) or, well, at least Japanese or writing.  And receptionist would be fine for a while, as long as I don't have to answer too many questions, but it's not a career thing.  I want to go back to school, but practical wisdom is telling me to hold off and start next winter - give myself time to move, get a job, get a car (I want a Dodge Ram!! ... ah pipe dreams...), get settled.  I guess it's good that I generally start wanting the practical thing anyway... eventually... after I get done loathing and despising it with everything I've got.

And I've decided, as much as I like not working... having this much time off really makes me go completely nuts!  At least today I was productive... in a sense of the word... I went to the post office to ask questions, went to the bank, got seasoning for the nasty pork that I already paid for and thus have to cook (dear heaven, why?), read about 100 pages before I passed out, then did lots of random blog updates,  lyrics and Japanese stuff.  Oh... and about 200 kanji flash cards... I should probably study grammar too.  I think I just guessed good enough to pass that section, but 二度と that luck might not come again.  I'd like to be writing, but I don't have the emotional/mental energy to focus on a story right now.  I keep jumping from story to story and deciding they all suck and I think it's just a symptom of the stress I'm trying to ignore.  In a way, I'll be glad to go back to work (that way being I won't have to dread actually going, cause I'll already be there).  I'll miss having any free time at all.  And I'll hate being on the trains so much again.  Especially when I'm tired, train rides are just hell.  Yesterday, granted I was running on 2 hours of sleep, cafe olay (cause I can't spell French and I'm not even going to try) and coke, I wasn't on 15 minutes before I was near jumping to get off.  By the time I got off (an hour later) I was nauseous and dizzy and it was just not fun.  Walked home and was very glad that I'd been too lazy to pick up my bed cause the work clothes went off and I fell on the floor futon and passed out.

I think I have good ideas for class though.  For my seventh graders yesterday I pushed off the book "conversation" work (cause it never works out even in the good classes, stupid "conversation" class, dumb idea, imho) till like, the last 10 minutes of class, and we did an activity guessing country names in English.  The kids got to compete with other groups, had to work in teams.  It failed during the first class, obviously, cause everything fails in that class, cause they're hellions, but the other classes really seemed to enjoy it and worked really hard.  I wish I could do more stuff like that instead of drilling pronunciations that they forget as soon as they repeat and making them practice conversations that they don't really understand and barely put effort into practicing.

Gonna pay attention to the purring kitty on my lap now. :P  Toodles

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Childe Rowland

Apparently when I picked out my 100 free e-books that came with my reader, I grabbed a copy of Joseph Jacobs's "English Fairy Tales," which happens to have the story of "Childe Rowland" in it, which happens, as it were, to be a root of one of King's inspirations for The Gunslinger (the gunslinger's name is also Roland)... in a round about manner.  Shakespeare wrote a line about it in King Lear, which I totally  don't remember

Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still 'Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.
King Lear, Act 3, scene 4

most likely because it's complete nonsense in the context of the play...

Anyway, it seems Robert Browning wrote a poem called "Child Rowland to the Dark Tower Came," though apparenlty (I have yet to read the poem, though it's included in the last book of the Dark Tower series, according to wikipedia) the poem has nothing to do with the story.

Which is really not the point of this entry.  The point of this entry was to reflect on what I thought of the story, titled in the English Fairy Tales collection by Jospeh Jacobs, "Childe Rowland."  So here goes.

I don't think I've ever actually read English fairy tales..... Seriously.  My knowledge of fairy tales goes about as far as the Grimm's fairy tales.  In this list, I know "Jack and the Beanstalk," the title "Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse" is familiar for some reason, but I haven't read it yet to see if I actually know it, and that's it.  I wonder why... my great grandma on my mom's side was from Wales, so you'd think...

Anyway, moral of the story - don't run against the sun (which would be west?  I'm good with directions, but I'm trying to figure out how an arc overhead could be transcribed into which way to walk in a circle... counter-clockwise?) around a church if you're a girl cause the Elfking will nab you and put you under a spell, though you'll be fairly pampered and aside from the whole kidnapped and being under a spell, it may not be a bad deal... unless you're already a princess, in which case hope your brother's aren't too dumb to mess up the rescue.  That was moral one.  Moral two is to always ask your mom before going on an adventure, despite getting advice from Merlin, because mom knows what's best, and she'll give you a magic sword that never misses, unless your opponent is an elfking with an equally magic weapon, in which case you may have to apply some skill, but you'll still win.

I still find it weird that all of the fairy tales I know are German.  Granted, I am German descent, and the whole Germans settling in the midwest thing... still... weird!

Why is there no spell check?!

The Gunslinger - Stephen King

All in all, best book I've read since Good Omens (Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman), though considering that's the last book in English I've read most of the way through (I got distracted with about 20 pages left...), I do suppose that's not actually saying a lot...

But I really did enjoy it. It's nothing like Good Omens, by the way. Good Omens is, what would you even call it? Fantasy End-of-the-World comedy? The Gunslinger is, I would consider anyway, straight up fantasy. It's not elves and hobgoblins. Though there is a bit of magic in it, a sorcerer anyway, it's very much outside of the realm of traditional fantasy. It takes place in our world, actually I got a very distinct feeling of Nevada desert, Rockies, and California area, but that may just be me. But the whole story really is out of time. You can't tell at all how old the gunslinger is throughout the book, since it seems he's lived for several ages and, as he keeps saying, "the world has moved on" quite a lot since he was a child. Jake is a modern kid, I imagine from the time King started writing the book, who is technically dead, and I'm curious if he even really existed at all. He very definitely was a trap for the gunslinger by the man in black, but since he's dead, and clearly from a time thousands of "years" (I say that in the loosest sense of the word because, like I said, time is all out of whack in the story) prior to when he appears in the desert and runs into the gunslinger.

I liked the flow of the story. It didn't seem nearly as long as when I read it as a kid. The writing style was easy to read. There were no unwieldy sentences, really nothing structurally that made me go "huh???" while I was reading it. The editing, whether done by King himself or his editors, was really well done. Only a few things jumped out at me as "this really doesn't need to be here," or "stop beating me over the head with this," until the end part that I rambled about in my last entry. Even that may have a reason for it that I just haven't gotten to yet, so I'm waiting to count that as a positive or negative in the book. King kept saying the gunslinger was "unimaginative" or "without imagination" in the narration and dialogue. He also kept saying that he didn't think much, which showed mostly in the huge gaps of time where there would be no internal monologue from the gunslinger, or sometimes "three days of nothing passed" before any narration at all continued.

A lot of fantasy and sci-fi books make the mistake of dumping information on you about the world, characters, history, what-have-you in the first chapter or so. The Gunslinger didn't even teeter on that edge. You're dropped into the desert with the gunslinger and spend the first while going "Why the heck is he here?" King used a lot of flashbacks throughout the story to explain the gunslinger's background, a bit of the history of the places, and all those details, which at first struck me as a little awkward (the first major flashback when he's sitting in the dweller's hut with the bird), but the storytelling method he kept using throughout the book worked. In a way, I kind of found it contradictory to the gunslinger's "unimaginative" character who "doesn’t think much" to reminisce in the way the gunslinger kept doing for the flashbacks/stories. Yeah, he gets around it by letting it roll off the gunslinger and not affect his decisions, and in the end showing him acting almost without thought in regard to Jake. I'm not sure if it could have been done better and preserved the story, or if it's really not counter to his character at this point. Just a thought.

The story, so far (I have to keep reminding myself it's a ridiculously long, multi-book story...), amuses me in how it follows the hero's journey archetype while at the same time throwing up its own dark mantle over the Hercules and Frodo statues. It kinda sticks its tongue out at the archetypes. I liked it. It had all of the aspects. The call to adventure, the mother (multiples actually), the belly of the whale (I'd take Frodo's or Skywalker's any day!), the gate guardian who is also one of the guides and a part of the call to adventure (again, multiples). Everything was in order and fit, which is a part of epic fantasy and I think something I love about it but also something that drives me nuts because so many authors just write the same story with different colors. But things like the man in black, who appears throughout the gunslinger's life, spurring him into action over and over, setting him on the path to adventure and guiding him from beginning to end was twisted. He guided him, but he also guided him through things that he figured would kill the gunslinger. He set multiple traps for him that completely stripped down his pride and forced him to choose between his own life or dozens of other people's. Basically he was the world's worst counselor, and a jack-ass to boot. The other guide, who also serves as one of the gate guardians in his childhood, was a bit more normal in part because he was entirely human and had nothing spectacularly mystical about him. I say he's a guide, but maybe he was just more of a teacher. His instruction serves the gunslinger throughout the book though, and it's referenced in his inner monologue and flashbacks quite often. The mother, the gunslinger's real mother actually, appears mostly as nonsense rhymes in his inner monologue, but when she finally does appear in the flashbacks all I could think was "Saw that coming." I didn't get a sense of the gunslinger blaming his mother for anything though. The other character who I'd loosely consider tied to the mother archetype he ends up shooting in the face. Even the gunslinger as a hero is messed up. I don't think I'd even go so far as to call him an anti-hero at this point because he's driven to find the Tower, but it's not clear why - if it's even for a purpose, noble or otherwise, or something that could be remotely construed as noble. (For anti-hero, think Han Solo in Episode IV. He saves the princess for money, essentially - though he's not the main "hero." That would be Luke.)

There were also a lot of biblical references and parallels. The Tower at the nexus of all universes and time being given over to the control of a red king. Jake's character was a bit of a twisted form of Isaac. Throughout the whole text there were little drops that really made me go "Huh, King knows his bible... or random sections of it really well..." It was very culturally based, and I think, for example, Japanese fans here with a translation would miss a lot of the atmosphere. It's very apocalyptic and dark without being scary or creepy, but I wonder if you didn't understand the cultural references, and there were more than just biblical references, if you'd catch that feeling. There was also a raised hat to Tolkien at the end, if I may be so bold as to put that out there. The scene on the bridge most definitely felt straight out of the Fellowship and Khazad-dum. Really though, for all his forward brought up how he waited to write the story so he wouldn't write Tolkien's story again (fantasy writers, follow his example!!), I had completely forgotten about his even mentioning that until the bridge at the end. It kinda just felt like a nod. "Yeah, loved the books. Thanks for the good times." - type nod.

And I wonder how many of you bothered to read all the way through that! Ahah, I babble a lot. Yikes. It was a good book though, and like I said, not a hard read. And if you're thinking, "Ah.. Stephen King... It and scary stuff," don't let that stop you from reading it, because it's really not scary at all. The one part that might be scary in a movie (maybe? the picture in my head, now that I think on it, kinda resembled Gollum, mostly just made me giggle) really wasn't tense because you knew how it had to play out as part of the man in black's plan. It's dark, that's for sure. And the "ending" is good enough to be considered an ending, but it clearly is more "the end of the beginning." ... and it's not what I would call a happy ending... or a sad ending... just an "Ah... Yup..."

Anyway, I'd recommend it. I'm on to reading Terry Brooks's "The Sword of Shannara." I've just started chapter three, and I'm kinda going "1400 page book... Seriously?" and wondering if I'm going to finish it. It's really not grabbing me. Could be the writing style, which is clumsy, repetitive and inconsistent. It could be the characters, which are completely unbelievable and 2 chapters in I should care about them at least in some regard... which I don't. We'll see how long it keeps my attention. After that it's Moon Called by Patricia something-or-other, and then Terry Pratchett's... I forgot the title. Save the best for last. :P

Monday, 28 September 2009

Can~t sleep

I have to be up in around 3 hours. Tommorrow~s gonna be fun!!

I finished The Gunslinger though. Good book. Didn~t remember any of it. Granted I read it when I was 11 or 12 ish. I think the owner of the book just wanted to shut me up so she handed me the first big book in arms~ reach. I remembered the desert...and the gross barn keeper in the town (I remember trying to figure out what was up with him and the daughter...).

Good book though. I have 3 more to read that I just got (thank you Grandma and Grandpa!) before I~m allowed to get the next book.

Maybe I~ll write a review of it later. If I tried now it would make next to no sense and I~d probably end up deleting this all on accident as I finished. I haven~t read any of Stephen King~s other books so I can~t say how they compare...but it wasn~t scary or creepy at all...or maybe I~m just looking at it from an analytical standpoint. It definitely seemed probing, especially near the end when the man in black is talking. I~d almost go so far as to say that part is what King really wanted to address the entire book...but I won~t until I see if that whole schpele fits in later anywhere. Cause why else have a monologue your main character, and alot of your readers won~t even follow much less be able to wrap their brains around, and that the main character forgets most of as soon as it~s over? And throw in reference after reference...ah well. Just curious is all. We~ll see. I doubt that section even has much relevance to the whole story - unless to give readers who didn~t pick up
the other clues, and those who did, one more `pay attention here` sign...considering the entire book is him chasing this guy down. My guess is that it was 1) to give an idea, however unreliable, of what the Tower is and 2)a chance for King to muse a bit.

And I~m really hoping I manage to sleep at all before my alarm goes off.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Let's make a statement.

We have principals and laws we're willing to throw away for "change".

Sounds about right to me.  I wasn't there.  I don't know what happened, but I want to know what reasoning the police chief used to declare an assembly unlawful.  What reasoning did the police use who took down a girl who was backing away from them, completely unarmed?  I don't care what she was saying, what the protest was about, or what people were saying in the streets.  I want to see a video of the civilian who fired a weapon at the police to justify swat teams attacking unarmed civilians in the street.  Or is our president just making another statement to the international community that he can "change" our childish and shameful behavior?

I feel like I'm watching videos of the 70s, or of some other country's upheaval... not my own.  Gassing assemblies is only going to make more people assemble and piss them off.  Covering it up isn't going to do anything.  Yelling at cameramen to move their cameras is only going to make them want the video even more.

I think the shock of this whole thing is going to take a while to wear off.  I still don't want to believe that's my country.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The dead quiet of summer...

... was not actually dead or quiet, in which case I would have actually updated instead of thinking about doing so and having a moment of utter panic in which I decide to stop thinking altogether until something less stressful presents itself to think about.

But the summer's over, and I'm back to my routine, and, well, it's not any less stressful, but I'm bored at work right now, so I figured I'd give it a go at updating this thing.

May was the last time I updated, but I don't remember anything of significance happening in May.... So let's skip ahead to June. In June, Chieko came from Hawaii for a school trip to Sado island, which makes me giggle for reasons only she and Lindsey actually get, and Lindsey came to Tokyo for a week, and the three of us together went to see Japan's most fabulously rediculous band, Psyco le Cemu's 10 year annaversary live. We made 2 of the 4 nights. We had tickets for 3, 1 was in the wrong city, but Lindsey and I both had the wrong date written in our calendar, and we missed the finale by a night. GAH! That was upsetting. But we were super close both times we went, and it would have been weird to see them without Chieko anyway (she was in Sado by that time). Aside from the concert, June just about sucked. There was no break in the work schedule, which would have been less stressful had I been more comfortable at my job and more able to handle the bratty students at the one school at the time. The first week of July saw a temporary reprieve from that nightmare, and my schedule opened up significantly.

Except that at the other school, at which I am contracted to be only 3 days a week, we were scrambling to put together the listening exam which was due the second day I returned after summer break, which, I might point out, we barely finished on time. Midway through July, that school let out for the summer, and I had a week off, which, if I remember correctly, I spent doing absolutely nothing fun. The next weekend my friend Carrie came up from Kobe and we hit Disneyland with Ming. Fun, except for the nasty cold I got that morning. By night I was feverish and could barely swallow, which did absolutely nothing to improve my temper. But the park itself was fun. We watched two of the parades, though the electrical parade is less impressive than I expected, the first was amazing. We also sat through a performance on one of the stages. I kept trying to get pictures with some of the characters, but I've pretty much decided that, unless you're asian, they ignore you completely because more than once they looked directly at me trying to get their attention and beelined it for the group of asian adults on the other side of them.

The next day I started the first of the summer camps, through which entirety I was incredibly sick and made it through class only by sucking on throat drops one after another. One more week off and I went up to Niigata for another camp, which was actually a camp this time. That was fun. I wanted to smack one of my coworkers whenever she opened her mouth, but it was good to not be alone in that sentiment. Niigata was gorgeous, and I want to go back in the winter, maybe try snowboarding. The girls at the camp were fun, and the staff was really supportive. The food was disgusting, and most of it I couldn't actually eat, which was fortunate really cause I didn't want to. We made a traditional dessert called "sasadango," which is made out of mochi and anko (like mochi, hate anko) and wrapped in leaves. It was fun to make, and mine turned out really pretty! I have pictures somewhere that I'll upload at some point. I was going to give them to my friend who was supposed to be watching my cats for me, but I didn't see him right away, so I just tossed them cause they were going to go bad and I wasn't about to eat them. My cats were also, apparently, alone from Monday night until Thursday evening, because my friend is a genius of the smrt variety. But they were good, and no damage to anything. They had enough food, and the air conditioner was still on, but their water was filthy and they were lonely. I felt really bad about leaving them for so long.

The day I got back from the Niigata camp, Lindsey moved down from Hokkaido. Shortly after that I started paying my residential tax, which is a special tax above federal tax, kinda like city tax, but that exceeds 1000 dollars. My payment is between 200 and 150 a month on that, on top of my 100 in federal taxes. Then the city also decided that I don't owe them 40 dollars a month for insurance, I owe them 200... which I in no way can pay with the taxes, cost of living, and loans. Even with the overtime pay I got from the camps, I ended up completely in the red and nearly depleating my entire savings account, again, this month. I'm still working on a way to deal with the insurance fiasco, as it's been officially named. It's crap insurance, and the doctors it allows me to see are incompetant, and frankly, I don't care what the state says, it's worthless and I don't want it. Not to mention, I in no way can afford it. So I have to go back, for the third time, to the city office on Friday, and hopefully that'll be the end of it.

A few weeks ago Lindsey and I stumbled on a summer festival at one of the local elementary schools and got shoved into the dance by a middle aged woman who was way stronger than she looked. A couple of older ladies showed us how to do the dances and helped us keep up. My feet were sore from my sandals, but it was a lot of fun!

I'm back to work now, have been since the last week of August. My classes at the one jr. high have gotten worse over the summer instead of better, and despite being stricter, the kids still spend the entire class chatting or otherwise not participating. The first week back at the other school was a series of one bad thing after another, but it's over, and after this week I don't have to come back here until October. I have to work at the other school, but at least I'll have some breathing time. The weekends are just so short.

This is already obnoxiously long or I'd babble some more, but I'll save that for another time.