Thursday, 30 December 2010

I climbed a mountain!

Well, first because we only had about an hour and a half of daylight left, I took a rope way up a mountain then hiked down (and barely made it before dark...).  Then the next morning I climbed up the mountain, then back down.  There are three main paths up Miyajima, and I climbed on all of them, and ne'er a monkey to be seen. :(  At the top of the rope way there were free lockers to put your bags and signs everywhere warning about the monkeys, but on day one it was rainy and cold, and on day two.. well, I guess they just don't like coming out during the winter.  I don't blame them, but I'm pretty bummed I couldn't see at least one.  Had binoculars this time too, but no luck.  I think they hate me.  Third time's the charm?

Anyway, here are some pictures!  Sorry, they're huge.  I took 194 after deleting some of the blurry ones or doubles. o.O  This camera is awesome.

 This is the atomic bomb dome, 原爆ドーム(genbaku dohmu).  I didn't stick around long, since we were on our way to the ferry to get to the island at the time and I was far more interested in seeing the monkeys, but it looks like it was a municipal building or something.  It's part of the Peace Park.  It was interesting to see how the city dealt with the bombing.  If you're confused, Miyajima is just off the coast from the main island of Japan at Hiroshima.  The first ferry we took, we got about a half hour in (as I sank further and further flat against the table) before the captain finally decided continuing out into the bay (we just barely made it off the river) was too dangerous.  The river was all white-caps, and the waves as we neared the bay had to have been at least five feet.  The bottom of the ferry was flat, and the nose was definitely not shaped to cut through waves.  That was disconcerting.  I'm glad we turned around, even though we lost well over two hours because of it.

 We finally got to 宮島口 (Miyajima guchi) where the JR ferry set off.  It's only about five minutes from the JR port to the island, but it took a long time to get to the station on the train.  The water was still really rough, but it was one of those ferries that transports cars so we didn't even feel it on the top.  This picture was while we were in line.  Right before I snapped this it was really bright, but it had faded by the time the guy in front of my would let me move the foot I needed to get the pillar out of the way of my camera.
 厳島神社の大鳥居 - This is the front of Ituskushima shrine.  The gate is held into the water by its own weight rather than set into the sand.  It's huge!  This is just after high tide.
 Deer.  They were everywhere.  They fear nothing, cars, people, squealing children.  They're sacred though.  Actually the whole island is, but deer are considered sacred in Japan.  It's the same in Nara, though there were more deer on Miyajima than I saw in Nara.  Apparently there are usually way more in Nara, and they're bullies, but I think animals in Japan just hate me and want to prove all of the tourist information wrong.  Anyway, they cut off the antlers on the male deer in both places so dumb tourists don't get gored when they try to pet them.
 I just liked this bridge.  This was on the way up to the rope way.  We went up to the peak, checked out the eternal fire temple on the peak next to it, then after a caution from one of the workers letting us know we had forty minutes of daylight left we booked it down the nearest trail.  It was all stairs, and very uneven stairs.  My knees stopped hurting today a little, but yeah, that hurt.  Beautiful though.
 Lindsey liked this tree.  Apparently it was huggable, and I have nutty friends. :P
 Starfish!  This was at the JR ferry landing again the next morning.  We were originally planning on going to Kyoto yesterday, but as we were making our way up the mountain on Tuesday we decided that we wanted to spend more time on the island. I'm glad we decided that before realizing there were no monkeys at the peak, or I may have started crying.
 Two bucks attempting to fight... or their clipped antlers were itchy....
 Mommy and baby.
 The torii gate at low tide.  This was maybe thirty minutes after the low tide mark.  There have been a ton of landslides on that island, which makes me wonder if that's not why the change in tides are so dramatic here.  It also makes me wonder how tall the mountain was originally, however many thousands of years ago.  You can see so many places where it just fell away.  On the trail we came down yesterday it looked like part had just crumbled and tossed giant mansion-sized boulders down the side.
 Another up-close picture.  I'm glad I wore my boots.  I would have had cold, wet feet otherwise, cause I don't usually realize I'm walking through water until I'm not wearing boots and my feet get soaked...
 A view on the way up.
Tanuki (racoon-dog) paw print in the concrete
 She was cute.  This is on the way to Misen peak.  There's a really narrow stair between a bunch of boulders (in front of the pictures below) that you have to climb to get up there.  A couple of Japanese women went down before me, and the deer was on her way up, so I stopped at the top of the stairs to let her pass and said basically "After you," but it came out in Japanese.  The women in front of me looked rather startled and laughed and commented on my Japanese as they continued down.  It made me giggle.
Lindsey scared about four people coming off that staircase despite the fact that I was standing on a boulder aiming a camera at her.  It was entertaining.
So of course I had to crawl in too. XD
 A view from near the top.
 This is one of the males smart enough to avoid the tourist areas during antler chopping season.  A little later from the top of the look-out, Lindsey and I watched a group walk up, two Americans and two Japanese guys.  The mis-communication between them was funny enough, but then one of the Japanese guys was dumb and tried to pet this guy.  Of course he lowered his head and got ready to charge, and one of the Americans made the comment "He's gonna get gored."  Lindsey and I burst out laughing, which seemed to stop the Japanese guy from trying to pet him (idiot..), so I guess that worked out.  We then had to look up how to say "to gore" in Japanese because it seemed like a useful word to know... it was a rather anticlimactic answer. 空く or 空き通す "to open."  Japanese has some really fun words and some really boring ones... I call this one boring.
One of the shrines on the path.  One of the deer found my camera lens cover interesting around here and looked like she wanted to eat it for a minute.
 Getting down to the bottom was so painful.  Had it not been for the stairs it probably would have taken longer, but both of us were in so much pain from our knees.  I ended up finding paths through the woods near the trail to avoid the stairs as much as I could.  On the other paths it would have been impossible.  They were paved with stones fairly solid the whole way, and to the sides there were quite often really deep gouges in the mountain side from a landslide in 平成17 which is.... 2005?  I think... I'm bad at converting that.  This year is 平成22, and I went to school in Osaka in 18, so I'm pretty sure that equals 2005.  Anyway, the landslide took out large chunks of the other two paths.  It looked like there had been a few because of the different construction methods we could see on different parts.  The trail we took down was built in 昭和4 or 6... I forgot already... I was born in 昭和60 or 61, so that would put it sometime in the 20s or early 30s.  There was another huge landslide in 1945 (if I remember the date correctly) that dumped 20,000 cubic meters of earth on the area in this picture, Itsukushima shrine.  There were dams holding back the mountain all the way up both of those trails.  Interestingly enough, the top ones were completely filled.  Typhoons and earthquakes must just rip that mountain apart.  Anyway, the trail down that we took looked like it had been damaged more by a rock fall, or maybe they built it around the rock fall... or maybe there were multiples.  There were some huge boulders, and some with trees growing through them or between them, but the parts of the path that were there were all one construction.  It made me want to study geology so I could figure out what was going on with all of that.
Leaving the island at sunset.  It was beautiful.  It really reminded me that it's Japanese cities that I hate, not Japan itself.  The people in the cities (which cover most of the islands) are obnoxious, rude, and self-centered.  I imagine it's a symptom of over-crowding and being over-worked.  There's a lot about Japan though that is beautiful and fascinating.  Historic Kyoto, if you can ignore the people who generally have the above qualities, is amazing.  Nara is huge.  Kawagoe is fascinating.  Miyajima.. I could spend a week on that island and be perfectly content.  It was nice to get away.  I couldn't breathe in the city (used my rescue inhaler just about once an hour...), and coming back to Tokyo was a rude awakening (and I can't even get a hold of my landlord to yell at them, again >_<), but I had a really nice two days.  I really want to print out the pictures I've taken on the trips I've been on here and make some albums.  I have a ton of pictures, but they're all the good points about the last three years that I want to remember.

Lindsey's coming back to Tokyo tonight, and tomorrow we're meeting Jen in Shibuya to spend New Year's Eve out on the town.  It was a blast last year, and I'm sure it will be again this year.  Next week is Disney and a Dir en Grey concert, hopefully some sit-and-do-nothing time in between, then Lindsey has to go back to Canada and I have to go back to my evil job.  I'm turning in my resignation right away though, then I'll figure out when I'm leaving and start packing.  I have a class starting on the 10th that I'm excited about, and one of my applications for the Sleeping Bear Dunes passed part one of the review... so YAY!!!!  Prayers wanted for that!! I really want that job.  It's just for four months, but I'm really praying that I get that job.  Something will work out for the fall, I really want to spend the summer working outside away from cities.

I was planning on doing some writing today, but I'm thinking the time would be better spent cleaning.  This place is cramped with two people in it, and the utter chaos created by the last four months of me attempting to hold on to a cliff-face by my fingernails is really not helping.  I'm glad I have my kitties though, even if they contribute a large portion of hair to the mess that is my apartment.  They're such good company.  I love coming home to them.

Oh!! That reminds me! Christmas pictures!

 Ophelia really likes toys she can chase.  If she catches a toy, she has no idea what to do with it.  Sometimes she'll toss it and chase it on her own... most of the time she looks up at me and meows at me or looks forlornly at the toy and pokes at it.  They both love this guy, and he's surprisingly sturdy!
 Soushi got a chicken with tail feathers filled with catnip.  He likes to kill things.  He thoroughly killed the chicken the minute I got it out of its package, but also surprisingly, no tail feathers have pulled out yet!  A couple days ago he got it stuck between the wall and my wardrobe and fell onto my computer trying to reach it from the top of the wardrobe, then looked ready to scale the curtains to reach it from the desk, which he knows he's not allowed to be on.  It was amusing, but further rationale for his nickname of Dr. Destructo.  He couldn't decide which toy he wanted to play with more after I got done tormenting him with the elf costume.
 Ophelia was the easiest to put this on.  She just stopped moving and looked disgruntled.
 Soushi, on the other hand, kept trying to run off or rub the ears off.  Haha, I'm a crazy cat lady, I know, but it was a very well spent $5, and they will suffer through wearing it every year because I think it's hilarious!

Ok, I'm really done with this post now.  Happy New Year everyone!!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Not a mouse...

So uh, there was a noise in the kitchen.  I've been hearing it quite often lately at night, dishes bumping together, and I thought maybe it was the dishes on the rack, or something shifting because the building shakes occasionally.  The kitchen lights were on and I was at my desk, so I looked over... yup, big grey rat climbing out of the sink.

Glad it's not a roach, because then I'd actually be scared.  Right now I'm just thoroughly grossed out and ticked off that I'm paying $600 a month and not only have rodents in my walls and cupboards but now in my sink as well!


Four more sleeps 'till Christmas

I'm bummed.  Last year on Christmas Eve I went to the Dacco Christmas Live.  It was a ton of fun and just a nice way to spend Christmas Eve seeing as I was all alone in Tokyo last year.  Well, I was planning on going when they first announced their Christmas Live this year, then I hemmed and hawed about the money, and finally today I decided "screw the money, I'm going."  Well, it's on Christmas day this year. >.>  Thankfully I'm not alone in Tokyo this year, and I have plans to have roasted chicken, apple tart, cheese, crackers, and wine with Jen on Christmas day.  Still bummed about the show though.  I looked for anything else, but nobody I like is playing on Christmas eve.  One band is playing the day before, but that doesn't exactly help.  So I guess it's me and the cats that night.  Ritchie (long story summed up in two words - selfish jackass...pardon the French) has a show that night, and he invited me, after snubbing me at his last show and making me cry... again... but yeah, so not going to that one.  Even if he wasn't such a jerk, I wouldn't want to spend my Christmas eve with the type of fans his band has.  Thanks, pass.  There's one where I say I'm sure they're nice people, but they creep me out.  I'm used to being around the geeky boys who need reminders to bathe and eat something other than Mountain Dew and they creep me out.  That's saying something.

I got my kitties Christmas presents today.  I wasn't going to, but I went to Tokyu Hands to look for a hole punch, which, of course, they had for 3,000 yen, ahah, right, no.  I wandered up to the pet store just to look around.  I still want to buy them Japanese engraved tags, but then I'd have to put my name and phone number on something else... They're really pretty tags though...  Anyway, I didn't get those, but I intend to take pictures Christmas morning, so I'll be sure to post them.  I'm sure to have an unhappy Soushi (because I guarantee Ophelia won't let me get her) for all of about 30 seconds.  Maybe I should just take a video, haha.

So last week I was able to finish up Life in a Medieval Castle.  I only had one chapter left, so that doesn't count as a whole book.  Actually I'm not sure I'm counting anything until the first of the year, but we'll see.  It was good though.  I found out that the whole egg on Easter thing dates back at least to 1300.  Peasants used to give their lords eggs for...whatever reason.  The twelve days of Christmas, unless I read something completely wrong, started with Christmas and went into the new year and were days the peasants didn't have to work their lords' fields.  And I finally learned what Michaelmas was.  That kept coming up in medieval stories and I had never even heard of it before last spring.  Anyway, it was some festival that I don't know all the details of, but they killed a bunch of the livestock and had feasts so they wouldn't starve over the winter.  Fascinating book anyway.

I also read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  It was meh.  I think I've liked some of the movie versions better, which surprised me.  The writing was also not up to what I'd expected.  I think I have high expectations for Dickens considering the first (and possibly only other, but I can't remember) thing I read by him was A Tale of Two Cities.  It was certainly a quick easy read though, and maybe if you like getting into the holiday spirit you might enjoy it more.  I tried.  I'm not glaring at Christmas decorations or wanting to break speakers that are playing holiday music though, so that's an improvement for me. XD  Guess we can't expect too much.

Finally read through Shakespeare's Henry V.  I'd apparently read bits of it because I clearly recall being thoroughly annoyed at the scene with the princess and some woman that was entirely in French.  I need to learn French... it's ticking me off.  I keep coming across it, and this time I got just enough to know that I was missing the comedy parts of the play but not nearly enough to know what the heck was really going on. Grrrr.  I want subtitles!  Actually, I'm horrible about reading subtitles.  If it's just a little bit I'll read them, but if an entire movie or show is in a language I don't know I just end up getting annoyed that I don't understand it and forget to pay attention to the subtitles most of the time.  I found that out when I saw a few episodes of "The Four Gods" in Japanese after I'd watched it, oh, three times? in Korean.  Yeah, missed a lot of that in the Korean version, haha.  Anyway, good play. I'd like to see it one day.  I'd like to see a lot of his plays, actually.  The movie versions are entertaining, and I do enjoy the heck out of them, but I'd like to see them as plays at some point.  Anywho, very accessible history.  Maybe it's because I've been studying more on medieval history so I get more of it.... I really didn't like King Lear.  It was boring.  Henry V was amusing though, and of course, good speeches.

One I use every time I have to go into a class I hate:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favor'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
(...)For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start.  The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'
That one was from King Henry during the first siege in France at a city I can't remember, but they end up winning!  I actually only ever use the first line, though I think it would certainly be epic to memorize that whole thing and use it someday... or maybe I'm just a dork who needs to find something else to amuse herself. :P

I rather enjoyed this one to, when King Henry was talking to a group of common soldiers in disguise:

He hath not told his thought to the king?

No; nor is it not meet he should.  For, though I speak it to you, I think the king is but a man, as I am: the violet smells to him as it doth to me: the element shows to him as it doth to me; all his sense have but human conditions: his ceremonies laid by, in his nakedness he appears but a man; and though his affections are higher mounted than ours, yet, when they stoop, they stoop with the like wing.  Therefore when he sees reason of fears, as we do, he fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as ours are: yet, in reason, no man should possess him with any appearance of fear, lest he, by showing it, should dishearten his army.

This one's probably the most famous from the play, and I love it... not really sure why.  Maybe I've just heard it enough to be fond of it.  I had most of it memorized at one point.  I'm also not sure why I went about doing that.. OH! I had that Shakespeare quotes book... that would be why... Anywho, this was right before the battle of Agincourt, a while after Henry returns to his nobles.  The English were tired, sick, and outnumbered 5 to 1.  One of the nobles commented that he wished they had more English soldiers to fight with.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honor
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have.  O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on this vigil feast his neighbors,
And say 'Tomorrow is Saint Crispian:'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
Be he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words, -
Harry the king, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, -
Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd; -
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Anyway, it was nice to finally read the whole thing.  I started Ceremony on the train because I couldn't make up my mind.  I don't know that I'll finish during break... I may since Lindsey and I will be riding the train a bunch on our trip, but we'll see.  If I'm going from last week, so... December 12th?ish, that makes two down out of fifty, so 48 left.  Otherwise they don't count at all and I'll start on the new year.  I don't know! We'll see!! :D

And with that reminder to myself, I need to book the hostel!  Six days till Lindsey, seven until MONKEYS!!!!!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Grad school

Yeah, I know, I should be writing my report.

One of the things I talked to mom about was grad school.  Realistically, I need a master's degree and experience to be a professor.  I think that's what I want to do with my life, at least as a base of operations type deal (see a few posts ago for amusement span - I'll be doing peripheral things to keep me entertained, but I think I'd like to be a professor).  So... I like history and literature.  Either one would be the same difficulty of getting into, both would be just as likely to get me a job afterward.  So which do I start with?  I want to study medieval history and Latin.  I want to study Native American history and Ojibwe. I want to study literature and write a thesis on Le Morte D'Arthur.  I said it as a joke, but as we were talking, I feel less joking about it, but I'm tempted to apply for all three and see which I get.  I wonder if that would backfire with me getting all three....

I really do love studying history, and I could go on for hours about literature.  They really go hand in hand, in my opinion.  Well, for me they do anyway.  I like knowing about the time when a book was written, like Le Morte D'Arthur or A Tale of Two Cities.  I don't think you can really understand the books without knowing the history around them.  If I study literature, I would apply to MSU.  If I go for Native American studies, the same.  If I go for medieval studies, Western.  I wonder if I shouldn't start thinking about personal statements and thesis ideas for applying to all three and just tossing them out there.  I wonder if that would work.  I wonder if I did get accepted into only one if I'd then pitch a fit because I'd find out then that I really wanted one of the ones I didn't get.  Life seems to work like that.  Hmmm.

I think I'm thinking too much about things other than Rites of Conquest and how it fits into the study of Michigan history...

Adding to my list

Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Faith in Paper by Charles E. Cleland
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker
The Family that Couldn't Sleep by D.T. Max
This book looks really interesting too, but it might have to wait.

I'm sure there are others I've been wanting to read... ^__^

I applied to work at Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes next summer.  Prayers would be appreciated.  I really want the job.  I get excited just thinking about it, but I'm a little scared I'll get my hopes up for nothing... it would be amazing though.

I talked to mom for two hours tonight.  It was nice to chat and not have me upset about something.  I've usually been lately.  That gets frustrating, but not tonight.  Hehe.  I'm actually in a fairly obnoxiously hyper mood right now, which is moderately counter productive because I really should be writing my book report and I really just want to go run around the neighborhood or go to karaoke or something.

I need to plan my trip to see the monkeys!  That's coming up in like three weeks... not even!  Not today though... I need a draft before I go to bed (which is likely still three or so hours away when I realize the sun is coming up and I have to work on Monday).

I really want grapes.  I'm a little tired of Fuji apples.  They're good, but they're the only apples here that are remotely affordable, and they're still over 100 yen an apple most of the time.  Or mikan... mikan would be good.  Apparently I'm craving fruit at the moment, and I just realized I ate almost five hours ago.... everything makes sense now.

And I really need to write this report.

Monday, 6 December 2010

50 books

I can't say what 2011 will bring, and to be honest, thinking of it scares me more than a little.  Still, I want to make goals that I can work toward, and since I have a very short amusement span (different than attention span - I can pay attention if I choose to, I just usually get bored so I don't), I'm making a few different goals.  So here's the biggest one, I think.  At least, this one is very definitely going to take me the whole year, and since, as stated above, I have a short amusement span, and I also tend to choose long books, I may not get it done, but we'll see.  I'm going to do my best at any rate.

So, fifty books in one year.  Anybody up for joining me?  I haven't compiled a complete list yet, and probably won't, again, see above amusement span, but here's what I have so far.

This month I'm finishing up some books I started.  I'm less than 100 pages from finishing The Lord of the Rings, and I have a bit left on Life in a Medieval Castle.  I want to read Dickens's A Christmas Carol since I never get into the holidays and I'm thinking of giving it a shot, but we'll see.

Books that are top on my reading list are:
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
Soul Music by Terry Pratchett
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
The Pearl by John Steinbeck
Henry V by William Shakespeare
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky
1Q84 by Murakami Haruki
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

Tentative, but I'm going to keep track of what I read here, though I probably won't do thorough reviews on all of them.  I've read a few out of that list before, but it was so long ago that I hardly remember them.  1Q84 has four books out so far.  I have book 1.  I've been told that Murakami Haruki is a really good writer, but I'm still waiting to see how book 1 goes before getting 2-4.... an easier to use dictionary would also be helpful :P haha, but that's unlikely.

Any suggestions on what I should read?  If you don't want to do fifty, but maybe you'd do 20 or 30, let me know!  It's a challenge, no doubt, but I think it'd be fun.

On that note, I have a book report to write for class that I haven't even started. >.< Gah.  Guess I should get on that, eh?  It was a rather good book, actually.  Rites of Conquest by Charles Cleland.  I'll post my review up here once the class is over.  Don't want the prof thinking I copied it off myself.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Life Update

I can't believe it's October 8th already.  I can't tell if time's going by slow or fast, but it's definitely going by... which is likely one of the dumber things I've said in my lifetime.

This last month and a half or so has been a very long exercise in making it through the day.  Lindsey left at the end of August, just before work got started again, and things that sucked and made me want to scream then have just become unbearable.  Going to bed when I know I have to go to work the next day makes me feel sick some nights, but the day comes, usually it sucks, I get home, then my time is mine for a little bit at least.

I'm registered to take the JLPT again, but I can't imagine I'll do any better.  I was going to study.  I bought two new books since I went through my old ones.  I had a study plan in my head and the drive to do it... then I went to work and got mocked by my students for ten minutes for writing a correction on their papers.  That's just one example of many, today two students laughed in my face while I responded  a question.  Mom said God's got a reason for having me go through this.  I'm sure he is teaching me something, but I don't want to even think about what I need to know how to handle more mockery and bitchiness for.  I have no drive to study Japanese, at all.  I look at my books and want to throw them.  I've tried to force myself a few times to study, and it just makes me mad or stresses me out.  I'll be mad at myself once I'm away from here for sure, because I know for a fact I do love this language and I want to study more history and do more things with it.  But for now... I kinda wish I didn't know it.  I wish I couldn't understand people around me.  I wish I didn't know what my students were saying, not even behind my back, right in front of me.  I wish I couldn't hear the topic shift in train conversations to "foreigners" and "Oh, so-and-so speaks Japanese! Blah blah" and "Oh, this happened in English class and yadda-yadda" when people notice me or another non Asian face around.  All those things that ticked me off and made me want to smack somebody before make me feel like I'm going to explode now.  I really regret not packing up and leaving at the end of August... not that I had the money, but now my company is dangling a whole paycheck over my head to keep me here until January at least.

August was great.  It was worth being here for, and I had so much fun and re-discovered a lot of things that this soul-sucking country hid from me.  I'm still too unhappy about the day today to look back at them and not get angry at the present, but  maybe I'll write about it soon.

I have a class starting next week, so that's something to look forward to anyway.  I'm taking Michigan history online from MCC.  No clue how I'm going to do research for any papers, but it'll at least keep me busy, and hopefully keep my mind on something other than life right now.  Lindsey's taking Latin at her school, and she's sending me her notes and quizzes and stuff.  It's fun.  The verbs are pretty easy.  I keep confusing some of the spellings with Spanish though.  The nouns are... I understand them, but I haven't had the energy to sit and study them enough.  I'm two weeks behind right now.  I wanted to study some today, but I might just go for a walk.  My head feels really funny.  I should get some more paper... and food... and some cash since I have about $2 in my bag.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Sunrise and Tokyo Disneyland:Take 3

It was so quiet outside that if it weren't for all the buildings, I might have forgotten I was in Tokyo.  Sunrise is at 4AM here.  I saw a few cars on the highway (past all those buildings), but they were far enough away that I couldn't hear them.

Last week we went to Disneyland.  I got heat exhaustion, again, but I made it.  We spent an hour at the Blue Bayou (attached to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride), which was reviving, and Japanese fans work wonders... so does probably a combined $20 in water.... :P

Lindsey posed under the walkway.  All the people were making me too anxious to be the one posing, but be proud! I actually have pictures of myself this time! (apart from the usual me with the Brer Bear and Mickey statues)

Like this!
Oops... the woman behind me doesn't look so amused with my antics :P  Not that I'll say anything for the general sense of humor in Tokyo, but we did run into some really cool people there, including a fellow VAMPS fan (see T-shirt) who worked at the place we ate lunch at and stopped me to tell me how awesome my T-shirt was and that she has one too.  We were also chased down (literally, we asked the worker how to get tickets, found it impossible since I could barely stand at that point, and made a beeline for shade, and I'd just sat down when the woman caught up and started talking to us) by two women who gave us their tickets for the "One Man's Dream" show.

It was good!  I saw it last year too, but I definitely enjoyed it both times.  I needed the rest too, though it was still hot so right after this was when we went to the Blue Bayou for dinner.

Leave it to me to start munching on the dessert before remembering to take a picture of it :P  It was good!  We got the course, partly cause my brain was too fried to stand in the heat and debate spending the money, and partly cause it sounded well worth the $30.  It started with soup, and oooh *makes fainting noises* that was to die for!  I really wish I had any clue what was even in it, cause it was so good!  We got 6 balls of bread each, warm and soft and mmmmmm so good.  Then we got steak and veggies, which was good save the okra... I'll pass on okra.  Really have never been a fan of that stuff, but there was only one piece.  I even enjoyed the eggplant...mostly cause I got to eat cow, and I love cow. Mmmm It was delicious.  Then dessert was pineapple..something (the gooey white ball with the applesauce looking stuff on it that's actually grapefruit jam) which was really gross (the pineapple thing and the grapefruit thing) until you mixed them, then they were great.  The cookie would have been better first instead of last, since it was kinda dry, and the fruit was all frozen or canned, but it was still good!  Tastiest meal of my life, and we got to listen to the ambiance from the ride too, and wave at the people going by.  It was fun.

See? Picture of me!  .... I like my hat.

And my usual picture with Brer Bear.  This makes 3 now.  I can't get a picture with the costumed person (they turn their backs on you if you're not Asian, so I didn't even try this time - tried last summer with Baloo for the last time), but I did manage to get some of the Song of the South characters doing a skit.  I still like my bear statue though.

And the Mickey statue, also an obligatory picture spot that I believe I have three of now.  Um... the pose is an inside joke we dragged out all day :P  Every time we knew a picture on a ride was coming up we did's from the concert Lindsey and I went to last weekend, the chorus consisting of four syllables, three of them in English and one in French complete with hand motions spelling out the word "dix."  We thought it was ridiculous but managed to spend the whole day doing it.

Hehe...yeah.... we're morons.

 These were gorgeous.  I can't tell you how much I wanted to jump through the glass (and how tempted I was when I realized there was access from inside the store) and touch them.  I love what they did with Snow White's, and Cinderella's was just amazing.  The pictures don't do them justice.  I wanted to get them in the daylight, but I was so out of it and needed to sit down that by the time I got back to take pictures it was sunset.  I've wanted for years to design and make some functional versions of the Disney princess dresses...mostly Belle's, which I was choked they didn't have.

And the castle at sunset.  They could make quite an attraction out of those castles if they actually filled them in with rooms and stairs, but since they don't have me on staff... hehe.  Kidding.

It was a really fun day though.  We spent 13 hours total at the park, from just after open to just before close.  We rode Space Mountain five times, Pirates of the Caribbean twice (I think...that was the ride we went on for me to cool down, so I don't remember completely clearly..), Splash Mountain once, Thunder Mountain twice (once at night, which is so fun!), and Haunted Mansion twice.  We also went on the Snow White ride, which is far creepier when you're actually paying attention to the ride, and the Rodger Rabbit one, oh, and Star Wars (got my C3P0 picture, but it's surprisingly worse than all the others..which are always bad). 
 This is the first C3P0 picture from when Lindsey and I visited from Osaka.  The most recent is still on my phone.

We didn't bother with the parades, but I'm definitely happy we got to see the one show.  We're planning on going again next July, if my plans hold and work out as I currently have them.

Oh! I nearly forgot!  I got a picture on Dumbo too.

Still didn't manage to get on the ride.  I'm very much not willing to wait 40 minutes for that one, though I'd like to go on it for memory's sake one time. :P 

Cause I'm going down memory lane, here are the collection of pictures.

From 2007.  Apparently I didn't get one from 2009... not surprising considering the group I was with. le sigh.  I apparently didn't get one by the Mickey statue either, which, after looking at the ones by Brer Bear again, really doesn't surprise me.  I like going to Disneyland with Lindsey.  She acts as much like a crazy child as I do.

Brer Bear.  He was painted at some point!  and then painted back!  huh.  I also have bought head wear each time I went to Disneyland here. :P  It's not in the 2009 picture, but I got a black cowboy hat with Mickey in a headdress on the side (my mildly offensive Mickey hat, I love it!).  This years was that black ball cap.  It says "A pirate's life for me" on the top.  The bandanna is actually pirate Goofy ears complete with earrings.

Mickey statue.  You can see the ears here.

We also got to try out the random pop corn flavors.  Honey was probably my favorite, though the soy and butter was surprisingly good.  I want to say we had another, but I really don't remember it.

I'm so excited for Cirque du Soleil and Disney Sea on Thursday!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Real-life post

I haven't been writing much aside from book reviews for the past few months.  Mostly I've been letting reading or crafts occupy my mind outside of work in an effort to stay sane.  On the weekends I've been going to concerts.  Now that work is out for the summer I really hope my stress level will go down to somewhere manageable.  I haven't wanted to complain constantly, hence the lack of posts.

This summer has been great so far though!  Since the beginning of this month I've been to a ton of concerts.  Actually, they started on July 27th, I went to a play/concert/random thing with Lindsey.  It had some members of bands that I really like in it, which is why we went.  It was crack, and I laughed so hard I cried.  On the 2nd I finally got to see Vamps, the band Hyde from L'arc~en~ciel (one of my favorite bands) is currently doing.  That would have been more fun had I known to stay away from the first barrier.  Hyde fans are insanely bitchy... to an extent I haven't encountered.  I got my head shoved down and held, and my hair pulled twice, on top of three women trying to occupy the space I was in all at once.  It was mostly a nightmare, but the concert, otherwise, was good.  Next time I go, I don't care if my ticket is good enough to get me in the front, I am not going there.  No way.

The next day we (Lindsey and I if I say we from now on) went to see Mix Speaker's,Inc., and it was a ton of fun!  It was outside.  It rained a bit, but not enough to really get us wet.  I love their concerts.  They lost the fun part of their audience though, and there aren't many of the rock crowd left, which really tones down the energy level.  Still a blast though.  On the Sunday we both took the JLPT... it was comprehensible, but I'm not sure I passed.  I'm sure I didn't do as terrible as I did last time, but I get the feeling I'm going to fail by a marginal percent like I did the first time I took it... cause I understood it about the same level.  I'll be surprised if I pass... pleased, but surprised.

Last weekend on Saturday we went to a Dacco lunch show.  I love Dacco... they're crack.  Their one singer, Yura-sama, was in the crack concert/play that we went to on the 27th.  The show was mostly awkward.  Yura-sama looked straight at me twice and stopped talking for a second both times, which I would have passed off as random coincidence had Lindsey not asked me later "Did you make eye contact with Yura-sama?  Cause he wasn't looking at me, but he was definitely looking somewhere right next to me."  Then he and Lida (the other singer) came off the stage and wandered around the tables shaking hands.  Limp noodle would be how I would describe that man's handshake.  Can't imagine how nervous my Grandpa-trained-handshake made him, haha, cause he didn't pull his hand back right away.  They're fun though.  I love seeing them.  I always leave with a stupid grin on my face.  We're seeing them again on August 1st, with Aya from Mix Speaker's,Inc.  Then on Sunday we went to see Rice for Yuki's birthday (the singer).  It was fantastic.  I love them too.  He has an amazing voice, and their music is really good.

Yesterday's concert was special in all ways that special is special.  There's a band I've loved since I got into Japanese music.  L'arc was the first, Malice Mizer was the second.  Malice Mizer broke up before I got into them.  One of their guitarists, Kozi, has some really good solo stuff, and I've seen him once at a Rice/Dacco event, but he was drunk and horrible, his fans were obnoxious, and I just got a really bad impression (really disappointing too, cause I really like his CDs).  The other guitarist has a band called Moi Dix Mois... Yeah, my ten months, clever.  Anyway, I liked some of their stuff for a bit, but it starts to sound the same, and their old CDs all used programed drums instead of a live drummer, and the perfection just bugged me, so I stopped listening to them.  Their bassist, Yu~ki, who was my favorite in Malice Mizer, wrote one song for Kozi's solo project, and since then hasn't done anything as far as I can tell.  I've tried to look him up a few times.  Well, last night was a Moi Dix Mois concert with Kozi's band starting and Yu~ki as a special guest, so Lindsey and I pre-ordered tickets and went because I really wanted to see Yu~ki.

I had really low expectations of the concert from what I saw of Kozi's last performance, but actually, aside from his voice being terrible and needing the distortion he uses for his CDs, he did really good!  His drummer reminds me of Animal from the Muppets.  I love him!  Haha.  Nut-job.  He was so fun to watch.  The bassist was really good, and the guitarist made me giggle.  Kozi... was Kozi, but at least he didn't drop his guitar this time.  Moi Dix Mois was way better than I expected.  They have a new vocalist, and a human on drums.  The vocalist was really good; complete 80s hair band scream and song introductions, really good headbang, good death-voice, and with all of that, he still sang really really well.  The one guitarist made me think of Zuko from the Avatar cartoon..... Mana was... Mana.  Really boring to watch, but it's amusing to see that he hasn't changed at all from the concert videos I've seen of Malice Mizer.  I ended up having to put my sunglasses on because of the white lights though, and even then I still had to close my eyes and look down for about half of their set.

THEN Yu~ki, Mana, and Kozi all came out with their old instruments and played a really random song that was actually quite bad, but they came out to one of the Malice Mizer instrumentals and made me and everyone around me act like completely idiotic fangirls and boys and scream and jump and repeatedly say "No way!!!"  After the first random song, they played "Beast of Blood."  I love that song, and half of me doesn't even believe that I actually saw it live and got to sing with them and headbang and shout and it was just amazing!  There were a few cameras going, so I'm hoping they make the concert into a DVD.... at least that last part, which was only about 10 minutes, but still!  It never even entered my mind that they would perform one of their old songs, but they did!  I'm still giddy when I think about it.  It was so amazing.  Such a great end to an awful week.

Tomorrow we're going to Disneyland, despite the 34C weather prediction... *death*  Then Wednesday we're seeing Dir en grey, which will be fun and amazing as well, though I'll probably end up sore and bruised.  Next week we're going to see Cirque du Soleil and then spend the evening at Disney Sea.  At some point we plan to climb Mt. Fuji and head to Kyoto for two days.  We're seeing Dacco again in August, as I said, and then the Romeo (who's singer was also in the crack play/concert last month).  And all in all, I'm really looking forward to this summer!  I'm not looking forward to Lindsey leaving at the end of it all, but at least it'll be fun while she's here.  I got tickets to see Metallica on my birthday so I won't be bored and lonely then.  School starts in September, so even if it's not as fun as I want it to be (it's poetry....), it'll at least keep me busy.  My goal for the fall is to save as much money as I can, which, in spite of going to concerts at least once a month, should be easier since I have pretty much nobody to hang out with without Lindsey here, so I won't go out nearly as much.

So that's a me update.  The cats are good.  I have to renew my apartment contract, which is unfortunate and expensive, but such is life.  I go back to work August 25th.... I can't think of much else.  I think for the rest of today, at least until the sun goes down and I can venture out to go get some cat food and other necessities, I'm going to go up into my loft and engage in some gratuitous video game violence and further rid myself of stress by beating the crap out of zombies and various other undead.  I was reading Emma, but that got boring.

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I really don't know what to say about Les Mis.... It's such a famous book, and it touches on so many important things, but it was so irritating to read.  I want to love it, because the story, when there was story, was amazing, and I can see why it's so famous.  But the whole thing, 1200 pages, was just difficult to read.  I stopped reading it a few times.  There were at least 300 pages that could have just been cut right out.  I understand why there were included, but they were preachy, rambling, and not really all that relevant to the story.

Victor Hugo was a political activist during the 1800s in France, and everything he wrote in Les Mis makes perfect sense as coming from him.  I would say that all of it is perfectly valuable and worth reading, but I would have preferred to read it in a pamphlet or an appendix or something that didn't completely stop the story for a hundred or so pages at a time.  I suppose, for the books original audience, it might have been less disruptive since the book was published in separate volumes.  Still, I'm not a fan of abridged books, at all, but this is one book I would rather read abridged, provided it was done carefully.

His writing style is a little jumpy.  He goes from one subject to another, to a side story, to a flashback, really quickly, and said side story or flashback, or back story or rant will last 50 pages or more.  I enjoyed the side stories.  I could have done without the rants.  The beginning is all the story of a bishop who only has contact with the main character for a night, but it's such a good back story, and since the bishop has such a profound impact on Jean Valjean (main character), it's good to know and really adds to the story.  The description of the convents was excellent, as well as the bit on the lifestyle of the nuns and how the students there lived, but the rant about the evils of such suppression and seclusion, while being perfectly relevant and understandable, were incredibly disruptive, too long, and over-kill.  I think the reader could have come to the same seclusion as Hugo wrote without being told it, or if it was really necessary to state, seriously, footnotes and appendices.

I want to watch the movie.  I love the story, but it's so hard to pull the story out of that 1200 pages, because the actual main story was probably around 600 or so.  I'd summarize it, but I don't think I could.  I want to read it again and I don't.  I love the story but I hate the book.  There were amazing parts, I nearly cried on the train reading some parts, but then there were whole weeks worth of reading that I just dreaded trudging through.  I learned all about Waterloo.  I know exactly what Hugo thought of King Louis Philippe.  I know all about life in a convent, and the history of more orders of nuns than I can remember.  I know what he thought of the Catholic church, and I know where he stood with his own faith.  It's all interesting information, fascinating really, but I would have rather read it either before or after the story.  I would say certain points added to the story, but it took me over a month to read the thing because it made me just not want to read at all.  If I want to read an essay or a rant, I'll read an essay or a rant.  When I want to read a story, just let me read the story!

Anyway, I felt bad for Javert at the end.  He was the police inspector who was on the hunt for Valjean the whole time.  He was diligent, loyal, and faithful to what he believed only to find out that what he believed wasn't the whole picture and have his world shaken to the point of breaking.  I felt bad for Valjean, but he was so peaceful about what happened in the end that it was okay.  He was okay, therefore I was okay.  Javert just broke.  Marius is an idiot, which amused me when I read the biography on Victor Hugo at the end and realized that Marius's character is pretty much Hugo himself.  Cosette... I can't quite blame Cosette for being a twit because Valjean really didn't raise her to be concerned with anything.  She was still irritating though.

It's a very pointed piece of literature, but it doesn't make any attempt to present itself otherwise, and it's points get across very clearly.  Take away the rants, and I would say it was well presented.  The story of it alone, the last chunk that was rant-free, left me with such a strong frustration at social injustices and just the aloofness and obliviousness of people who live in comfort that I actually feel like I look at certain aspects of life quite a bit differently now.  It would be nice to say we've solved all of those injustices, unfair penal systems, child abuse, moral superiority, unfair wages, prostitution, cruelty toward women and children, but we really haven't.  For sure, things are a lot better in certain parts of the world, let's call it North America since I really only know by news and hearsay about Europe, and I can't say truthfully that Japan has solved any of those injustices what-so-ever.  There are still homeless who are homeless because they fell through society's safety nets.  There are still children who are left in abusive homes, or taken from one bad place and put in another by the system meant to protect them.  The elderly with no family are not left to die in poverty and misery any more, but I won't ever forget how depressing and hollow the nursing home felt when I'd visit my Nana.  Minimum wage, even at 40 hours a week, still won't feed a family or even support an individual.  All those problems are still there.

Japan... Japan is a social nightmare that one day I'd like to study.  One day, when it doesn't effect my daily life, when I don't have to go outside and see the homeless men sleeping in their winter coats when it's 35C under a cardboard box on my way to the station, when I don't have to watch the woman playing with her jewel studded cell phone and ignoring her two young children trying to get her attention on the train, when I don't have to be the only one in my row willing to get up and give my seat to an old person for a few stops, see the boyfriend flop himself down on the seat while the girl has to stand in heels and cater to him... pretty much when all of the surface symptoms of what is messed up about this society aren't in my face and ticking me off, I'd like to look at them and ask the question "Why?"  Ask why without feeling the desire to change it, because I can't, and that's what upsets me the most.  This part of Asia (I've been told by my college friend working in Korea that Korea is pretty much the same) would be an interesting social study.

John Keats

I think my surprising and new-found enjoyment of a very limited amount of poetry ends past Keats on my reading list. (I started into Whitman and remembered why I find it all incomprehensible and annoying.)  Keats is a bit like Poe in that it's just messed up!  Well, let me edit that a bit.  I've only read two of his poems, Lamia and Isabella... but they were both incredibly messed up.  They're both narrative poems, which, I'm finding, is pretty much the only way to keep me interested in a poem.  The history of poetic forms class I'm going to be taking in the fall is going to be fun.... in the way that fun isn't fun at all.  Necessary evil though... at least I think it is.

This poem seems a bit less twisted after I read about the actual myth of Lamia, but I still find it incredibly random.  Here's the text from Project Gutenberg.  It starts off with a bit about Hermes looking for a nymph and finding Lamia, who is apparently a child-eating demon, in the form of a serpent.  He sets her free, and a boy from Corinth, Lycius, falls in love with her.  They hide what I'm pretty sure was a giant house that Lamia made out of magic, cause I got the feeling it hadn't been there before she arrived.  She doesn't want to meet Lycius's master and avoids meeting anybody until their wedding.  At the feast, Lycius's master exposes her and Lycius dies of surprise? grief? I just thought it was twisted with the connection between Lycius and the man who exposed Lamia, at their wedding, and ended up killing him.  It's far less random knowing the myth that inspired it, but I didn't look that up till afterward.

Whatever inspired Isabella, I still put it up there with some of the best of Poe's for twisted, gross, and random.  Isabella is a rich woman who is supposed to be married off to someone else rich, but she falls in love with one of her brothers' workers.  Her brothers finds out and kills the worker, burying him in a grove.  Lorenzo's ghost comes to Isabella and guides her to where his body is.  She digs up his head and takes it back with her.  She puts it in a basil pot and obsesses and mourns over the pot, and the plant grows really well.  Her brothers steal the pot, dig up Lorenzo's head, and recognize him.  They leave, I suppose in fear of their crime being discovered, and Isabella asks incessantly for her basil pot from inanimate objects.  She then dies.  Here's the text.  It's pretty short.

I don't know what I'd consider those poems, but romantic doesn't really describe it.  I guess I don't understand what people consider romantic.  I enjoy them, but I really really don't see "romantic" as a good descriptor.

I tried to read Endymion, which is another of his famous poems, but it's really long, and it's really sing-songy.  The rhymes are horrible, and the meter is just annoying... and overall it's just distracting.  Maybe it gets better as it goes, but after two pages I couldn't stand to read it any more.  I'll get to it if I have to at some point, but it's not something I'd read for pleasure.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

A Doll's House - Henrik Ibsen

I have no idea when I read this play before, but I know I did... probably in my general lit class in college.  It's a good play, and very short.  The only difficult part is that it deals with some major societal problems.

Nora is a housewife, presumably in the late 1800s, and she allows her husband, Torvald, to perceive her as a complete twit.  In fact, she encourages it.  She's not though, she's simply ignorant which is a fault of her father and her husband for over-sheltering her and only teaching her what they believed she needed to know.  In order to save her husband's life, years ago, she took a loan, not knowing the consequences of her signature and her illegal actions regarding the note.  She's been working secretly to pay it back, but the man whom she took the loan from has reared up and is using her actions and Torvald's ignorance of this situation as blackmail in an attempt to keep his job and even get promoted.  The actions of the play revolve around that.

I can imagine what kind of an outcry that caused in 1879 when it was published.  It seems to be an ideal marriage, except it falls apart when it's shaken at all.  I'm fully willing to put the blame for that on Torvald.  Throughout the whole play, I was just repulsed by him.  He's arrogant, all-knowing (or so he thinks), demeaning, controlling, and a coward to top it all.  Torvald knew Nora's dance better than she did, he would teach her.  He would teach her to do this and that.  He told, and thus she did.  He claimed ownership of her and yet failed to protect her.  He left her ignorant and failed to put himself in there to fill in the gap.  Of course, she had no real reason to think this odd or assert that she knew anything at all.  It was a fun play for both of them and their children, but at the same time, and it brings up this question, how can one love in a relationship like that, or even be truly happy?

It's a good read for a lot of reasons.  It's thought provoking more than anything.  I'd like to see it performed once.  Not all of the issues it brings up are relevant to the general North American culture, perhaps, but then again, maybe they still are.  They certainly are in Japan.  From what I've been told, "American women don't know how lucky they are."  (This was from a Russian-born American woman I met last year.)  You could easily say the play was feminist in nature, but I think more than that, it's shedding light on a problem with society in general, not just in familial relationships.  I would assert, though, that women aren't necessarily the only ones kept ignorant and then abandoned by the people who kept them in the dark when a crisis arises.  That seems to be an old form of control, someone in power keeps his or her power by keeping the ones underneath from knowing any different.  Lots of food for thought in there, but I:m sure nobody wants to read me ramble about it any more.  I actually read this a good while ago.  I've been reading Les Miserables... not that you can tell at all....   I spent a whole day thinking about it after I was done though.  I couldn't start my next book until I'd sorted my thoughts out on A Doll's House first.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Persuasion - Jane Austin

After Le Morte D'Arthur, I needed something brainless and happy. I enjoy Jane Austin, but I really don't care to sit an analyze her work. I read it for fun. So far I've read of hers Pride and Prejudice, Northenger Abby, and this. I still hold Northenger Abby as my favorite. There's really nothing like a book mocking your own genre. :P

Anyway, Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, daughter of Sir Walter Elliot. Anne fell in love with Captain Wentworth when she was 19, but because of her position in society, which her family and friends saw as being higher than it actually seemed, her mentor and father both opposed their marriage. So she broke it off, and Wentworth went away and sulked. Fast forward 7 years, and her father is massively in debt because of the way he and her sister, Elizabeth, run the household. To avoid loosing the land, they lease it out to an Admiral and move to Bath to attempt to live more within what they can afford. Mary, her other sister, is married, has kids, and lives in a town about 3 miles away. Anne goes to live with Mary where, unlike at home, she actually has something of a place in the social group. Her dad ignores her mostly, and Elizabeth doesn't seem to even like her. Mary complains about everything under the sun, but her husband's family is welcoming of Anne. Side note - Mary's husband first proposed to Anne and was rejected.

While she's at Mary's place, she runs into Captain Wentworth who now has money but seems to be more interested in Anne's sisters-in-law. On a trip to Lyme, Louisa, whom he seems to favor the most, is downright stupid and jumps off a ledge to have him catch her. Well, he drops her on accident and she gets a concussion. Just prior to this, Anne's cousin, Mr. Elliot, passes their party and shows interest, and Cpt. Wentworth begins to show jealousy. Anne eventually moves to where her family is in Bath, and Mr. Elliot continues his interest in her and by the time Cpt. Wentworth comes to Bath has everyone gossiping that they're getting married.

So, I'm pretty sure almost all of this genre of books ends happily... or as happily as they can. Jane Austin is a bit lighter than any of the Brontes that I've read. She pokes fun at a lot of the culture and ideals of the upper class, quite pointedly in Persuasion, but also in Northenger Abby. It's been too long since I've read Pride and Prejudice to remember more than it being one of those love stories that succeeds in leaving you happy by the end.

I think it's a comment on how bad my day was on Wednesday when I was finishing up Persuasion that a letter from Cpt. Wentworth to Anne had me crying on the train. >.> *sigh* Seriously, nothing tear-worthy in Jane Austin. Anyway, it was a good book. It's not an overly interesting or unpredictable story, but Austin's jabs at the society keep it amusing even if you've read far too many of that type of book for your sanity.... not that I have or anything.... not me. It's a nice easy read too. I highly recommend Jane Austin's work for anybody who wants to read "classic" literature that's not incredibly dry or difficult to trudge through. No trudging involved in her stuff. I still have quite a few of hers on my list, which, speaking of, I doubt anybody wants a copy, but if you do, let me know and I'll send it to you. There's almost 200 author entries on it.... not intimidating at all... >.> <.< Lindsey and I actually added a lot to it. There was no Austin, Steinbeck, H.G. Wells, or any of the anti-utopia novels! We added a few non strictly "literature" favorites on there too.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Le Morte D'Arthur Volume I - Sir Thomas Malory

I have to split this up, because after over two weeks of reading I'm having dreams of me having to go to therapy because of reoccurring dreams of being stuck in armor.  It's just under 600 pages, and I've finally made it past 300, actually to 310, but I just can't do it anymore.  So I'm going to cut it in half, since it's already split into volumes I and II.

The story, especially near the beginning about Arthur, is pretty  much the story I'd say most Americans know from Disney's The Sword in the Stone.  Merlin disguises Uther to fool Arthur's mother into thinking he's her recently dead husband and thus Arthur is conceived.  They marry a few days later, and when Arthur is born he is sent in secret to live with Sir Ector.  After Uther dies comes the story of the sword in the stone, the knight who can pull the sword is the rightful king of England.  Years later, at a tournament, Arthur forgot Sir Kay's (Sir Ector's son) sword and couldn't get into the house in time so seeing the sword in the stone, he runs up, pulls it out, and gives it to Sir Kay to fight with.  Sir Ector recognizes the sword and the knights and barons repeatedly make Arthur pull it out, trying themselves over and over until Merlin and those on Arthur's side get sick of it and the barons try to kill him.  Long story short, they fight, Arthur kicks their butts, sleeps with his sister, has a kid by the name of Mordred, and establishes himself as king.  Somewhere along the way he gets the Round Table from another king and then we get into the stories of the different knights.

Sir Gawaine begins his career as a knight by refusing mercy to another knight who surrendered and in the process of trying to cut his head off cuts the head off of his lady.  He is made to swear an oath to be especially gentle towards ladies to make up for that, and also to never deny mercy to a knight who surrenders.  He's not very good at this.

Sir Launcelot loves Queen Guenevere, but despite the fact that literally everyone knows this, Arthur manages to not find out.  He's the perfect knight, strong, practically unbeatable, loyal to his king and to his love, courteous, and, yeah, the perfect knight.  He's also pretty predictable and flat throughout Volume I (though this changes a bit in the beginning of Volume II).  He goes between hating Sir Tristram and loving him after Sir Tristram saves his life.  He's interesting in his own way, but too perfect (though I find it odd that the ideal knight is involved in a love affair with his king's wife and remains perfect).

Sir Kay is a moron and a jerk.  Arthur sees him as a brother, considering they were raised as such, and so he's one of the knights of the Round Table, but he's really really stupid.  He makes fun of everyone, even though he's really not a strong fighter... at all.  And he really doesn't learn any better from finding his boot stuck way down his throat.

Sir Gareth is pretty nifty.  He's Sir Gawaine's brother (half-brother to Sir Mordred).  King Lot of Orkney, I believe, is their father (but it's kinda hard to keep those things straight).  He came to Arthur's court leaning on two servants and unarmed and asked for two gifts.  The first gift was that he be allowed to remain at the court for a year with food and drink.  The second one he would ask at the end of the year.  Arthur granted it, and Sir Kay made fun of him and called him Beaumains (fair hands).  Beaumains went to work in the kitchen under Sir Kay's orders, and after a year a damsel came asking for a knight to go with her to rescue her lady who was trapped in a tower.  Beaumains asked for his second gift, to be knighted and take the quest.  He left the court armed with his own armor and confused the heck out of everyone.  Sir Gawaine and Sir Launcelot were the only two who didn't make fun of him.  The damsel raged on him the whole trip until he proved himself.  After several adventures, he finally marries the lady who was trapped in the tower.  (Some of the adventures included a conjured knight that the first damsel raised to attack him and prevent him from sleeping with her sister, the lady in the tower, before their wedding night.)  Sir Gawaine finally finds out who Beaumains is (still confused how he didn't recognize him, but that's a pretty continuous theme in this story), but Sir Gareth prefers Sir Launcelot's company to Sir Gawaine's because his brother isn't a good knight.

Sir Tristram (Tristan) isn't part of Arthur's court in Volume I, but he has his own story in Le Morte D'Arthur.  He's the nephew of King Mark of Cornwell.  He started his career as a knight by saving Cornwell, but his uncle hates him.  Tristram and Isold are another Launcelot and Guenevere, but with flaws.  Tristram royally messes up sometimes, and gets caught doing it.  Isold is married to King Mark (who married her to spite Tristram who loved her), but loves Tristram.  In one of the more entertaining bits of Le Morte D'Arthur, Tristram is followed and exposed by one of King Mark's knights while lying with Isold.  He then proceeds to kill something like ten knights butt naked and make his escape.  After several years he marries someone else, though he never sleeps with her, and makes Launcelot his enemy.  He makes it back to Tintagel (King Mark's castle)  he finds letters between Isold and one of his knights and goes crazy for the hurt.  He spends six months, again butt naked, in the forest before he's found by King Mark (who doesn't recognize him), healed, and exposed by a hound of Isold's and therefore banished from Cornwell.  He goes on to have more adventures and eventually ends up a prisoner of Morgan le Fay who makes him carry a shield during a tournament of Arthur's.  The shield is a dig at Arthur, Guenevere, and Launcelot.

Arthur himself is pretty boring, and when he does things, they're mostly unbelievable, but I suppose that's the romance around him.  After securing his kingdom, he gets allies in France and eventually makes his way to Rome and controls Europe.  He's a pretty flat character though, and not overly bright.

A few things I noticed; there is a lot of romance about the knights in this book.  They fight with honor, even at the cost of their lives.  Malory has them removing their opponents helmets when fighting on foot before they kill them, which as far as I've researched might be physically possible, but it would in no way be easy or practical.   There are opposing ideals regarding love and loyalty, and it seems like when it's "true love" there are double standards.

I don't understand courtly love.  I think at this point I'm not going to figure it out by reading about it.  I think I need someone to explain it to me.  I don't get it.  It seems too contrary to itself.

I nearly forgot Merlin.  Merlin gets killed by Nimue fairly early on.  He's also not a wizard, he's more of a prophet, and apparently a pervy old man, which is why Nimue killed him.

I think if I was doing research on Arthurian legends, which would be interesting, this might be easier to handle.  I think breaking it up into books or chapters might also make it easier.  It's not a read-all-the-way-through book by any means.  I haven't been daunted by a book in years, heck, I made it through Paradise Lost without getting bored until the end.  I'm actually excited to read the poet that's next on my list, and I hate poetry.  I was going to try to read this all the way through, but that's not going to happen.  It's interesting because it is in Middle English, and the edition I have preserves that.  It has modern spellings, which makes it readable for me, but the language as it was is preserved.  Caxton, the editor of the oldest copy known, did a horrible job.  Chapter breaks are in strange places, chapter titles are mini-reviews, and it's just poorly put together.  As a book, if we stuck it in as fiction, it stinks.  As a historical text, it's interesting enough.  I'd need good incentive to go back and study it though.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Ophelia and the nightmare vacation

That vet I took Ophelia too... I'm still mad at her.  I need to go in and get my cats' records and demand my $60 back.  I took Ophelia to a different vet the next day, because she spent all of Saturday puking up spit despite the shots and immediately puked up the medicine I gave her Sunday.  The new vet is actually an animal hospital.  It's huge and immediately gave me the feeling of a North American animal clinic.  Divided waiting rooms, completely separate observation rooms, a few dozen staff.  The doctor who saw Ophelia spent a good five minutes feeling her stomach and took X-rays when she felt something not right.  Why didn't the first vet do more than poke gently around for a few seconds?  Why, when I told her there was a possibility that she had gotten into roach poison, did she not do a blood test?  This vet did.  Ophelia got poked, X-rayed, ultra-sounded, and stuck with an IV which she had to keep in till the next evening.  I brought her home Monday, and she's been fine.  Something was stuck in her intestines, probably a hair ball.  I have to take her in for a check-up tonight, and I'm going to ask about hair ball remedies here to avoid this in the future.  I'm thinking tomorrow or Sunday I'm going to the old vet and getting those charts.

It's hard not to be furious, even a week later when Ophelia is okay.  Had I followed what that vet said, I don't even want to think what might have happened.  At best, Ophelia would have taken longer to recover, which means going longer without food.  An injection or two of vitamins isn't exactly enough, or I would have been able to take Ophelia home overnight without an IV in her paw.  My biggest problem in talking to the old vet is language.  I don't know the words I need very well, and I'm mad, which means when I'm trying not to scream at somebody and talk politely, I have trouble putting words together in any language.

Angie came and visited for a few days.  That was nice.  Tokyo was crazy crowded though.  We went to a random free concert... they were surprisingly good!  I wanted to stay for the whole thing, but Lindsey and I both had to work in the morning.  We may look for another of their concerts sometime.  They were fun.  Best part was that it was $5 for the drink ticket and free admission.  I like those. :P

And I'm back at work and dreading two of my next three classes.  I'm having a lot of trouble with one of my co-teachers, and one is just a flake who doesn't know English very well, so she's a pain to deal with. The one I'm having trouble with though is being belligerent and disruptive.  If she does it again today I'm writing it down before I get on the train and calling my company.  I'm not dealing with that all year.  I was near tears last week and left work fuming and looking for jobs in New York.  Yeah... really not looking forward to that class.  I've worked with this teacher before, and she was one of my favorites last year.  I feel like she's mad at me for some reason and taking it out by being obnoxious in my class, but I have no idea what she could possibly be mad at me about.  Other people I've talked to have suggested personal problems in her life, but I don't care what's going on.  Personal problems can distract you, but they're no reason to be a complete bitch to your coworker in front of 40 students and affect the environment of the whole class, literally bringing it to a stop.  No excuse. (>.<)  At least the other school is going really well.  This one class is enough to make me want a new job though... which is bad, cause I put up with a lot last year and managed.  I think partly because my co-teacher for my problem classes worked with me to try to make the classes better, and this time it's the co-teacher disrupting the class.  I want her out of it, but by law she has to be there since I'm not a licenced teacher. Then shut up, sit in the back, and let me lead the class on my own.

*sigh* Here's hoping for the best today. Maybe she's out sick.

Concert tomorrow.  I'm excited about that.  I saw Dacco on Christmas Eve last.  They're a fun band.... they suck, but they're hilarious and at least (I think) they know they suck.  Yura sama's so happy on stage.  It's easy to ignore his terrible singing and actually surprisingly hard to stand straight and not fall over laughing.  I'm pretty sure that's the last concert I have tickets to until July.  June's gonna suck! >.>  Need to find something to go see.  My friend's band has a concert tonight, but I don't already have a ticket, and it's not happening even if he gave me a free one.... not that he even told me about the concert.  He just wants me to teach his vocalist English pronunciation and be his "American friend." ... I'm not bitter at all today!  Haha.

Okay, I'm off to relax before my next class.  I'll have lunch to destress between bad teachers at least. XP  And off topic, but I'm still barely half way through Le Morte D'Arthur...and I still can't pronounce the "thur" part.  That book takes forever to read!  I feel like I'm going and going and I should be 100 pages in and I'm like 15. (>.<\)  I can only take so much smiting.... no, actually, that's not true, and the fact that Sir Tristram keeps finding himself naked and going crazy is quite funny, but I'm a bit tired of Sir So-and-So smiting Sir Who's-a-What's-It, taking his horse, and giving it to Sir Falls-a-Lot.  And the French names are really no more clever than those, which, aside from being annoying cause I can't pronounce them and they're dumb, makes it really hard to remember who's who.  I did like the part about Sir Tristram in prison today though, the one line:
For all the while a prisoner may have his health of body he may endure under the mercy of God and in hope of good deliverance; but when sickness toucheth a prisoner's body, then may a prisoner say all wealth is him bereft, and then he hath cause to wail and to weep.
That was probably the first line in the whole 260 pages I've gotten through so far that really had feeling behind it... and it was really randomly placed, because after that we went back in time to before Sir Tristram was sick at all, and he really wasn't sick and in prison for very long before the guy holding him let him go.  It felt like a tangent where it was.  The introduction to my edition made mention of this line (I think it was this one anyway, one about one of the knights in prison was all they said) and hypothesized that Sir Thomas Mallory (the author) might have been a prisoner at one point in his life or while he was writing Le Morte D'Arthur.  I can see where they got that idea, aside from having two records of a Thomas Mallory... one of them being a knight who was imprisoned. XP

Okay, seriously going away now.  5 minute countdown has begun.