Wu Guanzhong’s paintings, including the above, are on view at New York’s Asia Society. No immediate plans to see them, but worth noting in case I feel like dropping by later this summer. Exhibition info here.
WRITING IN THE DARK, Kathryn Schulz
I relate to this piece so much: work focus switching on at 10 p.m., the first sign of fatigue as 4 a.m. approaches, staying up for the sunrise rather than waking up to it, and even the post-all-nighter urge to go for a run.
Heck, it’s 3:54 a.m. as I type this and a run would be amazing right about now.
So! I am not moving to Delhi, but should rhesus monkeys become a neighborhood problem elsewhere, I’ll know exactly what to do.
With the city’s trapping program a failure, some residents are getting a bigger monkey, a langur, to urinate around their homes. The acrid smell of the urine scares the smaller rhesus monkeys away for weeks.
The trick, then, is not to be the one resident without a langur. Read more.
I interviewed painter Larissa Bates for a gallery at TMN: Chiquita Banana.
For many of these émigrés, the decision to relocate has confounded — and even angered — their immigrant parents.
When Jason Y. Lee, who was born in Taiwan and raised in the United States, told his parents during college that he wanted to visit Hong Kong, his father refused to pay for the plane ticket.
“His mind-set was, ‘I worked so hard to bring you to America and now you want to go back to China?’ ” recalled Mr. Lee, 29.
Perhaps the new American Dream isn’t to make it in America, but the opportunity that comes with that navy blue passport and—ultimately, hopefully—the capacity to choose where to make it.
There is a Facebook group for a summer session I worked last year, and for the most part, it’s a forum for the kids (high school) to keep in touch, dish over AP exams, or what have you. A number of staff are also in it, but we almost never interject.
Following the NC primary results last Tuesday, a student posted, “Amendment 1 passed here in NC. Thoughts and opinions.” Over the next several days his prompt bloomed into a thread with 200+ comments. Reading through it, I kept thinking of how this conversation would have never occurred at my own high school (then, and probably today still). The points raised were sensible and well-argued and civil—much better than the hateful, adult-authored (I assume) drivel that floated the internet’s comments sections. An early comment:
No one should be justified in harshness here, and no one should call each other “ignorant” here. We are all peers to learn from each other.
What an honor to have had them in a classroom once upon a time. The kids are our future, etc. etc.
(Original version is “My Girls” by Animal Collective.)
ON TIGER MOMS, Julie Park
Americanized children cannot accept the basic terms in which their parents think, since those terms deny that different opinions have any legitimacy. The parents in turn cannot accept the terms in which their children think, since that would be a deviation from what they regard as the rightful path. To regard other ideas as “different perspectives” would be to admit their own way of thought might be in error.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES, Zadie Smith
On being born and raised and growing up between two or more cultures, voices, beliefs, opinions. Really, on a great many things.
The Chinese people occupy one-third of the whole world. Since the people are so numerous, it is appropriate that the method for becoming literate should be all the more convenient. Otherwise, the vast majority of them would be a bunch of blockheads. Although they have eyes and ears, it is as though they have no vision or hearing.
This excerpt is from the preface to Shen Xue’s “Original Sounds for a Flourishing Age” (1896). Shen argues Western nations owe their strength to the Roman alphabet and calls for romanization of the Chinese script—a “shortcut of script”—not only to facilitate basic literacy among the Chinese, but also to encourage learning from other nations. You can read more over at LQ. [The spring issue ‘Means of Communication’ may be my favorite ever.]
Shen wasn’t the first to argue for script reform. Earlier advocates include, among others, the Song Dynasty polymath Zheng Qiao (1104-1162), Jesuit missionaries Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and Nicolas Trigault (1577-1628), and the scientist/scholar Fang Yizhi (1611-1671) who favored the more “economical” alphabets over complex sinographs. Sort of interesting thing—anyone catch last month’s Economist piece on the best languages for microblogging? The nugget: Chinese is ideal for microblogs because its characters are the most “concise.” See what happened there?
While outsiders like Ricci and Trigault developed a romanized system in the 17th century, it wasn’t until 1892, when Lu Zhuanghang published First Steps in Being Able to Understand at a Glance, that China saw the first Chinese-written book with a romanized script. Lu on the benefits of script reform:
…the wealth and strength of a nation are based on science; the advancement of science based on the desire for learning and understanding principle of all men and women, young and old. Their being able to desire learning and understand principle is based on the spelling of words. Once they have become familiar with the letters and the methods of spelling, they can read any word by themselves without a teacher. Because the written and spoken words are the same, when they read with their mouths they comprehend with their hearts.
For reference, Wade-Giles was also developed in 1892. It was used for much of the 20th century until Pinyin eventually took over.
On a personal note, I happened upon a Chinese-language site this morning and was struck by the fact that I couldn’t read it. Non-news, really! Yet a tiny part of me assumed (assumes) with enough effort I would be able to read something. Not so, not today anyway. But—that once upon a time I did get a lot of use from it leaves me convinced I have the capacity to re-learn. Or—if I dare—to play with something new. Hindi, anyone?
There is a reason why I don’t list language skills on my résumé.
THE FEMALE BODY, Margaret Atwood
The Female Body has many uses. It’s been used as a door-knocker, a bottle-opener, as a clock with a ticking belly, as something to hold up lampshades, as a nutcracker, just squeeze the brass legs together and out comes your nuts. It bears torches, lifts victorious wreaths, grows copper wings and raises aloft a ring of neon stars; whole buildings rest on its marble heads.
HEAVEN IS NOT VERBOSE: A NOTEBOOK, Vera Pavlova
This piece is from the April 2012 Poetry and offers observations on poetry and thought and writing in general:
From the memoirs of Akhmatova’s last physician: she died at the moment when her cardiogram was being recorded. Her death has been recorded in the form of a straight line. Ruled paper ready-made. Go ahead and write.
To help a poem hatch, I went to get some groceries. Paid the cashier, got my change, came home with a finished poem and no groceries.
How do I feel about people who do not understand my poetry? I understand them.
HOW TO OFFICIALLY FORGET, Jonathan Gourlay
Only Americans with our American notions of what communism ought to be see any irony in this paean to the junk that greases the money wheels of the world growing next to the birthplace of Chinese communism. I guess it’s neat to have the beginning and the end of an idea physically placed so near to each other—.
NOBODY SAYS I LOVE YOU ANYMORE, Sarah Hepola
Everything you feel about your own hometown.
HOW TO BE AN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC, Alexandra Lange
So how do you read a building? As with any craft, start with the best example you can think of and pick it apart until you see how it was done.
When I met new people in college and they asked where I grew up, my answer would elicit a brief pause followed by an ohhhh heavy with preconceived notions. Mississippi. Heavy, indeed. But the weightiness cleared quickly, and in its place settled reports of post-Katrina volunteer work on the Gulf Coast and eager variants of “Do you know so-and-so?” as if everyone in Mississippi knew each other intimately, or were connected in some way. This sort of exchange didn’t bother as much as it amused me, partly because of how predictable it was, and partly because eventually I adopted the same reaction when meeting other people from other places. Like Alaska.
For at least a week after meeting her (eons ago), I filed Sylvia in my mind as “Sylvia from Alaska” and little else. Since I didn’t know anyone who lived there, I never asked if she knew Person ABC but instead took up “Did you see?” and “Did you read?” like it was my job. As in: “Did you see that video of Alaska’s bears?” and “Did you read that HuffPo piece about Alaska’s governor?” I am sure it was (is) annoying. More recently, The Morning News launched “The News from America”, and the first piece included news from Ketchikan, Alaska. I told Sylvia that after reading the Alaska bit I was so damn excited to ask her about this librarian lady named Linda Gens, as if the fact that I associate her with Ketchikan meant she would know everyone there by default, and as if my knowing of her knowing would mean something in the grand scheme that warranted such excitement.
The impulse to find a way to relate, I don’t get it. Is it from want of human connection? Or a selfish tendency of steering conversation to oneself? Eventually I decided either case is better than that other reaction—the heavy ohhhh that can make one embarrassed for saying “Me? I am from Mississippi.”
I am from Mississippi. I don’t say it often now because it seems a lie: I wasn’t born there, I left six years ago, and the last time I visited, Bush was still President.
A kid does not have weighty prejudice of place, stereotypes of one city versus another. When I was much younger, my parents kept a wall map pinned above a desk, between the TV and a bookshelf. They covered the desk with tarp—to protect the wood, I guess—and I recall afternoons sitting cross-legged with my skin stuck to the dark green sheet while I got distracted by unfamiliar names. I memorized “Salt Lake City” long before I learned what the individual words mean. I traced the bone of the Central Highlands with an index finger and recited towns along the way. When books taught me new places, I found them on the map and committed location and geography to memory: middle-right, sleeping mountains.
I loved maps for the order they provided and for their ability to contain—to confine—the whole world within a patch of real estate on a bedroom wall. Simplification was an asset. Had you asked me then if I would rather live in California or New York, I would have answered California because I preferred yellow to purple. Arbitrary colors on a map, that is what I knew of them.
What do you think of when you think of Mississippi? (Pretend thinking of Mississippi is a thing you do, which right now is true because I made you do so.)
Truth from Sarah Hepola: “It’s funny how living far away from a place can make you feel closer to it.“
A couple of years ago, Mississippi changed the state welcome signs to say “Birthplace of America’s Music” as niche marketing to encourage tourism. I was furious. Not only did I think the new slogan inaccurate, but also I expected to meet a familiar greeting whenever, if ever, I made it back: “Welcome to Mississippi. It’s like coming home.” Half-jokingly, I ordered my sister to drive to a state line to steal one of the soon-to-be-extinct signs. My absence made me sentimental about a highway sign!
When a friend asked if I would move back eventually, I gave no answer. “And what about our high school reunion? Will you go to that?” Thinking of it made me both curious and anxious.
“I’ll go if you go.”
I met someone on the bus in Columbia who had lived there his whole life and had never so much as set foot outside Richland County. This blew my mind. The bus driver overheard because there were only four or five passengers aboard, and he launched into anecdotes of places where he previously lived. His favorites: Boulder and outside Seoul. Growing up, I always knew families who moved around—to Canada, France, Germany, India, and so on—and I thought them not only more interesting but also better people. The more places on the roster, the better my opinion of them. I went to an Andy Shauf show because his bio described him as having an impressive collection of hometowns. Yet as the bus driver rattled on, I paid little attention. I was trying to understand how the other man stayed in this one place his whole life. Just one.
“Nowhere else, Not even once? You’ve never wanted to leave?” His wrinkled eyes were soft as he answered, “Not really.”
Then I envied him. I don’t know what it’s like to be content in a place without always thinking about where to go next, without wanting to be elsewhere.
Not long after the exchange with Sylvia, another friend asked about my future plans. “Where are you going next?” Ah! Cartography! I can play this game!
Part of me wants to do my own thing without considering anyone else; another part wants to sit down with a map and figure out which city would be equidistant to the people I care about. Yellow or purple, I’m there. So long, paradox of choice.
When I hear the chorus of friends who suggest I join them, I never take them seriously. Come to London! Come to New York! Regarding San Francisco: “I could see you living here.” And Seattle: “If your soulmate were a city, this would be it.” Now that’s what I call filler. And Boston, don’t even get me started. It’s kind of like how at summer’s end everyone clamors for everyone else to come visit, but then it’s an inconvenience when you actually do.
Thing is, more and more I think I would do it. If you really asked me, I would go there. Not that I suddenly decided to toss curiosity or mobility, but I don’t prioritize location as much as I used to. I care less and less about others’ hometown rosters and geotag collections.
Place is a conversation starter. Where are you from? Where are you going? Lately I’m evasive. I don’t want where I come from or where I live to be the most interesting thing about me. A reminder: work on the other things.
I moved to the Carolinas for school and stayed for the BBQ. Now I live on the internet.
We have a juvenile with a gun. We don’t have any way to take care of this.
- There is one burned couch here and another couch that they could possibly burn. Might want to come pick it up.
- Soak it.
Suspect last seen wearing UK sweatshirt and blue jeans.
Checking alarm at McDonald’s. Looks like the freezer door.
- The fire department just advised me that they don’t do that. We do that.
- Umm. Cancel?
Take two guys with you and just give it a squirt.
We have two nude males on Kentucky Ave.
[5 minutes pass]
Either they found their pants or went inside because we can’t find them.
Prisoner showed up here with no citation.
Prisoner not going to fit. We need a wagon.
Be advised, I’m unable…due to…driving a Prius.
Attention all units. Are there any units with extra baggies?
Unknown male subject was walking westbound, disappeared—don’t know if he fell in a manhole or what.
Couch is no longer on fire, but it melted the road. Road melted, created a speed bump.
Looks like he’s not in the area. Suspect is not in the victim—uh—suspect is not in the area.
Sgt. Bacon’s got a squad.