Thursday, May 31, 2007

My first piece is up at Small Spiral Notebook, a review of Jillian Weise's The Amputee’s Guide to Sex.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Camp Inquiry is different from the popular camps of the past in that it is oriented around the central theme of skeptical and free inquiry towards paranormal and supernatural phenomena."

God save us from the secular humanists who send their children to Camp Inquiry.


Monday, May 28, 2007

"Execution in Progress"


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I'm just now finishing up a review of Alan Bennett's Untold Stories - highly recommended.

From Bennett's diaries, discussing a biography of Ted Hughes:

“I hadn’t known about Hughes’s homophobia – though I’m not sure antipathy to Truman Capote can be so subsumed, Capote really deserving a phobia to himself.”

Alex also passed on this lovely Capote story:

Truman Capote and Gore Vidal were at a New York cocktail party (alternate versions place them at a television studio, though Alex heard his version from Mr. Vidal himself) when they got into an argument that ended with Capote decking Vidal in the face, toppling him onto the carpet, his face a bloody mess. Mr. Vidal looked up at Capote leaning over him and responded with, "Words fail Truman Capote yet again."

(Further research also suggests it might have been Norman Mailer and not Truman Capote, but I'm sticking with my Capote theme.)

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Monday, May 21, 2007

An outtake acquired while researching this article - interviewing a 30-something Norwegian student.

Summer: So why did you decide to study Wing Chun?
Student: One word: self-defense.
Summer: Oh?
Student: Absolutely, I need to defend myself. Have you ever heard of capoeira?
Summer: Yes.
Student: Well, I'm moving to Brazil to study capoeira. Brazil is a very dangerous place. There are 50,000 murders in Brazil every year. And I'm white. So people are going to be trying to attack me.
Summer: Mm-hmm.
Student: Here, let me show you something. [I reluctantly participate in his demo.] You know, I really could be teaching this class, I am very experienced [pause] Do you want to have this interview in Chinese?
Summer: No - why?
Student: I could, if you want, I speak fluent Chinese. [As I drift off] I also study kickboxing and acrobatics. I can stand on my head for hours if I have to. Do you do any sports?
Summer: Skeet-shooting.
Student: Really?
Summer: Honesty is the cornerstone of skeet-shooting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

(Aijima Island)

Friends and well-wishers may enjoy these photos from our recent trip to Japan - I've highlighted the best with a tag of the same name. My husband (here looking rather nautical) took the bulk of the photos, and all the good ones.

Japan was a joy despite the many privations of backpacking. Anyone who knows me - and many who do not - can guess I do not care for backpacking. It was my husband's idea, and he's been roundly excoriated since. It's not that I am addicted to fine food and first-class travel - I can and do enjoy low-budget fare, cozy hostels, and public transport. What I do not enjoy is looking like a damn fool. Backpacking is all fine and good in the great outdoors, where tramping around with all your belongings strapped to your being is a necessity. There is nothing more ludicrous than seeing a 30-year-old man amble through the Tokyo subways as though he's mistaken it all for Yosemite.

What troubles me about backpacking - a point I took pains to explicate clearly and repeatedly while wringing out my underlinen in the hostel sink - is that it's entirely artificial. There was no reason at all we had to carry one bag to Tokyo, and no reason to carry that one bag on our backs. It's as utterly arbitrary as deciding we're only allowed to bring things that are red. But having accepted this dubious premise, we were then bound to suffer for it. Intentionally bringing four pairs of socks on a ten-day trip is unforgivable. There I was in one of the world's most fashionable cities looking like it was laundry day at forestry school. I may have been wearing brown hiking boots with black track pants - but as all those photos have been destroyed, we'll never know, will we?

And yet, as I said, we had a wonderful time. We started off in Tokyo, which was every bit as elegant and sophisticated as I'd hoped, and then on to Kyoto and Himeji before we skipped over to Shikoku island. From there, we went to Matsuyama, Hojo, the islands of Kashima and Aijima, and the Kazura Bashi bridge. Shikoku was lovely - it reminded me in many ways of the Pacific Northwest, only even more cool, fresh, and green. True, Aijima Island was full of centipedes - but then, that's what you get when you navigate entirely on a series of cartoon novelty maps.

We hit many of the prime Japan sights, including fish markets, cuteness emporiums, noodle shops, and Harajuku street kids. And, of course, we stayed in a capsule hotel - much more comfortable and pleasant than I would have expected. I'd like to install some sort of space capsule into my apartment. Trip highlights included the incomparable Meiji shrine, the dry garden at Konchi-in, and Kyoto's Kiyomizu-dera temple (a candidate for one of the new seven wonders of the world). And the contraption Dev build to dry our clothes.

Perhaps the thing that most impressed me about Japan was how many extraordinarily kind and helpful people we met in every city and town. No sooner did we open a guide book or look quizzically at a road sign than someone would appear to give directions, offer suggestions, or draw out minutely detailed maps. One old woman even made me some origami animals while we rode the train together - a rabbit and a dachshund.

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I had just finished putting away my wallet and was walking out of the manicurist's when the receptionist came chasing after me. She grabbed my arm, reached up over her head with a gesture to indicate "tall," then ran into the shop, procured a pen and notepad, ran back out, and held out to me a slip reading "1.8?"

I laughed and wrote back "1.75" with a little drawing of a high-heeled shoe. She smiled, nodded vigorously, and ran back inside to confirm her guess with the other receptionist.


My blog has finally been updated after several months of inattention - there are four new highlights on the folio page and three new entries under publications.
Last but not least - my last article about India (for now), a review of Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games and a Mumbai travelogue.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More Bollywood gossip - with a message.


Yet more on India! A short travel piece on Delhi - an article on Bollywood and film noir still to come, and today I am finishing a piece on Bollywood gossip and the BJP. You can also check out a recent column on fitness.

(I am also not using contractions because I cannot find the apostrophe on this Japanese keyboard.)