optimism

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Apropos of nothing – NYC CAB!

Two years ago, I asked my mom, “What’s something I’ve done since I was a kid that I still do now?”

I figured she’d think about it for a while and maybe she’d come up with something. Or maybe she’d say, “What do you mean?” and I’d have to explain something I hadn’t really thought through.

Instead, she said straight away, “You jump off the last step.”

I recognized that as something I do now, because I like flying for a second, and jumping is fun, but, “Really? I’ve been doing that since I was a kid?”

She nodded.

It just goes to show: 1) your parents are sometimes the best expert on you, and 2) there are some things we do all the time that we’re just not conscious of.

Today, some thoughts on optimism!

So I told that story up there so it’d make more sense when I say: I don’t know if I’ve always been optimistic. I’m leaning toward “nope” if only because I have some very resolute adolescent and teenage memories of running headlong into life-walls and then complaining relentlessly until someone talked me down out of my whinging tree. I had some optimistic moments, of course, but for the most part I enjoyed complaining.

At some point, though, I realized that I didn’t like the defeated feeling that came from ending a conversation with, “This sucks.” I didn’t like carrying around that negativity, because fortunately and unfortunately, I take a lot to heart and I rehash a lot of worries that I should just let go. So that negativity often latched on like a face-hugging alien and wouldn’t let go. I much preferred starting with “This sucks” and moving onto the things that didn’t suck, like the fact that by doing this thing I didn’t want to do, I’d see something new/experience something to change my viewpoint/make a new friend.

To be honest, the more I think about it, I think I like being optimistic because it’s challenging.

Contrary to what some may think, optimism is not easy. Sometimes it takes incredible strength for a person to look at a lifelong home that’s just burned to the ground and think of anything good that could come from such a thing. On a smaller scale, it can take an equal amount of strength for another person to wake up and think, “Today will be a good day.”

Sometimes I like when unfortunate things happen, and I’ll explain why. One time, at my old job, someone from personnel arrived to observe the toddler-level English classes I was teaching at the time. I was surprised to see him, since teachers at that company were told we’d only be observed once a year, and when I told my coworker this he looked deeply apologetic. He offered to leave, to tell the head office their mistake, but I thought that sounded like a wasted trip for him, so I told him he could stay. He seemed nice, and the kids I was teaching were all great and well-behaved, so I didn’t mind him watching my classes. Afterward, he thanked me, and I was mildly confused as to why. He explained that a lot of other people would have been angry to be put in that situation, and so he was grateful that I hadn’t eaten his throat out with metal shark teeth.

I like being nice to people, as obvious as that sounds. I like that moment when people are clearly expecting a tirade and you give them a smile instead. I like lifting people’s spirits. I like making people smile.

And now that I’ve established my secret identity as a Care Bear, I begin a lighthearted journey to the bed two feet away, onto which I shall flip.

That’s another thing I can do, actually, because I was optimistic.

When I was eleven, I optimistically tried to do a flip onto my bed. And I can totally still do it because I optimistically trusted myself not to break my own neck, so I got a lot of practice in my room.

There you go, folks. Optimism means the ability to do a flip.

Take that, Grumpy Bear.

 

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pizza with honey on it and also some thoughts on pendulums

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I ate that in ten minutes. And I was pacing myself. Food, man.

This pizza came from my third favorite pizza place in Japan. It’s in Omotesando Hills on the third floor, it has incredible pizza, and the staff are all incredibly nice and friendly. Pretty cute, too.

I highly recommend the Quattro Formaggi, because they give you honey to drizzle on top, and if you’re like me then you’ll be like, “Eyugh, what?” but then if you give it a shot and you are, again, like me, you’ll go, “Whoaaaa,” and order it every. Single. Time. Because it changed your life.

PIZZA.

Pendulums

While I was eating that pizza up there, I was thinking about this article one of my former professors put up on Facebook about irony and how it’s detrimental to America’s culture. It’s something I think most Americans are aware of, but I don’t think many people are looking long-term.

I haven’t been alive very long comparatively, so take this with a grain of salt, but from what I’ve seen and read, humanity operates on a pendulum (see, I wasn’t just being random for the sake of being random because that’s exactly what I do if I have no other ideas and it also amuses me). If we’re at one extreme, we run to the other, then back to the other extreme – a lot of the time we’re in the middle of the spectrum facing one extreme, while others are facing the other direction.

It’s a very simplified way of thinking of human nature. But I think it explains how some of us can go from deeply earnest to a place of such dry irony that earnestness evaporates on contact. Being earnest means opening your heart, which can be terrifying. What I’ve found though, at least for myself, is that the more you open your heart, the easier it is to do and the less scary it is.

I think we take a lot of our cues from media, and I think with time the media is going to be saturated with irony, the same way it was over-saturated with vampires and switched gears to dystopian futures. Eventually, we’re going to go in the other direction. Just a matter of time.

PIZZA.

The end.

all my gold are belong to me because they are my gold

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I could resize that image, but I SHALL NOT.

‘Cos those up there are GOLD.

I think by the plural I should add a noun to that sentence but nah.

They are MY gold.

I would keep this going longer but no one believes it’s gold. I can feel it. So we’ll just go on to the part where I say they’re gold-colored thingies that fell from the ceiling of the theater I was in tonight.

What magical show gives you gold-colored thingies that fall from the ceiling? you ask, wide-eyed.

The magical Takizawa Kabuki gives you gold-colored thingies that fall from the ceiling. Also, teensy paper sakura petals, if you’re in the right part of the theater to catch those.

So yes! I haven’t mentioned their names yet, I think, but my favorite musical artists in Japan are Tackey & Tsubasa (that’s one of their earlier music videos where they’re cavorting around Hawaii being simultaneously ridiculous and too adorable to endure). And yes, Tackey is actually his name. Except it’s not. It’s a nickname fashioned from his last name, and it’s not pronounced “tacky” unless you want it to (the police force in charge of pronunciation misdemeanors are notoriously lazy).

So yes, Takizawa Hideaki is his full name. He’s half of the aforementioned duo, along with Imai Tsubasa. The two of them have known each other since they were thirteen, they’ve been a music duo since they were twenty, and they’re both thirty-two now. In a nutshell, Tsubasa is primarily a dancer with an emphasis on (anything to do with his beloved) Spain, and Takizawa leans more toward acting. So, during the period when the two of them are pursuing their solo projects, Tsubasa dances and Takizawa acts.

One of Takizawa’s continuing projects over the last several years since 2006 is called Takizawa Kabuki.

Basically, it’s a kabuki show. Less basically, it’s a kabuki performance that’s much, much easier to follow than genuine kabuki. Takizawa has perhaps the deepest and most respectful appreciation and love for his culture that I’ve ever seen in a person. Usually, when I’m thinking of people who embody Japanese culture, he’s one of the first to spring to mind; his partner Tsubasa, on the other hand, sometimes reminds me of a European or an American (Euro-American Japanese shapeshifter).

As you’d garner from the name of the show, Takizawa does a great deal to bring the performance to life. In Japanese theatre terms, he’s the zachou (座長), or star, of the show. He also has final call on the content, what to add, what to scrap, who he casts, and a bunch of tiny details that many people in the audience may not even notice. His standards for his performances are extremely high, however, and that’s strongly reflected in the shows he produces.

The first act is a collage of spectacles: giant reams of fabric spilling from the ceiling, each one emblazoned with its own Japanese character painted in elaborate calligraphy; Takizawa flying suspended by wire over the heads of the audience; a masked dance where, one by one, the masks whisk away with only the slightest twitch of Takizawa’s head; a segment wherein Takizawa dons the makeup of an onnagata while sitting onstage; a number of deeply amusing interactions that include asking the audience for money, and receiving gifts that the lucky (and/or fabulously rich) people in the front row have brought for the cast.

The second act is the famous story of Yoshitsune, which Takizawa knows forward and back both because 1) he loves history, and 2) he once played Yoshitsune over fifty+ episodes of a nationally acclaimed TV series.

During the intermission, because of the show’s length, the theater sells extremely fancy bento in the lobby. To have any hope of getting one, however, you have to reserve one before the show, then pick it up from the counter during intermission. Even in this, Takizawa has involvement. He chooses the food, the design, the wrapping, everything. The man is a brilliant stickler for detail.

He never stops striving to improve his performances. He makes frequent visits to Las Vegas looking for inspiration for his own shows and is constantly brainstorming ways to tweak the show’s elements without changing the original shape and style of the show. Kabuki has been constantly evolving over the last eight years, and every year he adds something(s) new. Last year, he added a segment where he beats the hell out of a taiko drum suspended upside down and shirtless.

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See Takizawa.

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See Takizawa shirtless.

The drumming upside down part is a very, very nice part of the show.

This year, to augment a new segment involving the Japanese equivalent of Robin Hood (based on another TV drama Takizawa starred in, earlier this year), Takizawa added a scene where, dressed as his robs-from-the-rich character, he throws gold over the audience.

Paper gold. Meh.

But I have to say, when it poured down from the ceiling, it wafted in clouds just like cherry blossom petals. The stage lights had it all shimmering and it landed in tiny mountains on the floor. In an interview, Takizawa said they’d run a test with 8,000 gold pieces, but when it was finished he said he felt it wasn’t enough yet, and added 2,000 more to the batch.

As you can tell from the pile I’ve collected above, there are a lot of those things. Normally I wouldn’t feel so greedy, and I try to give away some to the people in the stands who didn’t have an opportunity to get some – but this time no one was collecting them. Well. Five people. My friend pointed out that many people see the show multiple times and probably already had plenty at home.

Just like I do now.

Problem is, now I want a bed made of these things. And a sofa. And I’ll tile my room and bathroom and kitchen and put spotlights everywhere and become three shades weirder than I already am.

Aaand that’s where this mishmash of a review shall end, because why is it 1am.

Good night, folks!

the clockstead

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I hereby decree that this is where I will live someday. Except it’ll also be adorned with pink and blue and fuscia and violet and lavender Christmas lights. Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Apartment. Except…My Amazing Technicolor Apartment.

And the elevator will play U2’s “Elevation” when it’s going up and “Devil Went Down to Georgia” when it’s going the other direction. And it’ll have a disco ball in it.

Also, the clocks will work, but they’ll run backwards.

Shoes will not be permitted; I’m firmly with the Japanese on this.

Instead of boring normal sofas, there will be giant Totoro sofas.

Everything else is fine.

Oh, and I don’t know what city is out there, but it’ll be London, New York, and Tokyo when I have that apartment.

I plan on combing three countries in the future.

Also I want a water slide. And a jet ski. And an alpaca.

And I will call this place The Clockstead. Instead of homestead.

Good night!

the lovely corkboard

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Today! Apart from it being my birthday (in Japan at least) and having some marvelous cake and company, I finally sat down and made a writing plan.

I’ve had this corkboard for months that I was previously using for song lyrics I was memorizing, have since memorized, and just left up because [insert shrug]. Meanwhile, I’ve been keeping a list on my computer of ideas for novels. I decided, since I prefer more visible organization, to write those ideas out on paper and pin them to the corkboard.

The list is actually a bit longer than I thought! I had it around twelve in my head, but I’ve actually got sixteen ideas right now. My plan, since my brain does a pretty common “work work SHINY THING TRACK JUMP work work work SHINIER THING TRACK JUMP” thing, is to have these ideas up on the wall where I can see them so I can at least jump tracks to another idea and have some steady progress going.

The catch-22 for me is that I thrive when I’m on a deadline, and without someone keeping me to a deadline, I’m very easily distracted. And I won’t have a deadline until I can publish something and have deadlines, which I can’t get because I need to finish something to publish it and…yes. The chain of frustration. The problem is that I accept excuses from myself all the time. But no more!

This is the year!

This is the year my writing time will NOT look like this:

SELF: 2,000 words in the next two hours, ready?
BRAIN: Totally, yes. Except…
SELF: Yes?
BRAIN: Nah, it’s fine. Do your thing with the writing.
SELF: No, what were you going to say?
BRAIN: No, man, it’s nothing. Just…
SELF: [waits patiently]
BRAIN: I mean…you were going to close some of these tabs in Chrome, weren’t you?
SELF: Oh! That! Well, yeah, but that one’s an article and that one’s an email from a friend and that’s a new Cracked.com video that I want to watch later–
BRAIN: Ah, I see.
SELF: What’s with the tone?
BRAIN: Tone? Oh, jeez, no, you’re misunderstanding me. I was just surprised that you have such a short attention span that you couldn’t do all those things and just left them to languish there in your browser.
SELF: …As much as I’d like to refute that, I have writing to do.
BRAIN: Oh, of course, of course. You do that.
SELF: …
BRAIN: …
SELF: I need your help here, dude.
BRAIN: What? Sorry, I was thinking about After Hours. Y’know, the Cracked.com show? Hey, we haven’t marathoned those in a while.
SELF: We haven’t? Sure we have! Remember last year?
BRAIN: Well, yeah, but that was last year.
SELF: …That’s true…
BRAIN: But I’m truly sorry to interrupt, let’s get some writing done.
SELF: Well, hold on now. I don’t…
BRAIN: Yes?
SELF: We can watch one, right? I mean, it’s been a month, so I think there might be a new one out.
BRAIN: Wow, really? I hadn’t even thought of that.
SELF: Let’s just look and then if it’s there we can just leave it while I [clicks play]

[Three Hundred and Six Years Later]

BRAIN: Weren’t you writing a book?
SELF: Why am I still alive?

FIN

…I’ll probably have to spend less time writing scripts in my blog and use that time to write, maybe.

that boundary between a good thing and a better thing

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“Home” has been a malleable word to me for years. Although my family and I only lived in two states when I was younger, we changed houses often. Because of that, I’ve grown to have a pretty flexible definition of the word, to the point where “home” just means, “where I feel comfortable. And sleep.”

Tomorrow I turn twenty-seven! Or, technically, two days from now I turn twenty-seven since Japan is ahead of the States clock-wise and I was born in the States. Essentially, living in Japan gives you two birthdays for the age of one. …I’m jetlagged. I will continue making half-workable jokes and metaphors under this blanket of excuse.

Proceeding on!

Today was very long, so much so that it feels like three days happened over the course of one. Of course, that’s partially because I’ve only napped here and there over the actual last two days, flying from Europe back to Japan, and today I crashed for two hours because I was starting to hallucinate finished novels, so there’s that.

It was also a day I very deeply enjoyed. Traveling lets me comb out confusion and second thoughts, and now that I’m home, I know what my next few steps are in Life. I’ve reaffirmed what makes me happy and how to best motivate myself in my career.

I had sushi for the first time in weeks and that first bite of salmon was a spiritual moment of utter happy.

Even better, and maybe the best part of the whole day: this morning in Stockholm, I started reading the book up there in the photo – A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki – and now I’m halfway through it. The writer’s voice is loving and frank, my favorite combination of writer-y adjectives. I can’t handle too much frank.

For example, there’s this book out there in the world that begins with two babies left in coin lockers in Shinjuku Station. That thing miserable’d the hell out of me for hours and needless to say, I didn’t read all of it. The characters would have conversations like, “I don’t have butter,” “Ah,” followed by a paragraph describing the cigarette burns on the walls and a creepy guy living two floors up who owns a telescope aimed out the window and enjoys smelling the laundry he steals from the other tenants.

Books like that are powerful, and I understand the appeal. I prefer my books laced with love.

“A Tale for the Time Being” has heart in spades. It also manages to do two things I vehemently admire. The first: she opens the book in first person, using a technique I’ve seen before but I don’t…think has a name to describe it. It’s like a movie that starts with a wide focus of the Earth and then narrows down to someone’s wristwatch. But in literary form. I bought it without knowing anything else about the book, just based on how solid the opening is.

The second thing it does is this: it divides the POV between two characters, and I’m almost equally invested in both. The danger in giving your book two narrators is that you risk your readers losing interest whenever it jumps from one to the other. Instead, whenever the POV changes, I find myself 1) wanting to skip the next chapter to get back to Nao’s story, and 2) really, really curious about Ruth’s story because it left off on such a strong, curious note.

It’s been a while since I read a book that made me this excited to finish it, and that only reminds me how little I’ve been reading the past few years. I’m one of those people. Eugh. And I’ll probably relapse and go back to doing nothing but writing for several months at a time, but I’ll always come back to books. ♡

Aaaand now I have successfully made myself sleepy enough to pass out and with any luck I will wake up at a normal hour for JST.

GOOD NIGHT, CITIZENS OF SLEEP.

Salutations from Amsterdam!

A short entry for now, for I am presently in the airport where wifi is a precious commodity.

So!  Where to begin. I spent the last two days at my friend’s apartment in Stockholm, and we enjoyed two days of utter relaxation. I had time to work on my book, in her superbly pink-accented kitchen and stretched across her cozy pink sofa, and I even had the time to become unjustly invested in a TV program I’ve effortlessly resisted all the long years I’ve known of its existence.

Curse you, Doctor. And curse you, friend-who-did-nothing-to-cause-this-except-innocently-watch-the-show-within-earshot-while-I-was-writing-in-the-kitchen.

My next flight back to Japan leaves shortly, so I’ll depart with some words of wisdom:

EXTERMINATE … plaque.

travel potter and the dose of inspiration

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Tonight’s my last night in Europe! Tomorrow at an obscene hour, my friend and I will arise and leave her apartment. She to work, me to the airport for my flight back to Japan.

I’ve had a describably fantastic trip, and it was made all the more enjoyable and memorable for the people I’ve spent it with. From Spain to London to Germany to Sweden, every friend I saw and spent time with on this trip made it something I’ll cherish. Traveling is healing, and there’s freedom and catharsis in it that I can’t find doing anything else.

Except writing. Which, wouldn’tcha know it, is tonight’s subject!

I’ll do a post about the trip, too, but as I’m still technically on it, I haven’t had time to let it all marinate and simmer and produce something tangible for public consumption. … (I’m happy with that collection of words. I shall keep it.)

So! That thingie up there is a screencap of a Scrivener document containing a novel I’m currently writing. Hopefully, those will remain the actual chapter names.

On this trip, I’ve had a flurry of ideas for new books, and now I’m juggling four new concepts on top of the nine books I was already outlining and writing before. That’s the other thing I love about traveling – it brings me out of my routine, out of my comfort zone, and shows me new possibilities and whatnot. It’s as much for my state of mind as it is for my creative output that I love to travel. Every day is a new potential setting, or an opportunity to learn something about the local culture that could influence worldbuilding.

And that’s where I’ll leave this for now, for it is nearly 11pm and we are waking up at 4am and that sounds like a time you go to sleep, not wake up, so TO SLEEP WITH ME.

Good night, gentle citizens of the written word.

swedish sheep

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Those are sheep. The black one’s name is Frank, and he’s the boss of Tele2, a mobile phone company in Sweden. Beside him is his son Francis. My friend introduced me to them about an hour ago.

Sweden’s released a vast number of commercials featuring Frank and, recently, his son Francis. There are Tele2 shops stocked with Frank and Francis merchandise, and my friend even has a little Francis doll dressed as a pig.

They’re some of the most adorable commercials I’ve ever seen. They remind me a lot of SoftBank’s commercials featuring the White Family.

a plan for the unexpected

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Last year around late March I took a trip to Florence. I stayed at a B&B outside the city, took the local bus into the city square when I wanted to check out museums and whatnot, and explored the countryside around the B&B when I was more interested in a peace and quiet kind of adventure.

What I remember best about Florence, without question, were the little things I didn’t plan on happening or seeing. For example, that photo up there was taken on the bridge that faces the way more popular bridge crammed full of jewelry shops and souvenirs and such. That bridge is, from what I could tell, always crowded and always noisy and as soon as I walked through it once, I made a bloodless vow with myself never to go through again (that said, I could probably be persuaded to with the promise of any kind of Italian food waiting on the other side, for I am besotted with Italian food).

So I preferred the smaller, less popular bridge. It featured no shops, no souvenirs, just some impressive stonesmanship and a way to get from one side of the Arno to the other. I stopped in the middle of the bridge and followed the example of my fellow tourists and took photos of the famous breath-crushing bridge of shout-y salesmanship. When I finished with that, I just rested my arms on the wall and studied the sights. Tried to imagine the city hundreds of years ago, and what people might have been talking about as they crossed this bridge. Trouble with family, what to eat for lunch, the latest plague, etc.

Then I lifted my weight onto my arms and peered over the side, curious to see the water, and saw a wide triangular ledge holding two boys. One was sketching, and the other was just relaxing. Or pondering and relaxing. I didn’t think to ask. A few other tourists noticed me looking over the wall for much longer than interest in water would traditionally demand, and followed my line of sight to the boys. Suddenly people were crowing around behind the artist to see what he was making. He never looked up, just kept working on his drawing of the bridge opposite him.

That’s my favorite photo from Florence because it was unexpected. Just like my favorite photo from my trip to Barcelona last year is the photo of my shoe stuck in a wall. The things that I don’t plan always end up being my favorite parts of a trip.

That’s why I don’t make strict plans when I travel. It’s why I prefer walking from place to place. I like giving the universe some opportunities to have someone say, “Hey, you, you seem to be in need of some free Ben & Jerry’s. Here you go, and you know what, here’s the paperwork for a free penthouse in Tokyo. I used to live there, but pah! I’ve got five others and you look like you’d enjoy a penthouse. Have a nice day!”

Indeed, kind imagined madam and/or sir. Indeed.

Good day, citizens of the unexpected!