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I finished another book for my writing project over break! This one is "Ikebana: The Art of Arranging Flowers" by Shozo Sato. (Like tea ceremony, flower arrangement appears to be seen in Japan as something either sex can do. Shozo Sato is a man.) I'm here to write a review.

One of the things I found interesting about this book is that, unlike the tea ceremony book I wrote about previously, this isn't a guidebook full of philosophy. This is a straight-forward and to-the-point crafts book. If you actually want to get into ikebana and make a simple start, this is definitely the book for you.

It has lists of materials and what each tool does, diagrams, precise geometric calculations, and basic lessons in three different styles of ikebana. There are lots of pictures and countless examples, each one explained in detail. Shozo Sato's abilities are even complimented by a grandmaster of a major Japanese school of ikebana in the foreword.

If, however, you're looking for information - history, philosophy, etc - this may not be best. While there is a brief history section, for the most part this is a craft's book. It's a how-to book.

It was an interesting read and if you want to get into the practice, I'd recommend it. One thing I learned is that ikebana is NOT putting pretty flowers into a bouquet. It's more like a kind of temporary, artificial sculpture using plant-based materials. Like tea ceremony, it has strong connections to the seasons and what each one signifies in nature (especially Japanese nature).

So if you're any kind of model or sculpture based artist, I'd recommend giving this a try. Just remember - the "sculptures" don't last very long! ;)
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I have finished another book - The Tea Ceremony by Sen'o Tanaka, translated into English - and, funny enough, it's about Japanese tea ceremony. I'm here to write a review.

I have two criticisms about the book:

1) It's very... technical. If you're not into technical details of a culture or ceremony, this may not be the book for you.

2) You should already know the process of a tea ceremony before you read the book. He doesn't really ever give you the whole picture. This is more of a book for someone who's already researched tea ceremony, at least online, and wants to know more about it.

With that said, it's a wonderfully detailed book. It goes into so many subjects in such an in-depth way, and is excellent at communicating the beauty and serenity of the ceremony itself through the various details and practices he describes. He even goes into the philosophy of tea ceremony, and its connection to Zen.

I also thought it was interesting that he said tea ceremony has always technically been a co-ed art, because I've always seen it as more of a feminine art. I've now started a new book on ikebana - Japanese flower arrangement - and this author is also male! It seems that Japanese men have much less compunction being what might be called "femininely artistic" than Western men do, which is something I definitely applaud. Yay for no defined gender roles!

Anyway, if you're interested in learning about the above, this is definitely the book for you. I used it as research for a writing project, and it provided all the detail I needed to deeply understand the subject - at least to understand it enough to write about it. This book and my online research together were enough to give me a good idea of Japanese tea ceremony.
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I just finished reading "Nappy: Growing Up Black and Female in America" by Aliona Gibson. I needed a book on female experiences of prejudice for my fem Naruto story I'm writing, and I figured that since I'm American and have taken classes in African American culture and become involved in African American civil rights, this was the kind of prejudice I knew the most about. I'm here to write a review of the book.

First, I would like to say that this book is surprisingly unique. I say "surprisingly" because it's the only book I could find that just straight-out talks specifically about black female experiences of prejudice. There are no other autobiographical details, it's not a fiction book or a book of poetry. It's a book specifically about one black woman's memories on what it's like to be a black woman. And in this area, it excels.

She goes through everything: the pain of prejudices based on appearance, experiences with men, and experiences of various places and cultures. She talks about how she's noticed black communities differ from area to area: East Coast, West Coast, and even Africa. There was a lot of invaluable information in there, if you were looking for it, about female experiences of prejudice in general. Fears of sexual assault, for example, or ridicule based on appearances that do not fit the "ideal."

It was not a very professionally done book and was obviously self published. That would be my only major criticism. There were a lot of weird spaces where there shouldn't be spaces, spelling and grammatical errors, etc. The book was also rather short, but I think it covered everything it needed to cover.

Overall, a good read, and I would recommend it. The book should be more famous than it is.
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I read this book in particular for a writing project I'm doing. I've read one book on astrology, one on personality psychology, and this one. I still have -- wait for it -- NINE more books to read for research before I even start the writing project I have in mind. It's a fanfic, which I contend can be just as cool and meaningful as regular fiction books. I will keep you updated on which books I read for the fanfic I'm researching. See the "fem Naruto story" tag at the bottom.

Anyway, I'm reviewing this book on yokai. It's called "The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore" by Michael Dylan Foster. I read all 244 pages in less than two weeks. It's a really great read. I recommend it.

What is a yokai?

It's a Japanese demon of sorts -- more broadly, a Japanese mythical creature that can perform dark acts. I began my fascination with Japan through watching manga and anime as a kid. From there, I branched off into learning more about the culture behind these fictions I loved so much -- I read up on Japan and took on several Japanese pen pals at one point or another, read and watched blogs and vlogs on Japanese travel, tried cooking Japanese meals, researched various aspects of ancient Japanese culture, read interviews of famous Japanese artists, watched Japanese films and sampled Japanese music. I know at least something of typical Japanese religions and philosophies. I plan on starting Japanese language classes this summer. The more I learn about Japan, the more I love.

Especially given my love of fantasy in Japanese anime, it only made sense for me to buy a book on yokai.

It was a fascinating read. A lot of elements from modern Japanese stories that I had always thought were random or made up -- it turns out? They were actually deliberately referencing ancient Japanese folklore! And I've probably only just scratched the surface. Isn't that great?

Even for people who are skeptical of why ancient Japanese folklore is important should read this book, however. Foster really gets at the importance behind yokai -- their various meanings, their cultural relevance (both ancient and modern, national and international), and how they help us see the world differently. He talks about yokai history and philosophical categorization, and only then does he actually go on to discuss the yokai themselves. He gives you good background reading before diving into the various yokai there are. I really liked that part of the book.

I think this would be a good textbook for a class on Japanese culture. That was one thing that really struck me as I was reading. And it was written in 2012, so it's pretty recent. He references a lot of Japanese scholars and has a native Japanese artist render his yokai drawings, has lived and studied in Japan for a time, yet is Western himself and so can explain Japanese culture to us in a way we would understand it.

That ends the "personality research" section of my writing project. I know how this female Naruto is going to be and how being (spoiler alert) part kitsune fox demon would affect her. Now comes the "experiences research" section. More fun times ahead!
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The first day of classes was rainy, but it was a light rain, little wind, and I had an umbrella, so that was no problem.

My first class was British Literature. We’ll be reading Mrs Dalloway, Hard Times, Frankenstein, and several others (the teacher actually forgot to tell us about one, which means I’ll have to buy an additional ten-to-fifteen dollar book off Amazon), and we’ll get to be creative in addition to being analytical. My idea of a perfect class! I’d had the teacher before, a peppy blonde woman who’s very enthusiastic about literature, and I like her, and I also was surrounded by several English major friends of mine that I’d had in previous classes. We sat around and had a lively conversation, talking and joking, before class started. The great thing about English majors is that they’re always up for discussion -- you never feel stiff, intimidated, or bored in their presence.

My business class, Promotional Strategy, was a little different. No one spoke or raised their hand at all -- I was the only one who raised my hand with a question for the entire class period -- and there was this intimidating kind of silence that no one wanted to break. The teacher, an older woman, talked really fast and then suddenly shot questions at us -- I could barely keep up with her. But I did raise my hand, and I talked with her after class about what assignments I should do, and she asked for my name and recognized it from an email about textbooks I’d sent her over the summer. So I think I made a good first impression.

I had very little homework that night, and then came a Thursday and Friday (no-homework days), and on Friday I had no second Promotional Strategy class, and then came a three-day weekend! So I was feeling pretty optimistic after my first day.

My second day of classes was also good. Sunnier, and I had a longer amount of time to sit and eat breakfast before heading out for the day.

I had been a little nervous about my Shakespeare studies professor -- besides the fact that he was an expert in Shakespeare, he had also seemed intimidatingly strict and old-fashioned in his beginning emails. But what actually happened is kind of funny. He’d mistaken the classroom number so we had to go find him because he’d been wandering the halls, lost. Once he got in there he turned out to be a nice, sharply dressed little old man. There was one moment of nervousness -- we’d filled out information cards for him, and he kept reading excerpts from the cards for the class, which we hadn’t known he’d do. But he just asked me about where I was from. Called the place name “exotic.” He seems to like the word “exotic.” Everything that’s not an English major from the school’s general region is “exotic” to him.

I took the bus back home for lunch and an hour and a half relaxation at my place. Then I went back out for my Advanced Poetry class, which was with the same professor I’d taken Intermediate Poetry with last semester.

Still the same guy -- had an existentially fraught hip flask (it doesn’t know whether it contains vodka or water, and neither does anyone else), liked the building where no one ever went, lots of interesting stories, hated assigning grades. It was soothing being back in an intriguing, familiar environment again analyzing poetry, so I really enjoyed that class.

The students in that class are always funny, too. We were in the geology building, and there was a picture of the Mt St Helens eruption in the classroom, and someone said that was like putting a picture of Hiroshima in a classroom in Japan.

"The circumstances were a little different," another person pointed out in amusement. "More people were killed in Hiroshima. There's also the problem of Big Intention versus Natural Disaster."

I love English majors.

I always reward myself after making it to that class, though, because it’s always in the late afternoon after I’ve already gone home from school -- I always have to go back to campus just for that one class. So as my reward afterward, I go to Starbucks and get myself a delicious little coffee. I sat at Starbucks for a while, just letting my mind unwind.

Now I’m back at home, and guess what? No homework, a short day tomorrow, and then a three-day weekend! And tomorrow I might be getting some new pajamas!

It’s been a great start to the semester!
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I finished a 500-and-some-odd page book in two and a half weeks of winter break, and I'm here to write a review. The book is "The Paying Guests" by Sarah Waters.

Ahoy, matie. There be spoilers below.

"The Paying Guests" is really about the evolution of a relationship -- a lesbian relationship set in London in the 1920's. Frances Wray and her aging mother used to be very wealthy, but have fallen on hard times and have to take in boarders. Their boarders turn out to be a handsome young couple who on the outside seem to have the perfect life.

But looks can be deceiving. Both sides are hiding things. Frances's father squandered the family fortune, her brothers died in World War I, and she's had brushes with the law in the past at pacifist and feminist protest rallies and has had to turn away from a previous lesbian relationship to take care of her mother. Meanwhile, the young couple, the Barbers, have a crumbling marriage based on lies, adultery, and lost babies. (After miscarrying the first time, Mrs Barber actually gets an illegal abortion at two different points because she doesn't want her husband's baby, and one of the abortions is described in rather brutal terms.) Neither Miss Frances Wray nor Mrs Lilian Barber seem to have a happy life.

But they find happiness in each other. They begin a secret relationship, which is evolved slowly, and rather than this being idealized and romanticized, it's quickly shown that this falls apart. First, it's made quite explicit that carrying on any sort of homosexual relationship is insanely hard in this time period. But there's more. Mr Leonard Barber finds out about his wife's adultery, and -- quite hypocritically, since he's committed adultery himself -- he tries to strangle Frances. Lilian responds by killing him from behind. The ensuing scandal as they try to cover up the truth of the death from the police nearly tears the two apart as they begin criticizing and second-guessing each other's motives, the strain and stress of their crime weighing on each of them. (One interesting point: Lilian claims the death was accidental and she just wanted to hurt her husband, but she also got a great deal of money and newfound freedom out of his death, so Frances isn't sure whether or not to believe her. Since it's all from Frances's point of view, we never really know what to think of Lilian either. This is never quite resolved. Lilian's motives remain mysterious, perhaps even to herself.)

A few thoughts on the book:

You can't help but dislike Frances and Lilian for the last third of the book. You don't feel like you're on their side anymore. A young boy is about to be convicted for their covered-up crime, but they're going to wait until he's committed to the gallows before admitting their guilt. When he's set free by the court, they never admit what they did at all. It's a triumph for the characters -- they get to be together and at least somewhat patch up their relationship at the end -- but it's also a moral failure, and the characters seem very aware of that. Basically, they get away with at least involuntary manslaughter in order to be together. That the death was in self-defense is only part of the puzzle.

I didn't really like Lilian and Frances's relationship -- until the very end. When after it all, they have that quiet moment together when they sit in alcove on the bridge and watch the passersby, close together, and a completely silent understanding passes between them. Paradoxically, even though you've stopped liking the characters, you like the relationship. It carries a heaviness and subtext that the previous, somewhat childish relationship lacked. I liked the relationship better that way -- I'm not sure what that says about me.

The pacing was a bit odd. It was slow, of course, I've said that, but for most of the book it worked. For that last third, though... it just dragged on and on and on. I'm not sure if that was intentional, to get us into the characters' trapped mindset, or if it's just a failure on the part of the author. But either way, that last section involving the murder trial and investigation centered on the young boy was torturous and agonizing in its slowness.

Also, shoutout to the deliciously complex relationship Frances has with her mother. I really liked that part. Mrs Wray in herself is a bit boring, your typical friendly and gullible little old lady used to being wealthy and Churchgoing and doing charities, but put her together with her newfound lack of money and her rebellious yet responsible and duty-bound daughter Frances... oh, and interesting things happen.

Overall, it was a good book, as you can see by the fact that I read it in less than three weeks. I would recommend it to others.
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Dear Teenage Self,

I’m not quite sure how to begin. There’s so much I want to tell you; so much has changed. Most of it for the better.

First, I know being a teenager is hard. It seems like people are always trying to under-rate the problems of being a teenager. But I remember: being a teenager is insanely difficult. Just know that things will get better, if you give them time.

I know you think you’re ugly. I know those bullying girls in middle school make you feel like you’re ugly. And I remember what you look like in middle school: long frizzy hair, braces, snobbish little gold-rimmed cat’s-eye glasses, tomboyish clothes. I remember that you cried the first time you heard “I’m Not That Girl” from Wicked. You pretended you were smarter and more arrogant than everybody else to hide the truth -- that you never felt like you fit in, that you doubted you’d ever find a boyfriend or fall in love.

Well, guess what? All those bullying girls in middle school? They’ll lose interest in you in high school. Your braces will come off. One day you’ll just decide to cut off all your hair, and it will feel incredibly liberating. You’ll get some new square plastic black-framed glasses. You’ll learn to make your tomboyish look work for you, with band T shirts and checkered open sweaters and long wool coats and skintight jeans.

And guess what else? Guys will call you pretty. So will girls. You’ll be asked out on dates. You’ll make new friends. College will free you from the confines of teenage hierarchy -- yes, you have to wait till college, and it will frustrate you because it seems like everyone else has it all figured out in high school. (They don’t. Trust me.) In fact, you’ll go to prom stag with a bunch of your girlfriends instead of with some immature teenage boy, and you’ll have the time of your life. You’ll rent a white limo and put on a lavender ball gown, and you’ll giggle and silly dance on top of a ship overlooking the sea sparkling in the night. And then, eventually, a year or two later in college, you’ll have the courage to ask somebody out and romance will happen for you.

But you’ll also learn not to let your beauty define you. I know you can’t even conceive of this right now, but you’ll get into a relationship, realize this guy’s not right for you, and you’ll have the courage to tell him “no.” He will validate this idea of the beauty you never thought you had, but he will not be the right person for you, and you will realize that it is okay. It is okay for him not to be the right person for you. You don’t owe anyone anything just because they called you pretty.

And it is okay not to have a boyfriend. Especially in high school. Ya got time, girl! Go easy on yourself!

Also know this: you still haven’t completely fallen in love. I think you’re probably one of those people who falls in love really intensely, but only once or twice a lifetime. And you’ve realized that’s okay too. You’ve kissed boys, held hands with them, even made out with them, but you have never given your virginity away to a guy who hasn’t earned it. And your inexperience? That doesn’t bother you as much as it used to. In fact, you’re a little proud of it. You go slow, and that’s okay -- your relationship experiences will be more rewarding that way. It’s okay to wait until the time is right.

You will try to force it. There will be a point in college when you try to force relationships that aren’t there, out of some misguided idea that you’re supposed to. And guess what? You’ll get over that, too. It’s a phase. You’ll grow out of it.

Don’t get me wrong. You’re not always the paragon of self confidence or anything. You still have your self conscious moments, but you’ve learned that those are okay. Progress can be imperfect and still be progress.

I know you have a lot of celebrity and book crushes right now. You’ll grow out of those, too. Don’t get me wrong, admiring sexy guys is awesome and so are idle daydreams, but the intense crushes on people you’ve never met? I’ve found those usually fade as you get older as well.

I also remember that those bullying girls used to call you a freak. Behind your back, which is worse. Even now, you still haven’t forgotten that girl who cheerfully told you, “I know everyone says you’re a freak, but I think you’re really nice! Oh, wait. You did know people call you a freak, right?”

You hadn’t.

Yeah. Ow.

That one still hurts a little.

But overall, you’ve come far. Time heals most wounds, and all those times you were socially humiliated in middle school? Those times don’t seem so important anymore. You can look back now and see those bullies for exactly who they really were: immature airheads. You can remember the memory, and be exasperated by it, and not feel pain.

And you know what? You ARE a freak. And you should be damn proud of that! The freaks are the best! They’re the originals, the daring ones, the ones who will change the whole fuckin’ world! Dare to be different! Live it up! Don’t let those assholes weigh you down!

And don’t give up on your childhood dreams. Remember when you wanted to be a novelist, a poet, a musician, an actress, but everyone told you that would be too hard and so you gave up? Don’t give up! You’ll get to a place where you’ll feel brave enough to start dreaming those things again.

You’ll also get better at talking in front of people. You don’t just babble incoherently and shake like a leaf in a high wind when you get up in front of people anymore. You’ve learned to deal with crowds, parties, and yes, school presentations -- at least to a certain extent. They can even be kind of fun!

Don’t start drinking. Stick to your principles and instincts and don’t get caught up in that addictive cycle. It may separate you from your peers now, but you’ll be so grateful for it later. For the ability to have an occasional beer or glass of wine without feeling the need to get drunk.

Yes, you WILL find jobs. You'll volunteer at the local library for a year in your senior of high school, edit someone's book for publication for a fee, and you'll have a really cool virtual internship doing business writing for an environmental company. (Your major right now is Creative Writing, with a minor in Marketing -- this may surprise you because I know you were thinking Psychology. But really, budding young writer, is it such a surprise?)

Also, you know that girl you’re best friends with? The daring, original one who loves goth stuff and who you walk home with every afternoon so she can show you her anime collection? The one you really admire and envy for her sheer comfort in being different? The one who takes you to the cool rock concerts? The one you wear bandanas with because you want so badly to be her? Yeah, you’re not really friends with her anymore. Not because you had a big falling-out or anything, but just because you both went off to different colleges and she turned out not to be the kind of friend who wanted to keep in contact with people she didn’t see every day -- even though you DID turn out to be that kind of friend.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that won’t hurt. It will. It’ll hurt like hell. It’ll feel like a betrayal. But eventually, you’ll come to the realization of this: that girl you admired and envied? You ARE that girl now. You’re comfortable being yourself, and being different.

And maybe you’re not different in the same way she is. Maybe you don’t wear dark eye makeup and dye your hair twenty different colors. But that doesn’t make you any less special and unique. Guess what? She’ll admit to you one day that SHE always really admired YOU -- for your dedication to your creative endeavors, especially to your writing, a dedication and creativity she’s found she can’t quite match.

Another compliment you’ll get, from a completely different girl, at the end of high school? That you’re “mysterious” but “passionate about your music.” And here was you always thinking people don’t talk to you because you’re a dorky loser. They may actually have been intimidated by you!

Speaking of that girl you’re friends with, you actually did want to go to the same college she did. She got in. You didn’t. And guess what? She was fucking miserable there. You cried when you didn’t get in, and she didn’t even like the goddamn place. So you moved far away, to a college in a different state right in the downtown area of a big city. You explored different kinds of cuisine. You tried online dating. You got interested in politics. You became addicted to coffee. You found out that snotty private school kids can be cold, bitchy, judgmental, and mean.

What I’m saying is -- first, you’ll get into college. Don’t worry about that. But second, the college you first went to? That wasn’t even your final destination. You ended up transferring to a totally different college, a public one in a small, rural town, and meeting some absolutely incredible people there. You’ll move out on your own, share an apartment with your college-age sister. The two of you will become incredibly close. You will successfully become independent.

Somewhere in between the first college and the second, you’ll be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. That’s right, all your online research proved you right. And I know that right now you’re trying to convince other people that how you’re feeling is an illness, and they’re grownups so they’re trying to tell you it’s really just because you’re not doing THAT and THIS and THAT OTHER THING.

So I just wanted to validate you. You were right. And finally getting that diagnosis and starting on the path to recovery? It’ll feel like a huge relief.

That brings me to my central point. I know you’re feeling suicidal. I know your parents are angry with you because you withdraw and hide in your computer so much, but you’re just trying to get good grades in class (you feel a lot of pressure there) and ignore the feelings welling up inside you. And I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you -- it’ll get worse before it gets better. There are times when you’ll sob and scream. There are times when you’ll just want to fucking die. There are times when you’ll feel broken. You will lose people. You will be bullied and abused. You will act fucking insane. Horrible things will happen to you.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret: It. Gets. Better.

You will go see a psychiatrist and a therapist. You will find a medication regimen that works for you, and learn self management techniques to keep bad thoughts from controlling your life. You will also start being healthy -- going out walking regularly, eating more frequently and healthier, sleeping more (but not too much), and you’ll travel and find tons of new hobbies! (You’ll even feel brave enough to take night classes in swing dancing downtown above a really sketchy bar.) These might all sound cheesy in isolation, but put them together and you’ve got a great recovery strategy.

Recovering from depression and suicidal thoughts is the most incredible feeling on the planet. All of a sudden, you’re grateful for everything -- you’re so much wiser, and you take a whole new lease on life. Life is an incredible journey, and you’ll want every part of it.

And the realization will come to you, over and over and over again: That you made it. You survived. You’re a survivor. And that realization never stops coming. It’s the gift that never stops giving. You will feel that triumph again, and again, and again. Every time you learn something, every time something good happens to you or you get reflective, you will feel that triumph again.

Like today.

So congratulations, kid. You’ve hit your twenties. You made it.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
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Merry Christmas everyone!

Here's a list of the gifts I gave to other people:

- My boyfriend got a Cowboy Bebop coffee mug

- My best friend got Hunger Games jewelry and pins, and a 25-dollar Amazon gift card for her birthday

- Her husband got a basket of Russian and Ukrainian chocolates

- My mother, when she comes up for New Years, will get a winter vest and a stuffed elephant

- My father, when he comes up for New Years, will get some new gadgets for his iPhone and a funny little vampire bat Minion figurine

- My sister got a video game T shirt (she likes Comic Sans from Undertale)

And here's a list of the gifts I got from other people:

- Shitloads of new music (Adele’s “25”, Cage the Elephant’s “Tell Me I’m Pretty”, Mindless Self Indulgence’s “Pink” -- plus 65 more currently unused dollars in iTunes gift cards)

- a giant bottle of hazelnut syrup to put in my coffee

- a Harry Potter themed Hot Topic gift card (which I used to buy a new “I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up to No Good” Marauder’s Map Harry Potter backpack, and a big brown coffee mug that says “Coffee Makes Me Poop”)

- new clothes

- 150 dollars for clothes shopping

- 2 books: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

- a black MCR (My Chemical Romance) sweater

- lots of Christmas cards from my Mom’s side of the family

On Christmas Eve, I Skype called my boyfriend, who was off visiting family in the Bay Area. He said we should get together and go out to dinner after he gets back -- and I agreed that sounds great, and said we could even go to a movie -- and then he said, "And maybe after the date we could go back to my place, and -- I mean, I've seen your place but you've never seen mine --"

We all know what "let's go back to my place after our date" means.

"Yes, I have seen your place," I said. "I saw it once when we went inside to get helmets and go out on your scooter."

"Yeah, but not for very long," he said hopefully. "Just -- can't we --?" He saw my face. "Okay, never mind," he muttered.

I was in a good mood, so I said, "Let's just go on the date, wait, and see how we do."

It's been a little over a month and he already wants me hanging out and spending the night at his place? This guy is so pushy. And he's so nice while he's doing it, but he's still so pushy. It's weird, that he considers himself a feminist.

Anyway, after that my sister and I got a giant pizza from the local deli and had pie with hot cocoa. I had warm milk. We turned off all the lights and watched A Christmas Carol with George C Scott, enjoying the lights and ornaments shining on our tiny little single apartment-sized Christmas tree.

We stayed up till midnight, just so we could stay up until Christmas hit.

Then on Christmas Day, we slept in and had a pajama day. Immediately upon waking, I texted my parents, best friend, and boyfriend a Merry Christmas.

My sister and I exchanged gifts, sitting around the tree and ripping off the wrapping paper and finding what we had gotten each other underneath. We were both so happy with our gifts. We hugged and said Merry Christmas. We joked that my wrapping job looked like a blind T Rex had done it.

Later, we're going to make a fancy dinner together -- home-made burgers, starting from scratch with a pound of ground beef, with salts and spices and portobello mushrooms. Yum!

What are you doing with your family and friends for Christmas? In any case, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. May your cup always be full and your presents always be satisfying!

With Love,

Grimrose Eilwynn

In the spirit of the holiday season, here's a TED talk on the connection between happiness and gratefulness:

http://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful?utm_campaign=&utm_medium=on.ted.com-static&utm_content=awesm-publisher&awesm=on.ted.com_gratefulness&utm_source=t.co
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I went on a date today!

Not with the guy I mentioned in a previous post -- the one from American Lit class who seemed kind of like he was flirting with me? Yeah, it wasn't with him. It turns out he:

(A) Has a girlfriend

and

(B) Is a bit of an asshole, so I don't really envy her

No, this guy I met through feminist club. He's sweet, kind, and funny, with glasses and a long coat. He studied kendo (Japanese sword fighting) for several years. He studies business and environmental science. He has a learning disability but still manages to get As, and is currently interning as a Study Abroad Counselor after having spent some time himself in Thailand. He asked me out, and he also paid for our first date -- though politically liberal, he's pretty socially conservative. His Dad was a Mormon and his Mom was a Catholic.

We just went to a cafe downtown and had a casual coffee/lunch together. We wore fancy jackets and tried to look nice, but we also both just wore jeans. It was the perfect blend of "nice" and "casual."

We talked anime, because it turns out we're both really into that. (He shall henceforth be known as Cowboy Bebop Dude.) We also talked politics, religion, and family and life experiences. It was a really nicely intellectual and deep conversation. We even made future plans: to watch Cowboy Bebop together (I've never seen the whole thing) and to take swing dancing lessons in 2016.

We went to a bookshop afterward, and then we went back to his apartment briefly. It's a really nice apartment right in the middle of downtown. His roommate is a funny guy who drinks a lot and talks to his plants. We got helmets from his apartment and then he drove me home on his scooter/motorbike! I was nervous getting on, but it was so much fun!

We hugged and kissed briefly at my door, and then I went to go back inside. If I were a less awkward person, this would be the moment when I threw him a sly smile over my shoulder and walked smoothly in the door. As it is, it took me a full minute to find my keys and another two minutes to force my way in through the door. He thought it was kind of funny. He applauded when I finally managed to get in.

Just me being my usual, awkward self.

I called my Mom and dished with her over the phone after the date was all over. I also made sure to emphasize to said boy that I had a great time, we should do this again, and he should text me. I even texted him to let him know I had a good time.

So now soon I guess I'll know one way or the other if he was really into me. But either way, it was just nice -- to meet someone through normal social avenues (instead of online) and have a sweet, casual date with him.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I just finished reading John Green's "Looking for Alaska", and I'm here to write a review.

SPOILER ALERT

First, let me just say, I loved Alaska. She was imperfect without being dislikable, and I loved her for that. She smoke, drank like a fish, played pranks, was overtly sexual, was a proud feminist, and overall was just so kick ass. Such sass and personality, but I think she really cared underneath it all.

With that said, I think the second half of the book without her fell a little flat. That's not to say it was BAD -- the ending taught a lot of important things about the lack of resolution we so often get when dealing with the death of a loved one. That's just to say I don't think Miles and his friends were strong enough characters to patch up the hole and carry it on themselves.

Two things felt a little forced: The initial reaction to Alaska's death. And Alaska's tragedy over her Mom.

A couple of asides: I loved the description in this book. It was so detailed, I think in part because the author actually went to a boarding school like this in real life. Also, one of my favorite characters was the religion teacher. I'd have taken his class; theology fascinates me.

My friend and I were talking, and we mentioned one thing that really gets us: John Green's books are so serious -- except for the dry humor -- but he's such a goofball in real life. It's a wonderful dichotomy.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
"My children, when at first I liked the whites,

My children, when at first I liked the whites,

I gave them fruits,

I gave them fruits.


Father, have pity on me,

Father, have pity on me;

I am crying for thirst,

I am crying for thirst;

All is gone - I have nothing to eat,

All is gone - I have nothing to eat."

- Arapaho Native American poem
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
"Perchance do we truly live on earth?

Not forever on earth,

But briefly here!

Be it jade, it too will be broken;

Be it gold, it too will be melted;

And even the plume of the quetzal decays.

Not forever on earth,

But briefly here!"

- Aztec Native American poem on death

Wind Chime

Aug. 29th, 2015 06:19 pm
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
"She goes out to hang the wind chime

in her nightie and her work boots.

It's six-thirty in the morning

and she's standing on the plastic ice chest

tiptoe to reach the crossbeam of the porch,


"wind chime in her left hand,

hammer in her right, the nail

gripped tight between her teeth --

but nothing happens next because

she's trying to figure out

how to switch #1 with #3.


"She must have been standing in the kitchen,

coffee in her hand, asleep,

when she heard it -- the wind blowing

through the sound the wind chime

wasn't making

because it wasn't there.


"No one, including me, especially anymore believes

till death do us part,

but I can see what I would miss in leaving --

the way her ankles go into the work boots

as she stands upon the ice chest;

the problem scrunched into her forehead;

the little kissable mouth

with the nail in it."

- Tony Hoagland
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
"A green light filtered

through the mourning glory vines

that twined through rusty screens

against sooty little panes

of windows level with the weeds.

We were deeper than the tulip bulbs

glowing under flower beds,

than the tangled roots of zinnias

forget-me-nots, and hollyhocks

that hung their heads

beneath a noon sun

native to her wild backyard.


"Down crumbling steps

mortared with moss

we'd descended

from summer's feverish perfume

to the cool damp reek of drains,

from the tweeting of flittering songbirds

and torqued thrum of bees

to the nasal echoes

of underground mains

toward which startled water-bugs

scurried.


"There was an odor of shadow

and cats, of moldering lint,

a sneezy scent of spilled detergent --

blue trails of Fab

that lead to a wringer washer

gagged on a bedspread.

The furnace door stood open

like a tabernacle looted of flame.

The low, unfinished ceiling

required that we bow


"beneath its canopy

of clotheslines and live wires

snubbed in electric tape.

A necklace of cold sweat

beaded from tarnished pipes.

At a workbench, a vise

clenched a sawed strip of moulding.

I tried to erase

the prints my sneakers

tracked through the sawdust.


"Deeper than they plant the dead,

beneath windows veined

with morning glory vines,

a ledge of pickle jars

filled with bolts and washers

reflected, like dusty concave mirrors,

the flash of skin

as her unbuttoned sundress fell

to the cobwebbed case of empties

at the base of her spine."

- Stuart Dybeck
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
"What shall I do? My man compares me

To a wild red flower.

When I have withered in his hands,

He will leave me."

- Aztec Native American poem
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
"In the sky, a moon;

On your face, a mouth.

In the sky, many stars;

On your face, only two eyes."

- Otomi Native American poem
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
"Indeed, the enemy,

Though in his life

He was a person given to falsehood,

He has become one to foretell

How the world will be,

How the days will be.

That during his time,

We may have good days,

Beautiful days,

Hoping for this,

We shall keep his days.

Indeed, if we are lucky,

During the enemy's time

Fine rain caressing the earth,

Heavy rain caressing the earth,

We shall win.

When the enemy's days are in progress,

The enemy's waters,

We shall win,

His seeds we shall win,

His riches we shall win,

His power,

His strong spirit,

His long life,

His old age,

In order to win these,

Tirelessly, unwearied,

We shall pass his days.

Now, indeed, the enemy,

Even one who thought himself a man,

In a shower of arrows,

In a shower of war clubs,

With bloody head,

The enemy,

Reaching the end of his life,

Added to the flesh of our earth mother."

- Zuni Native American poem
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
Well, I've sent out query letters to about four different literary agents or agencies.

I finally decided to just look up agents based on author page. I found four I was really interested in, and have sent out query letters to them. The letters were direct and to the point. I told them who I was, that I'd liked previous works they'd represented, I gave them a book summary, and I asked them to respond if they were interested.

Honestly, it was pretty cool just getting to write "Dear Sir or Madam." I felt like I was living a Beatles song.

If none of them respond within a period of several weeks, I'll look at other options for publishing my little novella. Right now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed. Pray for me.

Moby Dick

Aug. 11th, 2015 03:25 pm
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I just finished reading Moby Dick for a literature class I'm taking this coming semester. The teacher emailed us and recommended we read the book over the summer so we had less to do over the school year, and that is what I did. I read all several hundred pages of it over a three-month period, breaking it up methodically into so many pages per day.

Let me just say, Moby Dick is a weird book. It starts out really promising -- interesting premise, great characters and character interactions. But as soon as they embark on the sea, it gets really weird.

First, you never actually hear anything about the story of the narrator. He starts out a really obvious presence, but as soon as they embark on the voyage he just becomes a silent narrator, with little to no meaningful experiences of his own. Second, he has a fascinating friendship with a native islander on the ship, and that relationship is hardly ever explored at all once they embark on the open sea. Melville just spends a hundred pages on the narrator and his friend and then hardly ever mentions them again. Even when everyone else on the ship dies, the narrator's feelings are never discussed. The book just ends clinically.

So what does Melville spend almost a thousand pages on, if it isn't characters and character interactions? Well, when he's not talking about whale-related struggles, he devotes about two thirds of the book to marine biology and trivial little facts about whaling ships. I mean, granted, a little bit of explanation is necessary in order for the story to make sense. But this goes way beyond that. Jesus Christ, if I wanted a fucking biology lesson, I'd have bought a book on marine biology.

Maybe one could argue that he wanted to intimate to us the vastness of the enterprise. But even if you take this into consideration, he's way too wordy. I could summarize twenty pages in three sentences: "Whales are really big. They used to be smaller. The ocean is intimidatingly vast, but pretty." Granted, if he only wrote those three sentences it wouldn't be a very good book. But you see what I mean. He could have used way less words and explanations to say the exact same fucking thing.

I feel like if about two-thirds of the book were cut out, it would have been a lot better. He could have cut away so much plot-less explanation and the book would not have been the worse for it at all. Even without some meaningful character interaction, the plot of the struggle with the whale(s) is interesting enough to have made for a pretty fair book. But he just goes on all these weird asides. He'll spend like two pages describing a lamp on the fucking ship. Why do we even need that?

Melville's editor failed him. All that shit should have been cut out. And if it wasn't cut out, the author needed to make us care about the extraneous shit. He did not do that.

Not that I have a strong opinion on the book, or anything. Of course, this is coming from me, the girl who managed to fit the plot of an entire book into a 21-page novella.
grimrose_eilwynn: (Default)
I watched The Fault in Our Stars, the movie based off the John Green novel, last night. Here's my review.

(I think this goes without saying, but SPOILERS.)

First off, I have to say, this is the most heart rending thing I've read or watched since reading The Bartimaeus Trilogy in middle school. (That was my introduction to falling in love with dying characters. I had a huge crush on Nathaniel, and when he died at the end of the series I was depressed for days. "What's wrong?" my Mom asked. "A character died," I said flatly. Oh the problems of a book lover.) The Fault in Our Stars is about two teenagers with cancer falling in love, and how their love has meaning even though neither of them will live very long or do amazing things.

I love Hazel. She's easily one of my favorite female characters. She's not a tough fighter girl, she's not a bitch, she's not even particularly physically strong -- the cancer has gotten into her lungs and she has trouble climbing stairs and has to carry a little oxygen tank with her everywhere. Yet Hazel is still a strong girl. She's funny (especially in tandem with Augustus; they play off of each other really well) and intelligent. She's an introvert, and that is not a problem, which is nice to see in literature. She knows she's never going to do great things or have many friends, but she's okay with having her own little life and having deep connections with a select few people. She's a survivor and insists on doing anything anyone else could do.

And then there's Augustus, with his metaphors and his existentially fraught free throws and his zombie video games. Augustus is also endearing in his own way. My favorite moments, at least in the book, are when he stops trying to act cool and intellectual and really lets his little-kid, teenage-boy side through. That other side to him is really what makes the character for me. The two sides complete each other.

The book/movie has lots of cool quotes. "Pain demands to be felt," is my personal favorite, just because it's so damn true, and important to remember for our own personal health.

I really like Hazel's family. Her parents are really caring, strong people, and I love the complex relationship she has with her Mom. The conversation where they talk about her Mom's social working classes is great. The scene with Isaac and the eggs is also great, and I like that they included him at the end of the movie.

The scenes in Amsterdam, especially at the beautiful restaurant, were spectacular in the movie -- easily one of the best parts of watching the book on film. The scenery was just so damn detailed and beautiful. I love the fairy lights in the restaurant, and the scenes of the Amsterdam river with the boat houses.

Van Houten is an interesting character. I think he likes Hazel and Augustus for being willing to stand up to him, and that moment when he shows up to Augustus's funeral is a pretty great moment. I like that they included his daughter dying of cancer in the movie, because I think it goes a long way toward explaining just why he's such a raging asshole.

The ending is brutal, of course. I didn't cry at the end of the book; I teared up at the end of the movie. Just watching it all on screen makes it all worse (and better). So the movie did that really well -- talk about being punched in the emotional gut.

What are my criticisms of the movie? One thing I will say is that Hazel and Augustus don't really look how I pictured them. That's not to say the actors weren't good -- they were -- but movie Hazel and Augustus clash with book Hazel and Augustus in my mind, in mannerisms and appearance. I also didn't feel like the two sides to Augustus -- endearingly dorky little kid and cool, intellectual teenager -- were really completely captured in the movie. This is probably a purely personal thing, but it's just a little something that always bothers me whenever I watch the movie.

So anyway -- one of my favorite books, one of my favorite movies. Makes me happy every time I sit through it.

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