Paul continues to build us a bedroom, a separate building from the yurt, go Paul! We’ve started calling it, this future bedroom,”The Love Shack.” Heh heh. Sometimes it’s these little sillinesses that get one through the day.
The north wall was slip straw construction and you can read all about the process of doing this very inexpensive building method in my posts here, and here. But, you see, it turns out Paul really hates doing slip straw. So that’s a problem. Solution: only one wall of the bedroom will be that! Moving right along.
Along these lines, the west wall has been framed in with studs and covered with cedar shakes Paul got from a guy on Craigslist who had an extra bundle left after a huge job. Dirt cheap, he can’t remember how much. He’s had them in the
mold pit storage shed for years. Less that $50 he says. And I must say, in comparison with the slip straw, this wall went very quickly.
It is super cute.
You can see the funky straw/stucco wall on the north there, then turn the corner and Boom! It’s a whole different house.
Remember in John Crowley’s terrific novel Little, Big, the house that was a half-dozen (I can’t remember how many) houses put together? You could walk around it and find yourself facing a Greek facade with formal gardens, turn a corner and it was an English cottage, turn a corner and it was a stone castle…
This is something like that. Only more…humble.
You can see clear through it at this point (no east wall yet, just the timberframes), right through to our turquoise bus parked on the other side. I think I just decided I would name that bus Santorini! Grimmly knows why.
While I was taking these pictures of the new wall (it’s starting to feel like an actual building now!) Mochi, our cat, found a visitor on a rock right behind where I was standing. In fact, if she hadn’t been staring so oddly, I probably would have backed up and sat right down on…
…a snake! Yikes.
But I’m fine. And my cousin Noah is coming over tomorrow to help with the south wall, which is to be ALL GLASS. Recycled sliding glass doors, actually, that we also pulled out of the
mold pit storage shed.
Yaoi, as I’ve discussed, is a genre of Japanese manga featuring relationships between guys, written primarily for a female audience. Within that broad banner, as for example, say, the American romance genre, there are many, many sub-genres. Fluffy romance, smut-fests, stories focused on Being Gay, alternate realities where it doesn’t matter (to the society as written) that the couple in question is made up of two men, sub-sub flavors, you can get as specific as you like. Sci-fi stories, post-apocalyptic stories, supernatural stories, demon, ghosts, vampires, age gap, teacher/student, salary men, yakuza, bondage, brothers, [insert your kink here], all in mysteries, comedies, farce, historicals, and of course, contemporary relationships happening in modern day Japan.
There is, in other words, a TON of yaoi. And, as in any genre, there are massive gradations in quality, style, craft, depth, and complexity.
Personally, I love well written stories with really interesting characters. Complex, flawed, quirky, real. When the characters are interesting, I’ll tolerate a wimpy plot (even a stupid plot…although not too stupid), although the reverse (a strong plot with boring, stick-figure characters) never works for me. Of course, plenty of yaoi is rather porny and doesn’t bother much with plot or character, and I don’t find that stuff very interesting. So you won’t find that reviewed here.
But it you want interesting characters in your stories, I promise not to lead you astray.
Last week I started making a list of good titles to post here and it got too long. So I think I’ll break it up into loose types: high school, university students, salary men. Maybe another for oddball titles that don’t fit. Do yakuza stories get their own post? How about age gap titles that have one character each of several of my categories? Yaoi featuring pets? Now I’m just being silly. Anyway, I’m imagining this as a series I’ll add to as I read titles I think knock it out of the park. Manga as I like it: only stories with fantastic characters and strong writing need apply.
So. First in a series on great yaoi, High School Dudes in Love! Here we go.
Doukyuusei and it’s sequel Sotsugyousei by Nakamura Asumiko are wonderful character studies with slow pace and quiet, delightful humor. The art is unusual but lovely and carries a great deal of the emotional work of the story. Basically, an extremely smart, though overly nervous, young man is courted by a wild haired, playful musician who inexplicably (Smart Guy thinks) falls in love with him.
This one is a great example of how when the same old cliched story line (boy meets, um, boy, boy loses boy, boy gets boy back, you know, the gradual opening of two hearts) is told (yet) again with deep nuance and feeling it becomes fresh and reborn. And wonderful! Cliches are cliches, I suppose because at their core they are based on something true. Doukyuusei and Sotsugyousei are about falling in love for the first time, told in quiet moments, glances and private conversations. No real drama, this is slice of life at its best, told with gorgeous art and likable characters. I loved these stories and would gladly read anything this mangaka puts out. Character driven story-telling at its best.
Okay, moving on. I’ve got two by Kawai Touko, the first being Ano Kado wo Magatta Tokoro or Just Around the Corner. Just Around the Corner is about a relationship that starts between two guys each at a nadir in their lives. One has just lost his job and his lover (his boss) and the other, a pianist, has lost the use on one hand in an accident. The two hook up in shared commiseration and end up becoming friends with benefits. So far so good.
Then the older of the two gets a job as a high school math teacher and finds out, surprise!, the younger one is one of his students. Dude lied about his age by several years. Whoops.
Teacher/student stories abound in yaoi, and I’m not really into that, but this one gets around all the ick factor by having the relationship start as it did, both guys on equal footing. I also like that the difference in the two character’s maturity levels is apparent in the way the characters act and the choices they make—the age gap isn’t just a number, but a part of the characterization. The whole thing gets a bit shmalpy towards the end, but it still worked for me. I could easily see this as a delightful romantic comedy movie…if they ever made romcoms about two guys. Sweet.
Cut, is my second High School Kawai Touko title. This one is a more serious story about two guys terribly abused by their parent figures who are trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. One cuts on himself to deal, the other has been cut by his mother (now passed away). I avoided this story for a while because I thought it would glamorize cutting or abuse, but it didn’t. And, although the guys get together, it isn’t some easy “you and me against the world” soul mates fluff—their respective pasts block them in realistic ways. Although the story veers into melodrama here and there, the characters are strong and interesting and flawed, and the relationship they start up has layers to it. These are not typical people and this is not a typical romance.
I’ll warn you, the relationship that the cutter is in prior to the new guy, is disturbing. And a bit overwrought. But I didn’t feel like it was played for titillation. And it explained his extreme behavior in way that made sense.
I especially liked the end, where the two of them are still lying to each other about certain things—you don’t come out of the childhoods these two have had with perfect confidence and great relationship skills. But they’re working on it.
Since I mentioned there being no sex in the first two titles on this list, I feel like I should point out that there is plenty of it in these two. So there’s an FYI for you.
Okay, next we’ve got Seven Days by Tachibana Venio, art by Takarai Rhito. Another sweet one, a BL title again, (no sex). Seryou has a strange habit (ritual?) of going steady with a new girl each Monday, only to end things with her by the following Sunday. Because of his good looks and gentlemanly manner, he gets away with it—his exs all seem pretty happy with their experience being his girlfriend for a week. Each Monday a new girl confesses her attraction to him and he takes her up on the offer of going out. Seven days to see if love can blossom…so far no one has stuck.
Until, as a lark, a guy, recently dumped, realizes he is first to see Seryou on Monday morning and he asks Seryou out. As a joke. Surprise, Seryou takes him up on it. And for seven days the two boys go through Seryou’s dating ritual.
It’s hard to find in that description what makes this story so terrific. But it is! Slow build tension, delicate characterization, surprising moments, quiet understandings, the whole thing is just so well written and so beautifully drawn. Not a heavy drama but it’s serious. I couldn’t put it down. I hated when the seven days, and the story, was over. No, no! I kept trying to slide to the next page, looking for more. I love stories like this, with so much feeling in such a tiny space. Bonus: they are both in the archery club, so gorgeous art of gorgeous guys pulling back on a long-bow. Nice. Highly recommended.
Okay. Now for something a little different, here is Udagawachou de Mattete yo, or Wait for me at Udagawachou by Hideyoshiko, about a quiet, intense guy who accidentally discovers one of the popular guys in his class out in the city….cross-dressing. To his surprise, he finds he is powerfully attracted to him/her. What to do next?
I had passed this title by several times because the subject matter wasn’t of particular interest to me, but I finally gave it a try because it kept coming up on lists of recs. I’m glad I did because it drew me right in with this intense situation these guys find themselves in and the characterization. Some really good writing for this one in the way the characters deal with what they are experiencing, how they mess it up, or make it right. I was completely engaged from beginning to end. I say, give it a try.
Well the above titles are almost always listed if you people are making lists of the best of the best. I thought I’d try to add a few lesser known titles that, while not quite as strong as the above, are still very good, especially with their characterizations. Or, at least, they fit my particular fetish for quirky, weird, characters…?
Karada Meate de Warui ka by Koizumi Kiyo and Endou-kun no Kansatsu Nikki by Hayakawa Nojiko are both stories of relationships that develop between a big, athletic, somewhat thickheaded guy, and a small, smart, intense guy. I wonder if this is a sub-sub-sub genre all it’s own? Not a lot of conversation, not a lot of clarity, just a couple of believable, confused teen-aged guys grappling with emotions in surprising, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, always messy, ways. Blunt, weird…I don’t know, mayb I like these stories because the characters are so whack about their own emotions. Interesting characters…I told you I was a sucker for them.
One more quick opposites attract story, Negative-kun to Positive-kun, also by Hideyoshico, (author of Meet Me At H, described above, which was the reason I picked up this one). I just read this, so I don’t know if it will stand the re-read later test, but it was fun and sweet and had very funny characters. Gee, I bet you can’t tell from the image at the left which guy is the “negative” in the title and which one is the “positive”? This is a light story about an established couple, which is nice, too. Most stories are about how a couple comes together, so its fun to get a story that is further along the line than that. These guys each have serious flaws but somehow they only see the good in each other. I read it in the bath. It made me laugh.
And that’s my list for today. Next time I do this, I’ll pick out best character-driven university student yaoi, for the win! And then salary men. Then yakuza?
And don’t forget my motto: read what you want! No shame! Life is too short for shame.
Sophie took this at a formal garden today with my spiffy new ipod. Spooky, isn’t it? An albino carp.
I’m trying out a couple of plugins to see if I can post instagram pics automatically to the blog. Tricky. There might be some odd posts while I work out the details. Is it even possible?
But I am high from my recent win as Tech-Girl on account of me figuring out how to download the audio stream from an online anime episode (viewed through my Crunchroll account) to be played on the new ipod as an mp3…because if you want to learn Japanese, you need to be listening to Japanese. A lot. Listening to mp3s of my favorite anime is a painless input, thus the audio-stripping efforts.
But this instagram thing may be smarter than me. I might have to level-up if I’m really going to give it a go. Seems like it ought to be doable but I’m running into all kinds of snags.
And in other news, Lucidity Effect came back from my editor today. Into the rewrite trenches I go….
If you read much manga at all it won’t be long before you’re reading about food. Indeed, some of my favorite manga center around food and restaurants, stories like Antique Bakery and Dining Bar Akira…and most recently, Shinya Shokudou, by Abe Yaro. (Links are to my reviews.)
Shinya Shokudou is about an old-fashioned, all-night food stall and its proprietor, plus the many dishes he prepares to suit the tastes of different customers…and the funny, poignant, interesting stories of the regular patrons and their night-owl life-styles. Nominated for the 2nd Manga Taisho Award (2009) and the winner of the 39th Japan Cartoonist Awards Grand Prize (2010), the art is funny, quirky, and unusual—as are the stories and the characters. Sweet, delicate, no overarching plot, just short episodes centered around the regulars and their food. I was so sad when I came to the end!
I also SERIOUSLY wanted to eat.
Actually, tons of manga I read make me want to eat. All these pretty drawings of bento, or quirky food-stalls, or interesting regional dishes. Gah! I don’t even eat most of this stuff, fried pork cutlets or various kinds of fish everything, or sausages cut into the shapes of octopi. Still, it’s like cigarettes in manga. I have no interest in smoking whatsoever…but it looks so cool and awesome and sexy when some of these characters smoke (and many, many of them do)…it kind of makes me want to try it. A little bit. I mean, not really. But sort of.
But junky food, that’s not like smoking, I can try that on for a night or two, one meal won’t kill me….
All righty then! What is the single most common manga food that pops up over and over, eaten constantly by manga characters, about which I have become terrifically curious?
Or, as it is known in a strange around-the-world, English-to-katakana and then back to English again in the form of romanization: kare raisu.
There is this great story in Shinya about Yesterday’s curry (because curry always tastes better the second day) and a relationship that forms between two regular customers, so sweet and funny.
<—– Read right to left <——
Wait a minute. Japanese curry? Huh? Isn’t curry Indian? I know, I know, I was confused, too. But seriously, as far as manga is concerned, curry rice is like meatloaf in a contemporary Japanese family dinner line-up. Ubiquitous comfort food, eaten by the masses. The history of why the Japanese eat curry is discussed in this interesting article over at Tofugu and I’ll link it rather than quote at length. But suffice it to say, after reading about the 2oo,000th manga character eating kare, I had to try it.
Okay. So with that description in mind the kids and I headed off to the Asian Market! Where we scored this:
That’s not a giant chocolate bar, that is authentic S & B Japanese kare roux. So, it goes like this:
Saute a chopped onion in oil or butter until translucent. Add whatever you want in your kare, meat if you eat it, veggies, etc. We used the manga classic of potatoes and carrots, to which I added tofu and cabbage. Add some water and simmer for ten minutes or until everything is done to your liking. Add the roux and let it dissolve into a salty, spicy gravy. Serve this savory stuff over short-grain Japanese white rice. Like so. YUM. Vegan, even!
I don’t usually eat MSG so I was a little worried that I would get headaches or heart palpitations or asthma attacks…but I was fine. And this stuff was seriously tasty. Sophie, Paul and I licked our bowls. Luc refused to even acknowledge the curry’s presence in the yurt, of course, he doesn’t eat “weird food”. But I can see why they like it in Mangaland. Hearty, lip-smacking, make-you-want-to-eat-more in a homestyle junky food, but not too junky kind, of way.
Well, if kare raisu is the number one (in my estimation) manga food, what is the number two? It’s gotta be ramen. (Or possibly instant noodles? But who wants to eat those?) But really, manga characters are constantly going out to ramen shops, passing through those doors with hanging down blue noren curtains, and it makes me crazy because at this point I soooo want to eat ramen from an all-night ramen shop like the one in Shinya, and I can’t. I swear, this has become my new travel-food fantasy. I want to have espresso in a Parisian cafe, and I want to eat ramen in an all-night ramen shop in Tokyo. In the rain. I don’t know why rain is important, but it is. It’s probably a Blade Runner thing.
Anyway. On the heels of my curry success, I decided to try to make some ramen, not, obviously the chemical packs you can buy in any grocery store (yuck), and not the REAL ramen where they boil beef bones for three days to make a broth the recipe of which is a secret passed down in the family for generations. But surely there was something in between? Surely there is some homestyle ramen I could made here in North Carolina that will satisfy my curiosity and manga-spawned cravings?
Where I found this very simple recipe that was, honestly, quite delicious. Not vegan because of the dashi stock, and the egg. (You could make it vegan by using kombu seaweed instead of the dashi. And leaving off the egg.)
From the Asian store: fresh curly noodles (Luc’s name for them). Hondashi instant dashi stock (primarily MSG, plus dried fish). Shitake mushrooms. Scallions. Shiro Miso. Seaweed. Garlic. Eggs.
Boil the eggs, then then noodles (in the same water is easy). Rinse and divide into four bowls along with some of the seaweed and the peeled eggs, sliced in half. Simmer 8 cups of water with 2 tsp of the dashi stock granules, 1 T of soy sauce, plus the garlic and mushrooms, for ten minutes or so. Turn off the heat and stir in 4 T of miso. Ladle the broth over the noodles. Sprinkle with scallions and chilli flakes (for me because I love hot things). EAT.
I was surprised at how delicious this ramen was! Really, this was seriously tasty and light years better than those instant noodle packs that also go by the name of ramen. Even Luc slurped up his bowl, too busy eating to answer my “how is it?” He did manage a thumbs up after a minute, haha. Definitely a success.
I see there is a live action drama made from Shinya Shokudou.
I wonder where I could watch it? From this picture it looks terrific.
But of course, for the ultimate in Ramen Media, you have to watch the WONDERFUL 80s movie Tampopo. A really, really good film, highly recommended. It isn’t manga, but even I can branch out every now and then.
I just started a post on all the great character driven yaoi/boys love manga I’ve read lately and so I began making a list, going through my Completed piles and Currently Reading piles, and sheesh, my list of good stuff got so long I became overwhelmed and before I even started, I gave up. Maybe I should break it up into several posts, say, a comedy list and a drama list? A-M, and N-Z. Best and runner ups?
Honestly, I never would have thought I would be interested in reading romance stories about gay dudes, but hey, I’m a firm believer in reading whatever the heck you want to read. No shame! I read a shit-ton of other stuff, too, so I maybe it all balances out in the end. Alternative romance for the win!
Anyway. I’m waiting on Lucidity Effect to come back from my editor (prepare the alcohol! Because getting a editor letter is always like taking a gut punch and requires liberal applications of spirits to weather it safely) and so I’ve been using the time to
read lots of manga work up the next novel. It is as of yet untitled, but it I know it has a runaway violinist in it, a superstitious waitress, and a rather violent cook. It takes place mostly in a restaurant. I think. At any rate, I’m doing the pre-writing, with the goal of getting my Preliminary List of Scenes by the end of next week when Lucidity is scheduled to return (and the drinking commences).
HOWEVER. Something is strangely wrong with this new novel. Already. I hesitate to even say this outloud, but, so far this new novel has no SF in it. No fantasy element. No magic realism. No new weird. No paranormal…anything.
What. The. Fuck. It’s as if someone who has been hard core gay since birth suddenly finds themselves attracted to someone of the opposite sex. How can I write a straight novel? I can’t write a straight novel! This can’t be right! This isn’t me! Something has gone terribly wrong here!
But it might be so. I mean, there is something to do with a string of coincidences in the new book that might turn into…something…but so far this element is failing spectacularly to shape up into anything paranormal, magical, or otherworldly. It just isn’t.
I don’t understand.
Most of those yaoi I was going to do a machine-gun review of are not fantasy. Actually, maybe none of them are. Is that it? Input equals output? Is it because I’ve read so many non-fantasy manga in the last few months that my own writing has misplaced its magic-realism?
It isn’t that I don’t want to read about demons or wizards or psychics or fallen angels or curses or ghosts or aliens or whathaveyou. Those guys are always who I go visit first in the book store. I mean, I’m not switching teams or anything. Surely this is just temporary. Just a phase.
But…it is possible, at these early stages (too soon to tell!), that I am writing a, gulp, normal, straight, novel. For the first time ever.
Which will be really, really weird, so maybe that is the weirdness I’m looking for right there.
No, no, no. I’m still holding out for vampires. Or something.
Stay tuned for ginormous boy’s love manga post! Maybe.
Yep, I’m still learning the fascinating and complex Nihongo. Today’s post is the Exit Interview for Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji, because that’s right, I finished it. I am smokin’.
To repeat, I learned 2047 kanji in about 100 days, the 2000 kanji that Heisig covers in his first book, which are roughly the same 2000+ kanji that are considered the “general use” kanji for basic literacy in Japan. Go me! And by “know” I mean that I know their shape and an English keyword. Which is to say I’ve only scratched the surface of kanji knowledge. But its a good, deep scratch.
Short version. 1) get a copy of Rememering the Kanji. 2) download Anki and put it on a mobile device like an ipod touch 3) download a Heisig deck to your copy of Anki, one with mnemonic stories (find it in the shared decks area of the Anki site) and set it to give you 20 new kanji a day 4) do all the reps that Anki gives you each day, without fail, for the next 100 days. At the end of 100 days you will know a primary meaning and how to write each of 2000 kanji. Boom.
Longer version. I used a vanilla Heisig deck, English keyword on the front, Kanji and mnemonic story on the back. I wrote out the kanji each time and graded pretty strictly at first. At first I did reps in the evening, but when the number of reps got too high to do them all at once (more than 50 or so, certainly more than 100) I started breaking it up into smaller and smaller chunks. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time..
Look, I totally did this, so if I can, you can.
(Along the way I also learned Hiragana and Katakana, the phonetic syllabary, together called the Kana, that go with kanji to make up the Japanese writing system. They are super easy to learn, just get an ipad app that appeals to you, we used Dr. Moku and Kana LS, and bang it out in a couple of days. No sweat. But back to kanji….)
So…was it worth it?
On the one hand, completing Heisig feels like I have successfully accomplished some grand task. But on the other hand, it also feels like doing Heisig just gets me to the starting line. Seriously. If you want to read Japanese there is no way around the elephant of kanji in your path. This method was super efficient for getting them into my head. Yes, definitely worth it. But for more detail….
Learning a Japanese word means learning (1) the way it is written (usually a combo of kanji and hiragana), (2) the way it sounds, (3) the way it is written in straight hiragana (related to how it sounds and also how you type the word into a computer), (4) the English meaning. I’m now starting to learn words (more on that in another post) and knowing what I know about the kanji TOTALLY gives me a leg up. Facing a new word, I already know how to write the complex shape of the kanji part of the word (no small thing with some of these kanji!) so, that’s part of (1), PLUS I have a sense of the English meaning so, part of (2). Yay!
More importantly, I already have something in my head to hang the new information on, which is huge. It is really hard to remember some random thing—but it is much, much easier to attach new information to something you already know. Believe me, it feels like a freaking miracle when I look at those squiggles and am not starting from scratch. Definitely worth it for that.
The biggest pro to Heisig, I think, is the way the thing is set up. You learn a couple of radicals (the smaller bits a complex kanji is built out of) and then you learn all the kanji that can be made with those radicals. Then you thrown another radical in and you learn all the kanji that new element can give you. It’s a lot easier to learn twenty kanji that include the “turkey” radical, theme and variation, than to learn a bunch of unrelated squiggles unique to each word. Patterns are everything and Remembering the Kanji is a genius for patterns. Learning the radicals like this also make it easy to think up mnemonics—take the kanji for “angry.” It’s made out of woman, crotch, and heart. I’m not even kidding. Betcha don’t have to strain to think of a funny story that includes angry, woman, crotch, and heart! And suddenly that kanji becomes super easy to remember.
Bottom line: I really think that when learning something so complex, multiple, easy, passes over the information is a much more effective way to learn than one pass where you try to learn everything there is to know about that thing in one go. Which is how they do it in academic language learning classes (four years of French in college here). Heisig is meant to be a first pass over the kanji, giving you some of the vital information…which sets you up splendidly for future passes.
As a way into reading Japanese, I think it’s terrific.
With Heisig, you get a unique keyword for each kanji…which causes problems towards the end (say, over 1500 kanji in) because the kanji are not actually that narrow in meaning. So as you’re doing your reps, you get dinged for giving the kanji for, say, tears, when it was supposed to be crying, or you put down the kanji for method when it was supposed to be system or technique. You know your answer isn’t exactly wrong, because it’s artificial to say the kanji are strictly linked to that English keyword. It can be frustrating to get a card ‘wrong’ when you were just thinking of a slightly different keyword.
I solved this by just writing down both kanji that came to mind and grading the card correct if one of them was, in fact, the target.
An aside: getting a card “wrong” isn’t bad or shameful or whatever other schoolish wounding we might carry. What it does mean in an SRS is how soon that card is going to come back to be reviewed. If you grade a card flat out wrong, you’re going to see it again in ten minutes. A little wrong and maybe you see it again in a day or two or a week. Since you grade yourself, you decide when you think you need to see that card again. If you know it but got the wrong keyword, maybe you mark it only partially wrong, and it comes around again soon, but not too soon. Essentially, the harder you grade, the more reps you’re going to do. More on that in a bit.
Another con (maybe, I’m not sure if this is a con exactly) is that I know the kanji English-to-Japanese much, much better at this point than I know the Japanese-to-English. In (English) conversation, I constantly am thinking I know the kanji for that as words fly by, and I can picture the kanji. But, conversely, when looking at Japanese text, I constantly am thinking I know I know that one but I can’t think of what it means! Which is very frustrating. I suppose I could reverse my cards and start going Kanji-to-English, but I haven’t yet. We’ll see.
But the worst con…
The Hard Part to the Heisig/Anki Combo
Learning the kanji is blindingly easy for the most part. Use the crowd sourced mnemonics at the Remembering the Kanji website (there are pre-made Anki decks with these already in there) and 20 a day is no problem. They slide right into your brain.
The hard part is 1) doing your reps every single day (because they pile up to overwhelming burn-out sized proportions if you miss a single day) and 2) towards the end when you start getting a ton of reps a day even if you reliably clear your plate each night. The hard part is sticking with it. I got bored towards the end, I’m not going to lie.
And it got up to about 300 reps a day towards the end, which sucked and nearly burnt me out. The only thing that kept me going that last week was the fact that I’d have 500+ reps due the next day if I skipped! Impossible! I was dragging that last couple of weeks. But yeah, it seemed like my whole life had become Anki and kanji, which I do not want.
Solution: having a clear end in sight (and not far away) made that doable (for me and for my family, haha). I like a project with a clearly delineated end goal! I can suck it up if I know exactly when the suckage is going to stop.
But I hit the magic “end” a couple a weeks ago—just in time, too, or I was in danger of quitting—and I haven’t been adding more new kanji, just doing reps on the ones I already have, which reduces the daily rep count considerably.
Plus, I’ve also started grading more easily, which, as I mentioned, reduces reps. Maybe I got it right but missed a stroke, or got the components right but the order wrong, I won’t mark it completely wrong now. It’s gotten down to 150-200 reps a day, much more doable, maybe an hour, hour and 15 min, divided up throughout the day in ten or fifteen minute chunks. I’d like to get down to 100 a day, a number that now feels like a breeze to accomplish. I guess I leveled up because when I started 100 seemed insurmountable and now it is my target easy number. Basically, the better I know my cards, the less frequently they come around, maybe once every few months…total daily rep numbers come down. Relief.
Of course, I still grade something wrong if I really missed it. I don’t want to forget them, now that I know them!
A couple of random tips:
*Use a nice pen to write the kanji out. Plus, I got a little tablet with sections of bright colors to write them in, and as I moved through I got a little boost by saying, oh, I’ve moved through the yellow, I’m into the green now! By the time I get to the orange, I’ll be done! Stupid, but it helped. Kind of like the colored belts the kids get in Aikido.
*Kanji reps are the ultimate activity for when you are waiting in line, waiting for the kettle, waiting for the kids, walking the dog, any random few minutes where you normally just spin your wheels. Chunks of ten or twenty kanji just take a few minutes. Don’t try to do them all at once. Knock those puppies out one chunk at a time.
*You can’t do just one. If you even open up Anki to do ONE, you will probably do a dozen or more without even noticing. So open it up frequently.
*Get an ipod/iphone/ipad, some mobile handy device that runs Anki that lets you easily take your kanji reps with you into yourlife. Anki has a notepad feature you can turn on to let you sketch out kanji with your fingertip on the screen for when you are away from your nice pen and colorful paper. Keep your ipod in your pocket and whip it out whenever you’ve got a spare few minutes. Sitting down at a computer to do 150 reps sucks your brain out through your ears and leaves you zombified and burnt out. Don’t do it. Don’t make yourself hate Japanese. Short bursts, frequently.
*Reward with chocolate as necessary.
An Alternate, Probably Smarter, Method
Sophie has been learning kanji, too. She’s got about 300 in her deck and adds 5 a day. She does 20 or 30 reps a night to help her relax before she goes to bed. In her pottery class she has been painting kanji into the glazes for her bowls. For example she made me a pretty little sake cup with the kanji for sake painted inside. So, that’s another way to do it. No goal, no push, just meandering around because it’s fun. She’s probably way smarter than me about this.
Either way, learning Japanese is like climbing Mt. Everest. A big project accomplished a little at a time. Next up, learning words. And sentences. I’ll talk about that in another post….
The other day Luc, 7, asked me, “is booties spelled with a ‘ys’ or an ‘ies’ ?” This level of spelling awareness blew me away because, maybe only a month or two ago Luc could spell six words: Luc, Sophie, Paul, Maya, love, and poop. In other words, Luc had had zero interest and near zero ability in writing things down—and then BOOM. Suddenly he’s writing all kinds of things.
In case you’ve been living in a gameless hole, Minecraft is an open-ended, goal-free video game that involves building things out of blocks. Okay, that doesn’t even begin to cover it. If you play on survival mode then you collect materials from the environment with which to build and, well, survive (for example, you have to eat, so growing crops or hunting, or you go mining for stone or iron to build weapons or tools, etc) plus you have to stay safe from the monsters (cute zombies, creepers, and assorted others) that come out at night. Alternatively, if you play on creative mode you have unlimited resources from the get-go, plus you can fly. S0, you know, basically you’re a god and you can build anything you can imagine. Minecraft is often called a sandbox game because it’s like playing in a big virtual sandbox. You make up the game, the rules (if there are any) and it can be a challenge, pure creativity, a story with a goal, simple building stuff, blowing stuff up, whatever you want.
Lately, while wearing my Homeschool Administrator Hat, I’ve been quietly observing the shit-ton of stuff the kids have been learning while they play.
For example: MATH. Like figuring out how many blocks of various resources will have to be mined/collected for any given project. Or figuring out, if you want a wall to be x high, how many blocks will you need mine to finish it? Or if a pyramid is going to be x across, how many total blocks will be needed for the ground floor, and how many tiers will that give you? Or how about plotting a point on an x, y axis? Because the location of objects in Minecraft is given by an “address” using an x,y coordinates with 0,0 being the point where you originally spawned. So if you want to find something, you’ve got to grasp the whole x, -x, y, -y concept….
And the kids now do. Because they are seriously motivated, plus these problems have context and meaning to them. Math is not done in a vacume in Minecraft. There are observable stakes that matter.
But moving on. LANGUAGE: The kids started Minecraft on the ipads, but recently we rented a server to host an on-line version of the game so the kids could play Minecraft with their friends. SO MUCH FUN! I can’t even begin to tell you how cool it is for them to play together with their buds, having adventures, setting up things for each other, building stuff, killing monsters, creating elaborate plans, creative solutions, problem solving, all while safe at home, and all while chatting via short text messages on the screen.
Suddenly their motivation to write is HUGE. Because you’ve got to be able to chat with your crew! Sophie is well on her way to literacy but Luc, as I mentioned, has just started, but man, his brain must just have been Ready To Go because it’s like the writing/reading section has just powered ON. He is writing all kids of things…thus the “booty” question. It’s all super cool to watch.
But it’s not just text chatting. There is also sign making (“No Nose picking!” “No Griefing, Ever, I am always watching you” and the ubiquitous, “Sophie is poop,” always a favorite) and naming things (“Infinity Blade of Doom” and “George the Pig” for example). Plus there are also enchanted books that can be written, filled with, say crafting recipes, or possibly knock knock jokes. Whatever. It’s writing. And Luc is doing it.
I really think so many kid are pushed to read too soon. They end up feeling stupid if they aren’t ready, comparing themselves to other kids, getting judged and graded and harassed and pressured. When does that get fun? One of the great things about not going to school is being free to learn on one’s own, inner schedule. No reading-instruction-related wounding! Because here’s the thing: I really think that, in an environment loaded with cool written-word-material (books magazines manga subtitles games web etc), when a kid’s brain is ready to read, he or she just will. They’ll just figure it out. It isn’t that hard. Look, we have done zero reading instruction around here beyond spelling out any word on demand and reading anything asked for, and Sophie, 9, now reads books for her own pleasure, while Luc, 7, is texting his friends and googling Minecraft videos. All this literacy just happened. Effortlessly. Reading instruction was not necessary.
Back to Minecraft.
CIVICS. Oh man, the in-depth discussions we have ended up having about types of government, the history of governments (such as the Revolutionary War, the creation of the Constitution, the French Revolution, etc), the utility of laws, punishments to enforce laws, taxes, economics, so many more things…all because of Minecraft.
Because a Minecraft server is a community built out of the people who play there. There is a sign now in the village that says, “No TNT in the Village!” because it was discovered that uncontrolled TNT might blow up a neighbor’s house…and so the agreement/rule/law was put into place by the kids that there was no TNT to be used in the village…and then someone broke the rule. What to do? Was Luc the King of the village (because he built it) or was it a cooperatively-run consensus situation? Who would enforce the law and how would they do it? What happens when we break the agreements of the community we live in? ETC.
I am just scratching the surface here. Geography, geology, chemistry, art history, all have come up repeatedly in the context of Minecraft.
Seriously, Minecraft is the bomb.
Along these lines, it blows me away when I hear so many moms talking about how they struggle with their kids over Minecraft, fighting over the arbitrary time-limits they set on their kid’s play, and also strange rules I can’t figure out like only playing in creative mode and not survival, or only playing with the monsters turned off, or not identifying with their game character…I mean how much to people need to control their kids, anyway??? No no no. Don’t struggle with your kid about something they love. Don’t be a roadblock your kid has to get around to get to what they love. Embrace and support. Bring snacks. Set them up servers. Spell words for them, over and over (and over and over). Read articles to learn more. Find them videos. Learn to install texture packs. HELP THEM do what they love. Do it with them.
That’s what I think, anyway. The crazy cool learning happens when humans are free to go nuts with the things they love. Including Minecraft.
I was pondering all of this and then I ran across Mike Rugnetta on PBS’s The Idea Channel talking about Minecraft as a great educational tool. Apparently I’m not the only one noticing the Minecraft Learning Effect. I don’t really support using Minecraft to teach an externally created agenda—I prefer to see the learning that happens on its own when the kids are totally engaged and loving what they are doing. Not that anyone is asking me what I support, haha, but hey, this is my blog right? But still, some cool stuff in this video, well worth a gander! I’ll leave you with Mike….
There will be no photos in this post, be happy for small favors.
Many ashtangis the world over have caught a toe on a jumpthrough at least once. In fact, in the David Garrigues workshop I did last year he was teaching a version of the straight leg jumpthrough and I remember him saying wryly, “There is danger here. I’m not going to lie to you.” Toe injuries happen.
My personal Toe Saga started last winter when I caught my toe on the mat while, of course, swinging forward in a jumpthrough. OUCH. There was blood. The nail tore. I don’t think the toe was broken, but it hurt. I limped for a couple of days. There might have been tears. Don’t tell anyone.
Okay, I thought, I can handle this. I’m a tough warrior ashtangi, right? Now I can nod sagely when the other grizzled ashtangis talk about their toe injuries. I’ll wear my scars with pride! So, after a few days, when the nail turned purple, I said to myself, suck it up Lassiter. There is no whimpering in ashtanga. (Okay, there’s a little.)
In this way, I entered the second chapter of the Toe Saga: waiting for the purple to go away.
It didn’t. The toe still ached a little, too, even weeks later, this distant pain during each jumpback when I landed on the toes, a mild ouch that told me things were not completely right, although there was no visible wound anymore (aside from the purple nail). It was a small enough pain to ignore while I waited for the return of Toe Normal. I figured, what was I going to do? It was going to work itself out, right?
About a month ago, the nail turned white.
This was months after the initial injury! I was sick of it. I wanted my pretty little toe back.
But no. Instead, the nail fell off.
GROSS! EWWWW! It happened a couple of nights ago. I did this hand-flapping grossed-out dance around the yurt, moaning and pacing. Finally I calmed down enough to examine my toe, only to discover that the nail hadn’t fallen off so much as split into two layers…
[TMI. Deleted for your mental safety.]
Okay, so the upshot is, I’ve got a toe fungus. YUCK YUCK YUCK!
Weird mutant zombie toe! It’s like all multi-colored, lumpy, half-gone….
More grossed-out dancing.
Apparently this is a fairly common outcome of toenail injuries. I did not know that. I wouldn’t have wanted to know that. But yeah, apparently toe injuries that linger throw off the Inner Toe Balance and infection and/or fungus can set in, thickening or yellowing the nail, or causing white spots under the nail, yada yada, gross gross…
Did you know that Ashtanga Yoga carries the risk of Zombie Toe? I did not. I did not sign up for this. Hamstring injuries, wrist injuries, shoulder problems, these I was on the look out for. But toe fungus?
Could it have been avoided? I’m putting tea tree oil on all my toes, twice a day now, and hoping for the best. According to my Google Health Plan the typical medical treatment is oral anti-fungal drugs that come with liver-destruction as a side-effect. (No thanks. Even if I could afford it.) Tea tree oil, on the other hand, seems to have worked for many, although you have to be patient as you wait for the new, fungus-free nail to grow in. It seems as you trim off the old Zombie nail, a band of pink, healthy nail should begin emerging from the nail root. We shall see. Looks like Zombie Toe is here for the summer at least.
Ashtangis beware! Take care of your toes! This has been a public service announcement.
(I took off my toe rings for the duration. Don’t want to draw attention to the mess.)
We went to our friend’s organic farm last Monday and picked 19 pounds of strawberries. Nineteen pounds.
Woo hoo! We’ve been eating strawberries three times a day, my hands are stained red with strawberry juices, I’m telling you, it is All Strawberries All The Time.
Let’s see, we’ve had strawberry shortcake…
And my personal favorite…
I’ve waxed on about cobbler before on this blog, including our recipe. Today’s cobbler, though, was a weird case: it just would not cook. We kept waiting and waiting, checking and rechecking, but no. Still goop. Was the oven not working? Was the pan the wrong shape? Were the laws of physics not operating in our kitchen? Finally, after over an hour, we couldn’t take it anymore and we ate it. It was still awesome, with the vanilla ice cream on top, all bubbling and hot and cold and sweet and sour and crunchy and gooey…cobber contains all of these mysteries, does it not? I don’t know why it took so long, but good things come to those who wait and all that shite.
Oh, and of course, we’ve also gobbled bowls and bowls of just straight-up strawberries. The best are the ones you sneak while you’re picking, warmed up by the sun and sweet like candy.
But we ate the last of this year’s fresh-picked strawberries just now. There are 10 pounds frozen in bags for later, but the fresh ones are gone, down the hatch. And Luc just said, “You know what? I’m sick of strawberries.” Perfect time to quit.
Strawberry Pancake Man says….
“Peace out, man.”
Until next year….
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coming next: The Lucidity EffectLucidity is now with the editor, woo hoo!
today's yoga practice
June 19, 2013 | 10:41 am
Full Primary. Actually, that’s a lie. I left off those butt balance poses at the end of seated. I kind of hate those. They bore me. [hangs head] I’m weak.
June 16, 2013 | 10:10 am
Primary to supta konasana. Long stay in baddha and uphavista, then ollapse. i feel so winded today!
June 16, 2013 | 10:09 am
June 16, 2013 | 10:08 am
yin yoga again. lazy yoga.
June 13, 2013 | 2:19 pm
Primary to Janu B and then I ran out of time. Better than nothing, I guess.
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- diggers watch tv, too
- lucille ball moment
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- crafts for karma
- the way of the bento
- bikini power vs. the ratty sweater
- the yip-yips do not cause childhood obesity
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- the emotional insanity of writing
- the incredible hulk invades the yurt
- spike and buffy got screwed--now with proof! (part 1)
- happy birthday, sophie!
- the 13 year visitation of the demon red-eyed cicada
- welcome to mayaland's virtual macabre crawfish feast of death!
- 2 stories, 1 joke, and a song
- the power of mom’s day can melt even the most bitter of hearts, not that my heart is bitter, but it has gotten a bit crusty around the edges
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