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Posts Tagged ‘asakiyume’

In a Nippon article by Sakurai Shin, translated, we learn about urban bee culture in Central Tokyo.

“The urban bee farm is the work of the nonprofit Ginza Honey Bee Project, or Ginpachi, founded in March 2006 by Tanaka Atsuo.

“It started when Tanaka, who rented out space in Ginza, learned from a beekeeper that it might be possible to raise honeybees on the roof of the Kami Parupu Kaikan building. From this location, Tanaka learned, the bees could gather nectar from Hibiya Park and the grounds of the Imperial Palace, both within a radius of around three kilometers. Bees are highly sensitive to pesticides and other environmental pollutants, but the Imperial Palace is relatively free of agrichemicals. In this sense, Ginza turns out to be a surprisingly good area for beekeeping. …

“In the 10 years since the Ginza Honey Bee Project began on one corner of a Ginza rooftop, the ripple effect has spread to other parts of Tokyo and far beyond. There are now more than 100 urban beekeeping projects nationwide, and more in South Korea, Taiwan, and elsewhere in Asia.

“ ‘Ten years ago, of course, we never imagined the project would have such an impact,’ Tanaka says. ‘I think it’s because people have been able to make it into their own project, reflecting local conditions and responding to local issues.’

“Tanaka also credits the honeybees themselves, emphasizing what human beings can learn from contact with these industrious insects.

“ ‘For example, when I see the bees returning to the rooftop from their flight around Ginza, I can tell from the pollen stuck to them that it’s safflower season, or the tochinoki [Japanese horse chestnut] trees are in bloom. Spending time with the bees puts us in touch with the natural world and its changes. Ginza may seem an unlikely place to be tackling environmental issues, but it’s becoming that sort of neighborhood.’ ”

More here.

This lovely story came to me by way of blogger Asakiyume.

Photo: Nagasaka Yoshiki/Nippon.com

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Are you familiar with the “Lens” blog at the NY Times? It focuses on “photography, video and visual journalism.” Here David Gonzalez writes about the photos of Putu Sayoga.

[Hat tip: Asakiyume on twitter.]

“If you live in a far-off place, a library may be something you’d only read about in books. That is, if you had books to begin with.

“That became the mission of Ridwan Sururi, an Indonesian man with a plan — and a horse. Several days a week, he loads books onto makeshift shelves he drapes over his steed, taking them to eager schoolchildren in the remote village of Serang, in central Java. ..

“Mr. Sayoga, a co-founder of the collective Arka Project, had seen something about the equine library on a friend’s Facebook page. It reminded him of his own childhood, where his school had only out-of-date books. Intrigued, he reached out to Mr. Sururi, who offered to put Mr. Sayoga up in his home while he spent time photographing Mr. Sururi on his rounds. …

“Mr. Sururi made a living caring for horses, as well as giving scenic tours on horseback. One of his clients, Nirwan Arsuka, came up with the book idea as a way of doing something to benefit the community, specifically a mobile library. He gave Mr. Sururi 138 books for starters. Most were in Indonesian, and the books included a lot with drawings.

“Children at the schools he visits can borrow the books for three days, and demand has been so great that he now has thousands of books.” More here. Check out the slide show.

Photo: Putu Sayoga

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Photo: Tokyo Five, via Gwarlingo

Back in the early days of this blog (nearly five years ago), I posted about the imaginative Japanese manhole covers that I had seen at the Gwarlingo website. Now Asakiyume has clued me in to collectable cards made from the designs.

The Japan Times has the story. “The cards will be distributed for free to anyone who wants one at sewage plants and other facilities. Pictures of the manholes will be on one side of the cards, which are roughly business card size, while explanations about their designs will feature on the reverse side.

“The manhole designs differ from area to area, and often feature flowers and animals used as symbols in respective communities, or yuru kyara (local mascots). …

“The manhole cover designs are decided after asking the public for ideas, or through a competition among manufacturers of manhole covers. [Hideto Yamada of the GKP, a group including officials from local governments and the infrastructure ministry’s sewage management department] said he hoped the cards will help lift public interest in the sewage system.”

An even better way, I think, would be create greeting cards and postcards that could be sold widely and sent around the world.

More at the Japan Times, here.

Photo: Remo Camerota, via Gwarlingo
A design for a new drain cover.

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summer-party-at-the-office

Where I work, they try to treat employees a couple times a year to little parties. It doesn’t hurt. If you’re having a down day, you can always find something to like about the higher powers making the effort. The first photo shows a few employees at the Cape Cod-themed event on the garden floor of our building. On offer were music, mini golf, lobster sliders, watermelon-blueberry smoothies, and other summertime edibles.

I am also posting a real beach I visited last weekend, with lovely rosa rugosa all around the path. My other shots show the shadow of a bike on a sunny day in Fort Point, landscaping at a home on Beacon St., and an exotic flower in front of Barefoot Books, which does a nice job with plantings.

Asakiyume came for a visit, by the way, and we had lunch and a lovely chat. I will wait to get her permission to post a picture I took of her. But I can activate your visual imagination by telling you that the photo is from a walk in the woods, where Asakiyume spotted an elastic band between two trees and immediately realized someone must be trying to teach themselves tightrope walking. I would never have figured that out. The photo shows her testing her skill. Such a lovely metaphor for the multiple balancing acts we had just been discussing. Turns out it’s hard.

beach-entrywith-roses

bike-shadow

Beacon-St-flowers

flower

she-flies-thru-the-air-with-the-greatest-of-ease

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I’ve been wanting to share this remix of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland but hoped to add something beyond saying that I like it.

Then today, Asakiyume tweeted some comments on fantasy that science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin posted at the Book View Cafe blog.

Le Guin was reacting to a comment Kazuo Ishiguro made about his latest novel when he was interviewed by the NY Times: “Will readers follow me into this? Will they understand what I’m trying to do, or will they be prejudiced against the surface elements? Are they going to say this is fantasy?”

Le Guin launched into a spirited defense of fantasy in which she mentions the very story I had been thinking about for this post.

“Fantasy is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality. ‘Surface elements,’ by which I take it he means ogres, dragons, Arthurian knights, mysterious boatmen, etc., which occur in certain works of great literary merit such as Beowulf, the Morte d’Arthur, and The Lord of the Rings, are also much imitated in contemporary commercial hackwork.

“Their presence or absence is not what constitutes a fantasy. Literary fantasy is the result of a vivid, powerful, coherent imagination drawing plausible impossibilities together into a vivid, powerful and coherent story, such as those mentioned, or The Odyssey, or Alice in Wonderland.” More here.

I love Le Guin’s characterization of fantasy. It reminds of something C.S. Lewis said about writing good fantasy. He said that, within the laws of its own realm, everything had to be plausible. Or words to that effect. And he wrote an essay with a splendid title, “Sometimes Fairy Stories Say Best What’s to Be Said.” (For a comparison of Tolkien’s and Lewis’s ideas about fantasy, check this essay.)

 

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Last year my friend Asakiyume, whose family is Catholic but who admires Ramadan, decided to fast for Lent the way people do for Ramadan — all day until sunset. She saw the fasting as a way to connect to people who have no choice about hunger.

Some members of my extended family observe Ramadan, but it’s their religion. And I knew a Somalian in Minneapolis to whom I once, in my ignorance, said, “Happy Ramadan.” He laughed and told me patiently that Ramadan wasn’t about “happy,” rather it was a time of reflection and sacrifice. I realized my blooper was a bit like saying “Happy Good Friday” or “Happy Yom Kippur.” One doesn’t say “Happy Lent” either. “Happy” is for the day before Lent and Mardi Gras.

Read about Asakiyume’s thought process and why she once borrowed another religion’s custom here. She writes a wonderfully eclectic blog full of deep thoughts and photos from her walks that suggest mythical vistas and fantasy characters to her.

light and shadow

(Today, of course, it is perfectly fine to say Happy Valentine’s Day! And if you missed getting birthstone-jewelry hearts for your Valentine at Luna & Stella, here, fear not! Mother’s Day is just around the corner, May 12.)

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Asakiyume writes that an old friend visited her and brought along an unusual harp. Asakiyume explains that the nyckelharpa is “a Swedish musical instrument that’s both keyed and bowed.”

That sounds harder than walking and chewing gum. Even the hurdy-gurdy that I hear in the subway doesn’t look as hard as that sounds, and the hurdy-gurdy involves keying and cranking.

“It’s older than the violin,” Asakiyume says of the nyckelharpa, adding, “my friend tells me there are old tapestries and paintings showing the angels playing these nyckelharpa in heaven.”

(Readers of this blog will note that I can seldom resist tidbits about Sweden. Egypt is another favorite. Both for family reasons.)

Here is Asakiyume’s friend playing the nyckelharpa.

 

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Asakiyume writes a blog I enjoy a lot, and this week she had an intriguing post on Jackie Ormes, generally considered the first female African American cartoonist. See examples of work by Ormes at Asakiyume’s blog, here.

According to wikipedia, Ormes (1911 to 1985), “started in journalism as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly African American newspaper that came out every Saturday. Her 1937-38 Courier comic strip, Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem, starring Torchy Brown, was a humorous depiction of a Mississippi teen who found fame and fortune singing and dancing in the Cotton Club.”

The strip waxed and waned as Ormes pursued her many career interests, bur she always returned to Torchy.

“In 1950, the Courier began an eight-page color comics insert, where Ormes re-invented her Torchy character in a new comic strip, Torchy in Heartbeats. This Torchy was a beautiful, independent woman who finds adventure while seeking true love. …  The strip is probably best known for its last episode in 1954, when Torchy and her doctor boyfriend confront racism and environmental pollution. Torchy presented an image of a black woman who, in contrast to the contemporary stereotypical media portrayals, was confident, intelligent, and brave.”

Being a cartoonist seems harder than writing a blog. You not only need to find daily topics that interest you enough to dwell on, but you have to encapsulate them in a piece of art. Asakiyume sometimes illustrates her posts, but art is one thing you won’t find me doing here. (Unless maybe a collage.)

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Today I went with two other volunteers from work to read with fifth graders in an urban school. Volunteers alternate weeks during the school year, some reading to first graders, some teaching math to fourth graders, and a few of us helping selected fifth graders read and discuss chapter books.

At the end of today’s reading-enrichment session, the librarian told one of my colleagues that a girl who was new to the school and afraid she couldn’t keep up in the program had initially asked to be excused. Having been encouraged to stick with it, she is now happy she did and is very enthusiastic about reading.

I was reminded of a wonderful post at Asakiyume’s blog, about a judge who owed his success in large part to a school librarian who turned him onto to reading — by stealth. She noticed that the boy, a nonreader, slipped out with book by a black author. So she drove to a town where she could get more and placed them where the boy would be sure to find them.

Read the post from my bloggy mentor here.

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Today I met up with Asakiyume and her daughter the Animator in Fitchburg, a run-down postindustrial city with a lovely little museum, established in 1929 by artist and one-time resident Eleanor Norcross. The show we came for, on graphic art, was put together by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., and is traveling to New York. Definitely worthwhile. So is the Fitchburg Art Museum itself.

I enjoyed seeing what caught the attention of my companions among the wide variety of graphic styles and stories. For me, the book by Brian Fies on his mother’s cancer and a different book illustrating Kafka’s Metamorphosis were of special interest.

One fun thing was an actual bedroom set up to suggest where a typical comic-loving teen might hang out. The Animator scrutinized the book collection and pronounced the teen’s taste eclectic.

I recognized the art of Lynd Ward, although I did not know he created novels without words. The series in the museum was the novel Gods’ Man, described at the Library of America site:

“Gods’ Man (1929), the audaciously ambitious work that made Ward’s reputation, is a modern morality play, an allegory of the deadly bargain a striving young artist often makes with life.”

If you scroll down at the website, you can see woodcuts from the book.

Asakiyume asked me how I knew about Lynd Ward, and I had a vague memory of a children’s book, possibly of folk tales. I don’t think the book I remembered was The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge although Ward was the illustrator. It might have been The Biggest Bear.

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Yesterday’s NY Times Dining section had a delightful story about all the food being delivered to Occupy Wall Street. Donations have come from far and wide, and people have self-organized to distribute it and do the washing up. The story is here.

“Requests for food go out on Twitter and various Web sites sympathetic to the protesters. And somehow, in spontaneous waves, day after day, the food pours in. …

“Platters and utensils are washed on site. The soapy runoff slides into a gray-water system that’s said to draw impurities out through a small network of mulch-like filters. …

“Members of the [food] crew sometimes fail to show up in the morning because they were arrested the night before. (Then again, as many a chef will tell you, that happens in a lot of restaurants.)” …

“Telly Liberatos, 29, the owner of Liberatos Pizza on Cedar Street in the Financial District, said he has received orders from places like Germany, France, England, Italy and Greece, as well as every region of the United States.

“ ‘It’s been nonstop,’ he said. ‘The phones don’t stop ringing. People from California order the most at one time.’ Someone from the West Coast had called in the biggest delivery: he wanted 50 pizzas dispatched to the park.”

You might enjoy knowing that Asakiyume’s blog offers music suggestions for the 99 percent. Check it out. (I borrowed the picture from downtownmonks.blogspot.com.)

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Last night we finally watched the DVD of “Waiting for Superman.” We had to wait until we were up for it. We knew it would be good, but painful to watch. It’s a documentary about the broken public education system in this country.

I see now why people come away from this movie saying, “It’s the unions.” But although we clearly need to find a way to dismiss bad teachers and reward good teachers, to just say, “It’s the unions,” seems too simple to me. Even if it is true, when you consider the context of poverty, unemployment, the highest rates of incarceration in the developed world, the War on Drugs, three other wars, confused approaches to immigration, Wall Street greed at the expense of the poor and middle class, antigovernment bias, and many skewed political priorities, to lay the problems of inequality in public education at any one door seems too simplistic.

Still, as the movie makes clear, we need to get rid of bad teachers immediately and make sure children get high-quality teachers before they give up hope. Lotteries to get into better schools are too cruel to too many. Activists can check out this site.

By the way, the film is very well done. We loved the creative graphics making the data real and the clips of Superman movies and past political speeches and TV shows.

Reader Asakiyune writes: “I very much agree with what you said about unions and teaching and the documentary–it bothers me when a problem as complex as that is reduced to one soundbite.”

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