Archive for the blogging Category

Gone, but er…not gone

Posted in blogging, genre fiction, Kyoto, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2010 by katekanno

It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve posted. Bikes were ridden, temples were visited, and even a few kilos were lost, which has been great for the arthritis.

Yes, two months ago I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my left hip. Oh, joy. Apparently, it was advanced enough for the doctor to recommend replacement, but I decided that to do so in my early forties would be silly, especially as I really wasn’t in enough pain to even warrant aspirin.

My father had his knee replaced a few years back, so there’s probably a gene or two to be blamed; however, osteoarthritis is near epidemic among those who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Not enough Vitamin D, but rather than turning into sulky vampires with abominable dialogue and cement coiffed hair, we just need new joints every now and then. Yeesh.

Anyway, took the alternative route. Traded jogging for cycling, lost several pounds (not hard in Japan where you can get healthy food even at a 7-11), and now other than the occasional bout of night aches, I’m back to relative normalcy.

Back in Tokyo and the writing is going well. Still waiting to hear back on that story that was in the running awhile back, but have sent out several others. Will be going to the Japan Writers’ Conference in a few weeks, which I’m really looking forward to, and was asked to write an essay for Sequart’s book on Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan. A few years ago (under real-non-aspiring-genre-writer-name) I wrote one for their anthology on the Legion of Superheroes, so I’m darned excited to do another one.

And without further kvetching about joint pain…here are some pics of Kyoto.

How was your summer? Early fall?

In Kyoto, hence less opportunity to post

Posted in blogging, Kyoto, writing with tags , , , , on August 19, 2010 by katekanno

This is just a short post. My partner had to move to Kyoto for work, so I’m spending the summer here writing and bicycling around. It’s a lovely place, very bike and pedestrian friendly, and apologies for the cliché, but wow is there a lot to do. I’m writing for three hours every morning, and then exercising, so my stay has also been productive, but my internet access has been even more limited than before. My  partner can’t get internet access in her apartment yet. The tenants have to put their names on a waiting list, a situation that reminds me of the old-fashioned party lines you’d find in Pillow Talk. Where are Rock and Doris when you need them?  Still, it’s been great for the distraction diet.   I’ll post some photos once I get back to my old “stand and surf” set up in Tokyo.

On books and pretending to have read them.

Posted in blogging, books, education, ill effects of computers, memory, shyness, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2010 by katekanno

I’ve always been inarticulate, particularly in groups when the social anxiety ramps up.  I have a tendency to lock onto some obscure, often not very meaningful detail, and wax incomprehensible. Summarizing is not a strong suit, and  I cannot, for the life of me, exude an air of mastery over anything so much as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Yet, what baffled me when I returned to the States five years ago, was how much that skill, online or off,  has usurped genuine knowledge. There seemed to be more value placed on knowing about something, more so if that thing could be dismissed with a clever reference to theory or more appallingly,  a wikipedia link.

Before the internet we called that jousting with a trashcan and a garden hoe.

Even worse is that it now gets the nod from self-help manuals like Pierre Bayard’s “How to Talk About Books that You Haven’t Read,” which Tracy Seeley, a vanguard in the slow reading movement, sees as a more sinister sign of our fraying focus.


And it’s phony as all get up, too.

I’m the first to admit that I’m as insecure  as the next person, but I’d prefer to use that anxiety as a guide. What haven’t I read? Where am I woefully ignorant?  And then I’ll go out and pick up a book, try to gain at least a meager grasp over what I know I don’t know.  It’s not a very efficient system, a little too random, but more often than not the serendipity pays off in ways that I would hope are more creative than the simple art of name dropping.

Hibernation over, hopefully…

Posted in blogging, lifehacking, Tokyo, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2010 by katekanno

It’s been a long three months since I’ve posted. Getting re-acquainted with Tokyo a new job, as well as a few writing projects, have been part of it.  The other has been our new internet situation.

When we moved into our apartment, we had trouble accessing our WiFi. We fussed and moaned for a few days, and then realized —  wow! — We were so much happier without it.

I’ve been more focused than I’ve been in years, and have not only completed two drafts of my first professional script, but three short stories of which I’m truly proud. I’ve sent them off, received one very hopeful rejection email, and am happily waiting for the rest to circulate back through the ether.

I’ve finally, finally reached that point where writing is a happy compulsion. I knew it was there; it just needed one tiny inconvenience to nudge it awake — in this case it meant having to carry my laptop to the kitchen and hook it up to a LAN cable.  The old stand and surf also has an added benefit of making me more focused about what I’m looking for online.

Other people have more control over their online life. I didn’t.  And when you don’t have control, particularly in cases of technology, it’s sometimes best to downgrade. Throw a shoe in the loom, replace that microwave with a conventional oven. The food’s still there. It’s just better.

Tangent Universes or Thomassons トマソン

Posted in Art, blogging, books, Discoveries, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by katekanno

Ever suspect that a space in your everyday surroundings is the result of a failed teleportation test? A Philadelphia experiment involving office buildings and old movie theaters rather than human guinea pigs?

In Japan, they’re called thomassons, named by artist Genpei Hasegawa after a hitter for the Yomiuri Giants who could well…no longer hit. As anyone who’s spent time here knows, rapid postwar development and politicians’ love of public works projects has turned the country into an industrialized Winchester house full of half-built structures, stairways to nowhere, and water pipes jutting mysteriously out of telephone poles.

Thomassons are any human built space that has lost its use, but remains part of the structure that has taken its place.  Coming across one is mysterious and almost thrilling: Imagine you were suddenly able to see a sign for Platform 9 3/4 in Paddington station, and you’ll have an idea.

Now back in Japan with my trusty camera, I thought I’d follow up on that lost column and have some fun in the process. I’m in a rural area, and some of these photos don’t necessarily fit the definition of a thomasson, but they’re close enough.

I found this next to a rice paddy. A board jammed into a metal grate, almost as if it had teleported from some Home Depot of the future and gotten stuck. That someone would actually saw into the metal grate to insert the board seems the less likely alternative.

And this Tardis-like silo has a thoroughly modern door on its second story, but no stairs, not even a ladder. Who goes in? Who leaves? Who bumps her head or breaks his leg on the way out?

I’ll continue to update the blog as I find them.

Also, Hasegawa’s book HYPERART: THOMASSON  is finally getting an English translation.

Taking back the clock, one recipe at a time

Posted in blogging, education, lifehacking, movies, multitasking, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2010 by katekanno

I’ve been feeling like I should write one of those end of year blog posts, but in truth I’ve gotten caught up in something else entirely. My partner and I needed a pick me up and some cheap bubbly on New Years Eve, so we stayed in and rented Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia, which we both enjoyed.

The press reaction to the film has been along the lines of “I liked half the movie” or “see it for Streep, not Adams,” not too off the mark, but a predictable, if not a little unfair, round of criticism. I didn’t find the Adams half to be that bad: Ephron was upfront about all of that Gen X attention whoring, and I was glad that she included Child’s reaction to the blog, although she stops short at telling us exactly what it was that Child said.

“She just doesn’t seem very serious, does she?…I worked very hard on that book. I tested and retested those recipes for eight years so that everybody could cook them. And many, many people have. I don’t understand how she could have problems with them. She just must not be much of a cook.”

Child’s jab was a little unfair, but that’s the rub, the generation gap, the entire mess of it all, because if there’s any reason to criticize this enjoyable film for being less than an art house masterpiece, it’s that it could have been about so much more than cooking and self-actualization: It could have been about the difference between a generation privileged to have time on its hands, and one that has none.

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog obsessing over people’s growing need to make lists, publicize goals, multitask, as they race their way toward haphazard pseudo mastery, and I think the Julie/Julia question is a perfect example of this conflict. In short, we’re a generation trying to cram eight years of writing a cookbook into a one year blogging project, which may seem shallow and self-indulgent, but goddamn it, it isn’t our fault.

We’ve been robbed of time in some fundamental way, by technocrats, our increasing work hours, by an education system that would rather “race to the top” than slow down and let our kids think. So why complain when we turn those lists and charts and graphs back on their purveyors as a means of resistance, of forcing something genuine back into lives in which the satisfaction of real mastery is being replaced with a ribbon thin substitute at the end of a finish line?

Child may have taken years to piece that book together and the world is probably a better place for it, but other than the wealthy, who among us has that time these days? If Powell became a success by cramming something meaningful into the two or three hours of freedom she was alloted after each working day, then good on her. She might not be much of a cook, but in turn she got her time back to become one should she so choose.

And that, if not the food, is probably why her story should inspire the rest of us, fighting if not for fame, then at least fifteen minutes.

Exploitation vs. Exploration

Posted in blogging, books, education, lifehacking, literature, multitasking, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2009 by katekanno

Exploitation vs. Exploration.

Previously the former word brought to mind underpaid factory workers or at least those miserably lopsided friendships in junior high, whereas exploration has always drummed up that conscientious chap in the beat up Tee, making his open-minded, charitable way through a new place.  If exploitation was Saruman, hacking up the trees in Lord of the Rings, then exploration was Indiana Jones, knowledgeable, adaptable, and of course, heroic.

On a larger level, of course, this is still true. On a personal level, such thinking is the disaster that we inflict on both ourselves and the world.

How, you might ask, can trying new things, reading new authors, and meeting fabulous new people be a bad thing? It isn’t.
But my life, and I suspect the same is happening in those of many other people, is suffering from a glut of exploration, both physical and psychological. It’s what buries our living spaces in useless consumer junk, the books we don’t read, our time with mildly interesting pursuits and people we know only tangentially, and our brains with all of that digital information on which we, to use that ominously cutesy term coined by David Armano,  snack.

Take all of those indelicate act(s) of multitasking: What are they but pure exploration at the expense of exploitation? We listen to 30 new songs on Pandora while talking on the phone and attempting to cook that souffle via the step by step instructions that we’re watching on the Food Network. And we’re making a hash of it all, even the talking, which we’re reducing more and more to Malaprops, disjointed threads, and yes, grunts.

So this is the year I make a determined effort to exploit more and explore less. Exploit! Exploit! Exploit! I’m with you Saruman. But only when it comes to myself. Save the trees.

Because when you exploit on a personal level, you do save trees. Let’s take my book habit, because it’s come to me after spending five predominantly dull years in the world’s dullest town with nothing else to do but read like a maniac, how very rarely I’ve come away from a book feeling that I know it  to my satisfaction, that I have many of its ideas, characters, and underlying themes mastered, before I’m on to the next one. I’m not trying to beat myself up, or to argue that I’ve gained nothing for my efforts. But as a writer, I want to be better poised to use what’s in what I read both for inspiration and to strengthen my own abilities.

Exploitation project 1: The Reading Journal.

To this purpose I’ve been keeping a reading journal. I’ve been doing it for awhile, but haven’t really landed on a good system until now, my biggest problem being how to separate the writing I do for myself with notes or ideas taken from books. I’ve been using color coded tags from Mujirushi to separate pages of my own writing and the  journal, which is working out well so far. In the reading journal, I  draw a line down the page and note any words or concepts with which I’m unfamiliar, leaving random thoughts or quotes I want to keep on the other. Although I’m not a proponent of Gardner’s learning styles, which are finally, and thankfully being discredited, the act of writing things down rather than typing them up does seem to help me remember what I’ve read. It’s rote baby! There’s no magic trick or psychobabble that can make it any easier.