2013년 3월 29일 금요일

Curious, how life works out

I've decided on the topic for my dissertation (which I won't start writing until this winter): travel literature on the Far East (haha, far east-- it's home for some people!). This will include not just travelogues or travel guides, but novels, for novels certainly take you to certain locations. So, I'm looking for novels or poems, for that matter, that take the reader to the far east. So far, I've not found much. East, yes-- there's tons on India (how very probable), but not so much on the "far" East, or to be more precise, the northern part of the far east. China, Japan, Korea. So, if anyone knows anything, do inform me! Guide me!

And I say this turn of events is quite curious, for travel has always been a thing for me. I would be literally antsy to go somewhere, and would find myself so happy when abroad. And now, here I am, planning to look at records of people who did the same thing a hundred years ago...

2013년 3월 18일 월요일

Mda, "Heart of Redness" and the savage girl

I've read this over the break, for a class I'm taking. It was a slow read, because 1. I could not pronounce any of the character's names (and had difficulty telling them apart) 2. The parallel plot line that jumps from past to present, with some characters bearing the same names made it harder for me to stay focused and 3. Because the female characters were kind of disturbing and my mind kept drifting away, trying to imagine an alternative character that wouldn't have made me fretful. I was not really able to come up with one, but I tried, nonetheless. hmmm.

So, the female character. There's this one girl, who is close to nature. She is a "wild" girl who rides on horses naked (and without a saddle-- which also implicates that the girl is an unsaddled being, yeah?), runs about free as the wind, sings "split voice" (and this makes the male protagonist quite impressed, as well as sexually aroused), understands her natural surroundings more than anyone else in town, talks to birds (to be fair, her father does this too), and appears in the protagonist's dream as water that runs down the river-path, which is, in the dream, him. She is the noble savage, the savage mother earth, the girl whose naked passion and her intuitive understanding (and love) of nature is celebrated in the book. But, to make things complicated-- she's not your simple savage who rests peacefully in nature, smiling childishly up at the colonizers. She is also, the most deviant of characters, who will go around chopping foreign trees that she sees as harmful to the environment, and will blatantly blurt out at court that she will continue on doing this whether or not they charge her. She comprehends the consequences of modernization (the town is facing changes, which will bring casinos and hotels. The rivers will teem with tourists enjoying water skiing, etc)-- refuting the words of the people who root for modernization because they see jobs, money, and electric lights, she notes that the jobs will be scant, for the project will bring in workers from external sources, and that they will, including the environment and the people, be exploited. The water will not be theirs to harvest. They will have to pay. The indigenous trees and plants will suffer (or be uprooted, to be replaced by British, or other European trees-- possibly cash crops), and they will no longer be the people of this land. The land, along with everything else, will be forced away. And it is the noble savage girl, the girl who embodies mother earth, who says all this.

Her insight penetrates the facile logic of the colonizers (or should I say, those proponents of modernization). She sees through their logic, she sees their greed, and their devised plans to displace the inhabitants of the land.

First, you frame the narrative so that the natives, the rightful owners of the land-- who know that they are indebted to nature for survival, and that they must maintain sustainability (they have their own rules as to what trees can be cut and what can't be cut, to what extent, etc)-- will be defined as "red" (not in a "commie" kind of way, but the savages who paint themselves red), backward, and ignorant. Then, you tempt them with trinkets that sparkle. Electric lights. Trees that are not bushy, but shiny. Hotels and merry go rounds (on which your kids will never ride, because that will not be free). And what else? Many other things, that will "poof" and be gone as soon as the town gets reestablished as a tourist site for the gamblers and water sport fans. People will be reduced to human resource, if they are lucky-- how many will get jobs? Not many. (And this gal certainly knows this-- she says this in the book.) So, without much trouble, if the tempting works, you conquer not just the land, but its people too.

I say I'm confused, and don't know what the hell to do with this gal, because she knows all this, but she is also portrayed as the wild savage who cannot be tamed. And, she later gives birth to a boy, but it's said that she never had intercourse with anyone. A magic realism type of deal, I understand, but this is mystifying the female body, is it not? Or, am I being too critical of all this? I don't care-- that bit really bothered me. And at the end of the book, we see the gal (and I keep calling her the gal-- her name, I'll have to look up and add to this post later) crooning to her babe, trying to make him swim in the river with her. (She fails to do this, because the babe declares that he belongs to the "man's town" not in the water!) Ah, here we go-- mother nature, and the mother of the child, softly crooning in the water (womb?). Very metaphoric. Again, she is not really clothed in anything. We see her as nature. And as much as I love her, and appreciate the most important message of the book coming from her, I find myself oddly unsatisfied. Did she have to be the mother-nature-naked-savage character to be convincing? I'm no writer, so I don't know what my choice would have been. But as a reader, I have to confess. I didn't find myself content with this. So there!

2013년 3월 17일 일요일

upcycled bracelets, II

 Remember those recycled beads I got? I had some rounds as well, so, I made some bracelets of different designs. :)

 Using recycled glass beads are fun because you get to guess what kind of bottles they might come from. Hmm, violet colored glass. do you think it may have been a wine bottle?
 And this one...the bottles must have been soda bottles or maybe beer bottles...
the colors are all so spring-like, I could not help adding the daisy connector.

This one, I used teal recycled beads and some crystals. The chunky feel on your wrist feels great-- not too heavy, but just right. This should look great in the summer.

As I get more and more interested in this repurposing business, I now spend time looking at etsy for nice destash components I can work with. I haven't found anything I like yet...but if you have a piece of something you want me to rework and renew, I'd be glad to take that challenge!

2013년 3월 10일 일요일

review- Trespassing (Uzma Aslam Khan)

Trespassing (Uzma Aslam Khan 2005)

I was wondering if I hadn't read any more novels by South Asian writers-- yes, I was thinking of you, Aish. And it turns out, yes, I had! For class, certainly, but it is another book. And a post-worthy one. The post is again, from notes I made when reading the novel for class-- so please do excuse the slightly academic tone.

Here is something I got off of wikipedia
Uzma Aslam Khan (born 1969) is an English language novelist from Pakistan. Her fourth novel, Thinner Than Skin (2012), has been nominated for the Man Asian Literary Prize 2012,[1] Asia's most prestigious literary award.

Khan was born in Lahore and brought up in Manila, Philippines; Tokyo, Japan; London, UK and Karachi She was educated at St. Joseph's Convent School and St. Patrick's High School both in Karachi. She received a scholarship to study at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, New York from where she obtained a BA in Comparative Literature and obtained a MFA from the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA.

Early life and education

Khan’s first novel, The Story of Noble Rot, was published by Penguin Books India in 2001, and reissued by Rupa and Co. in 2009. It was met with positive reviews in major periodicals and newspapers in Pakistan and India – including Newsline,The Herald, Dawn, The Deccan Herald, and The Indian Express – and Khan was recognized as “a voice to watch out for.”

Her second novel, Trespassing, was published simultaneously by Flamingo/HarperCollins in the UK and Penguin Books India in 2003. It was subsequently translated into fourteen languages in eighteen countries.[6] Set in the 1990s during the aftermaths of the Afghan War and Gulf War, the book reaches epic proportions, spanning three continents and involving three intimately linked families. It is also a tragic love story, between Dia, daughter of a silkworm farmer, and US-educated Daanish, who meets Dia upon his return to Karachi for his father’s funeral. The book drew much international attention, with Tariq Ali describing Khan as "marking the emergence of a new generation of Pakistani novelists."[7] Writing for Outlook magazine, Nilanjana S. Roy wrote that “While Khan's prose may be subtle, her style is as forceful as any of the great storytellers… Khan is creating a tradition and style of her own as a writer.”[8] Trespassing was shortlisted for the 2003 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Eurasia region.
In 2008, Khan’s third novel, The Geometry of God was printed by Rupa & Co. India. As with her first two novels, Khan’s third was praised for boldly charting new territory, and for its characters – particularly its strong, spirited, yet curbed, women characters. She was by now also becoming recognized for her poetic depictions of the natural world, and for her frank exploration of sexuality, both unique in Pakistani English-language writing.[9] Other critics have marked the prevalence of violence and brutality in her work. Following its release in India, The Geometry of God was also published in Spain, Italy, France, the US and the UK. It won the Bronze Award in the Independent Publisher Book Award 2010 (in the category of multicultural fiction),[10] was selected as one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2009,[11] and was a finalist of Foreword Magazine’s Best Books of 2009.[12]
In 2010, Khan’s short story “Ice, Mating” was published in Granta magazine’s highly popular edition on Pakistan.[13] In 2011, her short story “The Missing” was published in Tehelka magazine.[14]
Khan’s fourth novel, Thinner than Skin, is slated for release in Fall 2012 in the US, Canada, and India.[6]
Khan’s fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, including the South Asian Review (University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, 2012), The New Anthem: The Subcontinent In Its Own Words (Tranquebar Press, 2009) and And the World Changed: Contemporary Stories by Pakistani Women (The Feminist Press, 2008).
In addition to her novels and short stories, Khan has published numerous essays and articles around the world, including in Drawbridge UK, Dawn Pakistan, First City India, and for the online political journal, CounterPunch. Included in her articles for Counterpunch is her 2008 letter to Barack Obama, “Where’s the Change, Barack?”[15] in which she criticized the then-Senator for threatening to expand the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (a threat that was later carried out through accelerated drone attacks in the region).

[edit]Published works

The Story of Noble Rot (Penguin India, 2001. Reissued by Rupa & Co. in 2009)
Trespassing (Flamingo/HarperCollins UK, 2003. Metropolitan/Henry Holt and Company USA, 2004)
The Geometry of God (Clockroot Books/Interlink Publishing USA, 2009. Haus Publishing UK, 2010.)
Thinner than Skin (Clockroot Books/Interlink USA, HarperCollins Canada, HarperCollins India, 2012)

And here is a brief summary I got from Redhotcurry.com
A world-class tale of love and deceit, rivalry and destiny from the Lahore-based writer Uzma Aslam Khan. Dia is the daughter of a silk farmer, Riffat – an innovative, decisive businesswoman. Like her mother, Dia seems at first sight unrestricted, spirited and resourceful. She seems free. But freedom has its own borders, patrolled by the covetous and the zealous, and there are those who yearn to jump the fence.
Daanish has come back to Karachi for his father’s funeral, all the way from America, a land where there are plenty of rules but few restrictions. When Dia and Daanish meet, they chafe against all the formalities. It is left to a handful of silkworms, slipped inside a friend’s dupatta, tickling skin, to rupture the fragile peace of both their houses – to make the space in which Dia and Daanish can create something together…
(About the Author
Uzma Aslam Khan grew up in Karachi. She is the author of one previous novel, The Story of Noble Rot (2001). She has taught English language and literature in the United States, Morocco, and in Pakistan. Currently she works for an NGO in Lahore, where she lives with her husband)

And now, my response.
Does Daanish “trespass the man-made boundaries and fundamentalism” as Rahman argues in his article “Karachi, Turtles, and the Materiality of Place”? : These three characters are admittedly the ones who are closest to nature. Salaamat finds solace in nature (and rescues the turtle), Dia loves her silk worms and is constantly musing over how worms yield silk, and Dannish is attached to seashells to the extent that he has them strung in a necklace. However, I am skeptical of the above statement because being engaged in a friendly (not oppressive) relationship with nature and its creatures does not automatically make one a trespasser of man-made boundaries, much less a radical who resists fundamentalisms. Dannish’s attachment to his shells signify his love of nature, I must concede, but the shells around his neck (and his treasure box) does not necessarily endow him with will power that will take him across traditional boundaries set for men and women. He connects with Dia due to their shared love of non-human creatures, but this connection does not go far beyond physical consummation. Daanish never trespasses the tradition that binds him to the role of a docile son—although he expresses his discontent frequently, he acquiesces to the arranged marriage at the end, with no qualms over how he may have and will continue to influence the lives of two women—his former lover, Dia, and her best friend he is bequeathed to be married. Like his father, he armors himself with tradition upon their return to India—the cave and the sea they both frequent are not areas in which they trespass, but where they escape the realities momentarily. Dia is included in Daanish’s excursions into the cave, but this only means that she is also exploited as a temporary relief. He never once ponders on taking Dia to the States, nor does he see the relationship developing into something more than a fling. There is no trespassing of any sort in their relationship.
*Cosmopolitanism? : Rahman also argues that Daanish is a cosmopolitan figure, but this too, I disagree with. He does travel to and from the United States and India, but again, this does not mean that he trespasses man-made boundaries. Rather than a cosmopolitan who deems himself a man of the world, Daanish is an uprooted individual torn between two worlds, always a stranger. The estrangement does not necessarily gift him with the ability to sympathize with other displaced/estranged peoples in his “hometown.” The way he looks down on Salaamat as a repulsive alien with no rights to look at Dia, although justifiable in that Dia is in that moment his lover, exposes how shallow Daanish’s so-called “cosmopolitanism” might be. For instance, he is able to think about the pollution in context of the first Gulf War, but his thoughts do not travel further, cannot delve deeper. He does not, or cannot, relate it to the lives of those whose survival depends on the oceans, and how such pollution may uproot an entire neighborhood. He cannot imagine that those who he looks down on, might have been victims of such exploitative/destructive enterprises of the United States or other countries he wanted so passionately to censure and criticize in his journalism classes. The political awareness curiously sheds away as he arrives home—which signifies how one is able to don and doff a perception according to the social status he inhabits at a certain time in life.

All in all, this is quite a good novel. However, (and I will not talk too much about it, since you might want to read it) I was not very happy with the main male character, and was not satisfied with the ending. (I guess I wanted Daanish to miraculously grow into a radical young man in Pakistan, but nooooo he doesn't change at all!) No spoilers, just my feelings. 

2013년 3월 8일 금요일

The Sun Sets

I believe that sometimes,
pictures are better than words.
I love the sun set in my town-- it is the most spectacular, and miss this the most about West Lafayette when I go back.

2013년 3월 3일 일요일

Born into Brothels

My students will be taking an in-class exam (or a take-home, if time is not enough) on Born into Brothels. So, here's a posting.

 The kids, at the time of the making. :)
They are now from 17-20, and more information about their lives can be found at

kids with cameras

Oh, and if anyone wants to see this fascinating documentary, check out
youtube link

It's really a great documentary, often touching and often frustrating.
I don't want to give away a lot of detail, but it's about a photographer who goes into the Brothels, meets the kids, gets attached to them, and decides to teach them photography . The photographs taken by the kids are just amazing.

One of the most talented boy got into NYU, and here are some from his portfolio.
(I found those also online, at Kids with Cameras) The boy's name is Avijit. :)

So, a short post, but an inspiring one?


2013년 3월 1일 금요일

introducing one of my favorite illustrators, Hajin Bae:)

 Once upon a time, when I was young (or, younger), I wanted to become an artist. And like I said once sometime, my high school art teacher (who was a tad bit crazy) told me that I should. But my parents said no (and I was an obedient child who didn't really like making trouble), so that was that. I did take a few art classes while in Iowa (as an exchange student, in a tiny community college that was so lovely), and the professor (she taught the course on Drawing) said that I should keep that artistic desire alive even when I do something else in life, for it is a virtue one should cherish. I wonder if it is still alive. And another professor who taught a course on painting, told me that perhaps because I didn't have formal training, I tend to be very "brave" when painting-- I don't hesitate to use crazy colors, or crazy streaks in my paintings, he said. I actually painted a huge acrylic painting of a room in that course, and the painting is still hanging our dining room back home. More about that later though, because this posting is not about me, but an illustrator I met online!

This is one of my favorite works of Hajin Bae, the illustrator. :)
Apart from Kyungshin Hwang (another Korean illustrator), she is actually the second illustrator I've come to love. I guess it's because I didn't have many chances to come across such illustrations-- we do see them in books, or on book covers, but unless you look really closely, or unless you seek them out, it's hard to know who illustrates what. Right? Or am I just not familiar with the field? Anyway, so. How beautiful is that? This is the perfect night sky I could imagine. If I were a poet, I would have written something below it. But the only thing I can say is, that it reminds me of the sky I saw in Iowa, Mt. Vernon. One night, I was out on a stroll with my friend around 2-3 am, after I had finally finished reading for class. The town being not so lit up (with artificial lights), I could see so many stars. So many, just soooo many! As if they would just start showering down on us. 
 Here is another of my favorite illustrations. The crying while smoking, or more likely, smoking while crying goldfish just strikes me. It's a fabulous image. I can't even explain why I like this. I would love to have this hanging on my wall.

And...and...I'm speechless!
Doesn't this remind you of that night, when you and your beloved walked the streets of a busy city at night, but had the entire city to yourselves? The blinking lights that could be annoying to the eyes when alone, would become like candles lit just for you, if you are so-in-the moment, so in (I can't avoid this cliche) love. I miss the night streets in Seoul. And how it is so brilliantly busy but poetic.

After I stopped wanting to be a painter, I took up photography. (and I talk about photography often in this blog, I KNOW) And I used to go crazy when I met a scene with a nice old door. I don't know why, but doors with paint peeling off just fascinated me. Perhaps it was that passing of time engraved in the peeling door that made me love it so much. Or just the colors seeping out, and how the rust and the remaining paint would work perfectly in tune with one another. I should post some pictures of doors I took sometime...but hey, here's an illustration of the door, and the time that passes.

See how the couple is kind of transparent on the top illustration? Doesn't that give you that dreamy feeling? It's like the little cozy scene is actually remembering the couple. Who knows? Maybe it is a scene remembered by that door. Maybe that couple broke up. Maybe they now live together behind that door, in the house.

The last one that I introduce to you guys today.
I looooove the simplicity of the raindrops and the girl. And that old grandfather's clock! Tell me a story. What story do you dream up of, when you see this?

:) Just yesterday, I actually got her illustration sent from back home. A friend (dear Audrey) purchased it for me, and sent it along with snacks and other stuff I can get only back home-- and she made my day. I plan to have the illustration framed (although in a not-very-pricey-Walmart-kind-of-frame), and when I do, you guys will see that special illustration here as well.

3. 1. 2013