Monthly Archives: December 2012
With the end of the first decade of the new millennium, Japanese English-language Metropolis magazine has put together a list of the best 10 Japanese films of the decade. And while most of them might be available with English-language variations outside of Japan, the others remain homegrown secrets – which movie experts here consider something of a shame.
The Japanese production Okuribito ( Departures) caught the movie world by surprise in February when it won the Oscar for best foreign language film, becoming the first Japanese movie to win in the category for more than 50 years and bringing international attention to other domestic productions. The subject matter of Okuribito also caught the industry by surprise – it is the tale of a classical musician who loses his job and goes to work in a funeral parlor – but it does serve to underline the depth and breadth of a domestic industry that is today a great deal more than Godzilla and sword-wielding samurai warrior titles.
Top of Metropolis list is Daremo Shiranai, which was released in 2004 and is known abroad as Nobody Knows. The work of famed director Hirokazu Koreeda, it tells the tale of two children who have to fend for themselves after being abandoned by their mother. Yuya Yagira was just 14 when he walked away from the Cannes Film Festival with the Best Actor award for his performance.
Second place was awarded to Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakuishi ( Spirited Away) by Hayao Miyazaki, the undisputed master of Japan’s animated movie scene. Released overseas as Spirited Away, it is Japan’s highest-growing movie of all time and was widely acclaimed as a masterpiece when it came out in 2001.
The 2008 title Tokyo Sonata is a powerful drama that starts out as the tale of a salaryman who loses his job and addresses many of the problems of contemporary Japan. Another animated film comes in fourth, with 2004’s Mind Game described as “mesmerizing” and “astounding.”
The oddly-named Fish Story opened in Japan in 2009 and wends together numerous strands into a single plot line, while the late director Kei Kumai oversaw the sixth film on the list, Nihon no Kuroi Natsu ( Darkness in the Light) in 2001. Vibrator, the tale of a promiscuous and confused women trying to come to terms with life, is in seventh place and won the Grand Prix for director Ryuichi Hiroki at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2003. Gururi no Koto ( All Around Us) was the work of Ryosuke Hashiguchi, Japan’s first openly gay filmmaker, and hit big screens to widespread acclaim here in 2008.
The final two places in the list of the best Japanese films of the decade go to Shinya Tsukamoto for Vital, the story of a medical student who loses his girlfriend and is then required to perform the autopsy on her after she is involved in a car accident, and Eureka, directed by Shinji Aoyama.
Source: The Independent
When you have something to accomplish as an artist or a person, you have to trust yourself as if you were someone else. It’s selfish, it’s tough, it’s…fragile. 5 minutes of glory equals 10 hours of patience. It’s our inheritance. Don’t judge in haste or unfairly condemn the ego that is in fact a frightened child having too much responsibilities.
Guy de Maupassant
(Translated by eastoftheweb)
She was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as though fate had blundered over her, into a family of artisans. She had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education. Her tastes were simple because she had never been able to afford any other, but she was as unhappy as though she had married beneath her; for women have no caste or class, their beauty, grace, and charm serving them for birth or family, their natural delicacy, their instinctive elegance, their nimbleness of wit, are their only mark of rank, and put the slum girl on a level with the highest lady in the land.
She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains. All these things, of which other women of her class would not even have been aware, tormented and insulted her. The sight of the little Breton girl who came to do the work in her little house aroused heart-broken regrets and hopeless dreams in her mind. She imagined silent antechambers, heavy with Oriental tapestries, lit by torches in lofty bronze sockets, with two tall footmen in knee-breeches sleeping in large arm-chairs, overcome by the heavy warmth of the stove. She imagined vast saloons hung with antique silks, exquisite pieces of furniture supporting priceless ornaments, and small, charming, perfumed rooms, created just for little parties of intimate friends, men who were famous and sought after, whose homage roused every other woman’s envious longings.
When she sat down for dinner at the round table covered with a three-days-old cloth, opposite her husband, who took the cover off the soup-tureen, exclaiming delightedly: “Aha! Scotch broth! What could be better?” she imagined delicate meals, gleaming silver,
tapestries peopling the walls with folk of a past age and strange birds in faery forests; she imagined delicate food served in marvellous dishes, murmured gallantries, listened to with an inscrutable smile as one trifled with the rosy flesh of trout or wings of asparagus chicken.
She had no clothes, no jewels, nothing. And these were the only things she loved; she felt that she was made for them. She had longed so eagerly to charm, to be desired, to be wildly attractive and sought after.
She had a rich friend, an old school friend whom she refused to visit, because she suffered so keenly when she returned home. She would weep whole days, with grief, regret, despair, and misery.
One evening her husband came home with an exultant air, holding a large envelope in his hand.
“Here’s something for you,” he said.
Swiftly she tore the paper and drew out a printed card on which were these words:
“The Minister of Education and Madame Ramponneau request the pleasure of the company of Monsieur and Madame Loisel at the Ministry on the evening of Monday, January the 18th.”
Instead of being delighted, as her husband hoped, she flung the invitation petulantly across the table, murmuring:
“What do you want me to do with this?”
“Why, darling, I thought you’d be pleased. You never go out, and this is a great occasion. I had tremendous trouble to get it. Every one wants one; it’s very select, and very few go to the clerks. You’ll see all the really big people there.”
She looked at him out of furious eyes, and said impatiently: “And what do you suppose I am to wear at such an affair?”
He had not thought about it; he stammered:
“Why, the dress you go to the theatre in. It looks very nice, to me . . .”
He stopped, stupefied and utterly at a loss when he saw that his wife was beginning to cry. Two large tears ran slowly down from the corners of her eyes towards the corners of her mouth.
“What’s the matter with you? What’s the matter with you?” he faltered.
But with a violent effort she overcame her grief and replied in a calm voice, wiping her wet cheeks:
“Nothing. Only I haven’t a dress and so I can’t go to this party. Give your invitation to some friend of yours whose wife will be turned out better than I shall.”
He was heart-broken.
“Look here, Mathilde,” he persisted. “What would be the cost of a suitable dress, which you could use on other occasions as well, something very simple?”
She thought for several seconds, reckoning up prices and also wondering for how large a sum she could ask without bringing upon herself an immediate refusal and an exclamation of horror from the careful-minded clerk.
At last she replied with some hesitation:
“I don’t know exactly, but I think I could do it on four hundred francs.”
He grew slightly pale, for this was exactly the amount he had been saving for a gun, intending to get a little shooting next summer on the plain of Nanterre with some friends who went lark-shooting there on Sundays.
Nevertheless he said: “Very well. I’ll give you four hundred francs. But try and get a really nice dress with the money.”
The day of the party drew near, and Madame Loisel seemed sad, uneasy and anxious. Her dress was ready, however. One evening her husband said to her:
“What’s the matter with you? You’ve been very odd for the last three days.”
“I’m utterly miserable at not having any jewels, not a single stone, to wear,” she replied. “I shall look absolutely no one. I would almost rather not go to the party.”
“Wear flowers,” he said. “They’re very smart at this time of the year. For ten francs you could get two or three gorgeous roses.”
She was not convinced.
“No . . . there’s nothing so humiliating as looking poor in the middle of a lot of rich women.”
“How stupid you are!” exclaimed her husband. “Go and see Madame Forestier and ask her to lend you some jewels. You know her quite well enough for that.”
She uttered a cry of delight.
“That’s true. I never thought of it.”
Next day she went to see her friend and told her her trouble.
Madame Forestier went to her dressing-table, took up a large box, brought it to Madame Loisel, opened it, and said:
“Choose, my dear.”
First she saw some bracelets, then a pearl necklace, then a Venetian cross in gold and gems, of exquisite workmanship. She tried the effect of the jewels before the mirror, hesitating, unable to make up her mind to leave them, to give them up. She kept on asking:
“Haven’t you anything else?”
“Yes. Look for yourself. I don’t know what you would like best.”
Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin case, a superb diamond necklace; her heart began to beat covetously. Her hands trembled as she lifted it. She fastened it round her neck, upon her high dress, and remained in ecstasy at sight of herself.
Then, with hesitation, she asked in anguish:
“Could you lend me this, just this alone?”
“Yes, of course.”
She flung herself on her friend’s breast, embraced her frenziedly, and went away with her treasure. The day of the party arrived. Madame Loisel was a success. She was the prettiest woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling, and quite above herself with happiness. All the men stared at her, inquired her name, and asked to be introduced to her. All the Under-Secretaries of State were eager to waltz with her. The Minister noticed her.
She danced madly, ecstatically, drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the triumph of her beauty, in the pride of her success, in a cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and admiration, of the desires she had aroused, of the completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart.
She left about four o’clock in the morning. Since midnight her husband had been dozing in a deserted little room, in company with three other men whose wives were having a good time. He threw over her shoulders the garments he had brought for them to go home in, modest everyday clothes, whose poverty clashed with the beauty of the ball-dress. She was conscious of this and was anxious to hurry away, so that she should not be noticed by the other women putting on their costly furs.
Loisel restrained her.
“Wait a little. You’ll catch cold in the open. I’m going to fetch a cab.”
But she did not listen to him and rapidly descended the staircase. When they were out in the street they could not find a cab; they began to look for one, shouting at the drivers whom they saw passing in the distance.
They walked down towards the Seine, desperate and shivering. At last they found on the quay one of those old nightprowling carriages which are only to be seen in Paris after dark, as though they were ashamed of their shabbiness in the daylight.
It brought them to their door in the Rue des Martyrs, and sadly they walked up to their own apartment. It was the end, for her. As for him, he was thinking that he must be at the office at ten.
She took off the garments in which she had wrapped her shoulders, so as to see herself in all her glory before the mirror. But suddenly she uttered a cry. The necklace was no longer round her neck!
“What’s the matter with you?” asked her husband, already half undressed.
She turned towards him in the utmost distress.
“I . . . I . . . I’ve no longer got Madame Forestier’s necklace. . . .”
He started with astonishment.
“What! . . . Impossible!”
They searched in the folds of her dress, in the folds of the coat, in the pockets, everywhere. They could not find it.
“Are you sure that you still had it on when you came away from the ball?” he asked.
“Yes, I touched it in the hall at the Ministry.”
“But if you had lost it in the street, we should have heard it fall.”
“Yes. Probably we should. Did you take the number of the cab?”
“No. You didn’t notice it, did you?”
They stared at one another, dumbfounded. At last Loisel put on his clothes again.
“I’ll go over all the ground we walked,” he said, “and see if I can’t find it.”
And he went out. She remained in her evening clothes, lacking strength to get into bed, huddled on a chair, without volition or power of thought.
Her husband returned about seven. He had found nothing.
He went to the police station, to the newspapers, to offer a reward, to the cab companies, everywhere that a ray of hope impelled him.
She waited all day long, in the same state of bewilderment at this fearful catastrophe.
Loisel came home at night, his face lined and pale; he had discovered nothing.
“You must write to your friend,” he said, “and tell her that you’ve broken the clasp of her necklace and are getting it mended. That will give us time to look about us.”
She wrote at his dictation.
By the end of a week they had lost all hope.
Loisel, who had aged five years, declared:
“We must see about replacing the diamonds.”
Next day they took the box which had held the necklace and went to the jewellers whose name was inside. He consulted his books.
“It was not I who sold this necklace, Madame; I must have merely supplied the clasp.”
Then they went from jeweller to jeweller, searching for another necklace like the first, consulting their memories, both ill with remorse and anguish of mind.
In a shop at the Palais-Royal they found a string of diamonds which seemed to them exactly like the one they were looking for. It was worth forty thousand francs. They were allowed to have it for thirty-six thousand.
They begged the jeweller not to sell it for three days. And they arranged matters on the understanding that it would be taken back for thirty-four thousand francs, if the first one were found before the end of February.
Loisel possessed eighteen thousand francs left to him by his father. He intended to borrow the rest.
He did borrow it, getting a thousand from one man, five hundred from another, five louis here, three louis there. He gave notes of hand, entered into ruinous agreements, did business with usurers and the whole tribe of money-lenders. He mortgaged the whole remaining years of his existence, risked his signature without even knowing if he could honour it, and, appalled at the agonising face of the future, at the black misery about to fall upon him, at the prospect of every possible physical privation and moral torture, he went to get the new necklace and put down upon the jeweller’s counter thirty-six thousand francs.
When Madame Loisel took back the necklace to Madame Forestier, the latter said to her in a chilly voice:
“You ought to have brought it back sooner; I might have needed it.”
She did not, as her friend had feared, open the case. If she had noticed the substitution, what would she have thought? What would she have said? Would she not have taken her for a thief?
Madame Loisel came to know the ghastly life of abject poverty. From the very first she played her part heroically. This fearful debt must be paid off. She would pay it. The servant was dismissed. They changed their flat; they took a garret under the roof.
She came to know the heavy work of the house, the hateful duties of the kitchen. She washed the plates, wearing out her pink nails on the coarse pottery and the bottoms of pans. She washed the dirty linen, the shirts and dish-cloths, and hung them out to dry on a string; every morning she took the dustbin down into the street and carried up the water, stopping on each landing to get her breath. And, clad like a poor woman, she went to the fruiterer, to the grocer, to the butcher, a basket on her arm, haggling, insulted, fighting for every wretched halfpenny of her money.
Every month notes had to be paid off, others renewed, time gained.
Her husband worked in the evenings at putting straight a merchant’s accounts, and often at night he did copying at twopence-halfpenny a page.
And this life lasted ten years.
At the end of ten years everything was paid off, everything, the usurer’s charges and the accumulation of superimposed interest.
Madame Loisel looked old now. She had become like all the other strong, hard, coarse women of poor households. Her hair was badly done, her skirts were awry, her hands were red. She spoke in a shrill voice, and the water slopped all over the floor when she scrubbed it. But sometimes, when her husband was at the office, she sat down by the window and thought of that evening long ago, of the ball at which she had been so beautiful and so much admired.
What would have happened if she had never lost those jewels. Who knows? Who knows? How strange life is, how fickle! How little is needed to ruin or to save!
One Sunday, as she had gone for a walk along the Champs-Elysees to freshen herself after the labours of the week, she caught sight suddenly of a woman who was taking a child out for a walk. It was Madame Forestier, still young, still beautiful, still attractive.
Madame Loisel was conscious of some emotion. Should she speak to her? Yes, certainly. And now that she had paid, she would tell her all. Why not?
She went up to her.
“Good morning, Jeanne.”
The other did not recognise her, and was surprised at being thus familiarly addressed by a poor woman.
“But . . . Madame . . .” she stammered. “I don’t know . . . you must be making a mistake.”
“No . . . I am Mathilde Loisel.”
Her friend uttered a cry.
“Oh! . . . my poor Mathilde, how you have changed! . . .”
“Yes, I’ve had some hard times since I saw you last; and many sorrows . . . and all on your account.”
“On my account! . . . How was that?”
“You remember the diamond necklace you lent me for the ball at the Ministry?”
“Well, I lost it.”
“How could you? Why, you brought it back.”
“I brought you another one just like it. And for the last ten years we have been paying for it. You realise it wasn’t easy for us; we had no money. . . . Well, it’s paid for at last, and I’m glad indeed.”
Madame Forestier had halted.
“You say you bought a diamond necklace to replace mine?”
“Yes. You hadn’t noticed it? They were very much alike.”
And she smiled in proud and innocent happiness.
Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took her two hands.
“Oh, my poor Mathilde! But mine was imitation. It was worth at the very most five hundred francs! . . . ”
China: Four arrested for spreading doomsday rumours, police warns of punishment
Beijing, 15 Dec. 2012 Police in China’s Chongqing city have arrested four people for spreading doomsday rumours that the world will end on December 21 this year. Two men allegedly used a loudspeaker to proclaim the end of the world on the city’s streets on Sunday while another two allegedly distributed related pamphlets.
They were given 10 days of administrative detention, state-run Xinhua news agency reported quoting local officials. Rumours stating that the world will end on December 21, 2012 are popular in China, despite having debunked multiple times.
The rumour is related to myths stating that a calendar used by the ancient Maya accurately predicts the end of the world. Police said local residents should abide by the law and refrain from spreading doomsday rumours. Punishments will be given to those who disseminate rumours in order to cause trouble, defraud others or disturb social order, the statement said. Source: CNN.IBN World
Braving the bitter cold, I travelled more than seven hundred miles back to the old home I had left over twenty years before.
It was late winter. As we drew near my former home the day became overcast and a cold wind blew into the cabin of our boat, while all one could see through the chinks in our bamboo awning were a few desolate villages, void of any sign of life, scattered far and near under the sombre yellow sky. I could not help feeling depressed.
Ah! Surely this was not the old home I had remembered for the past twenty years?
The old home I remembered was nor in the least like this. My old home was much better. But if you asked me to recall its peculiar charm or describe its beauties, I had no clear impression, no words to describe it. And now it seemed this was all there was to it. Then I rationalized the matter to myself, saying: Home was always like this, and although it has not improved, still it is not so depressing as I imagine; it is only my mood that has changed, because I am coming back to the country this time with no illusions.
This time I had come with the sole object of saying goodbye. The old house our clan had lived in for so many years had already been sold to another family, and was to change hands before the end of the year. I had to hurry there before New Year’s Day to say goodbye for ever to the familiar old house, and to move my family to another place where I was working, far from my old home town.
At dawn on the second day I reached the gateway of my home. Broken stems of withered grass on the roof, trembling in the wind, made very clear the reason why this old house could not avoid changing hands. Several branches of our clan had probably already moved away, so it was unusually quiet. By the time I reached the house my mother was already at the door to welcome me, and my eight-year-old nephew, Hung-erh, rushed out after her.
Though mother was delighted, she was also trying to hide a certain feeling of sadness. She told me to sit down and rest and have some tea, letting the removal wait for the time being. Hung-erh, who had never seen me before, stood watching me at a distance.
But finally we had to talk about the removal. I said that rooms had already been rented elsewhere, and I had bought a little furniture; in addition it would be necessary to sell all the furniture in the house in order to buy more things. Mother agreed, saying that the luggage was nearly all packed, and about half the furniture that could not easily be moved had already been sold. Only it was difficult to get people to pay up.
“You must rest for a day or two, and call on our relatives, and then we can go,” said mother.
“Then there is Jun-tu. Each time he comes here he always asks after you, and wants very much to see you again. I told him the probable date of your return home, and he may be coming any time.”
At this point a strange picture suddenly flashed into my mind: a golden moon suspended in a deep blue sky and beneath it the seashore, planted as far as the eye could see with jade-green watermelons, while in their midst a boy of eleven or twelve, wearing a silver necklet and grasping a steel pitchfork in his hand, was thrusting with all his might at a zha which dodged the blow and escaped between his legs.
This boy was Jun-tu. When I first met him he was just over ten—that was thirty years ago, and at that time my father was still alive and the family well off, so I was really a spoilt child. That year it was our family’s turn to take charge of a big ancestral sacrifice, which came round only once in thirty years, and hence was an important one. In the first month the ancestral images were presented and offerings made, and since the sacrificial vessels were very fine and there was such a crowd of worshippers, it was necessary to guard against theft. Our family had only one part-time labourer. (In our district we divide labourers into three classes: those who work all the year for one family are called full-timers; those who are hired by the day are called dailies; and those who farm their own land and only work for one family at New Year, during festivals or when rents are being collected are called part-timers.) And since there was so much to be done, he told my father that he would send for his son Jun-tu to look after the sacrificial vessels.
When my father gave his consent I was overjoyed, because I had long since heard of Jun-tu and knew that he was about my own age, born in the intercalary month,1 and when his horoscope was told it was found that of the five elements that of earth was lacking, so his father called him Jun-tu (Intercalary Earth). He could set traps and catch small birds.
I looked forward every day to New Year, for New Year would bring Jun-tu. At last, when the end of the year came, one day mother told me that Jun-tu had come, and I flew to see him. He was standing in the kitchen. He had a round, crimson face and wore a small felt cap on his head and a gleaming silver necklet round his neck, showing that his father doted on him and, fearing he might die, had made a pledge with the gods and buddhas, using the necklet as a talisman. He was very shy, and I was the only person he was not afraid of. When there was no one else there, he would talk with me, so in a few hours we were fast friends.
I don’t know what we talked of then, but I remember that Jun-tu was in high spirits, saying that since he had come to town he had seen many new things.
The next day I wanted him to catch birds.
“Can’t be done,” he said. “It’s only possible after a heavy snowfall. On our sands, after it snows, I sweep clear a patch of ground, prop up a big threshing basket with a short stick, and scatter husks of grain beneath. When the birds come there to eat, I tug a string tied to the stick, and the birds are caught in the basket. There are all kinds: wild pheasants,. woodcocks, wood-pigeons, ‘blue-backs’. . . .”
Accordingly I looked forward very eagerly to snow.
“Just now it is too cold,” said Jun-tu another time, “but you must come to our place in summer. In the daytime we’ll go to the seashore to look for shells, there are green ones and red ones, besides ‘scare-devil’ shells and ‘buddha’s hands.’ In the evening when dad and I go to see to the watermelons, you shall come too.”
“Is it to look out for thieves?”
“No. If passers-by are thirsty and pick a watermelon, folk down our way don’t consider it as stealing. What we have to look out for are badgers, hedgehogs and zha. When under the moonlight you hear the crunching sound made by the zha when it bites the melons, then you take your pitchfork and creep stealthily over. . . .”
I had no idea then what this thing called zha was—and I am not much clearer now for that matter—but somehow I felt it was something like a small dog, and very fierce.
“Don’t they bite people?”
“You have a pitchfork. You go across, and when you see it you strike. It’s a very cunning creature and will rush towards you and get away between your legs. Its fur is as slippery as oil. . . .”
I had never known that all these strange things existed: at the seashore there were shells all colours of the rainbow; watermelons were exposed to such danger, yet all I had known of them before was that they were sold in the greengrocer’s.
“On our shore, when the tide comes in, there are lots of jumping fish, each with two legs like a frog. . . .”
Jun-tu’s mind was a treasure-house of such strange lore, all of it outside the ken of my former friends. They were ignorant of all these things and, while Jun-tu lived by the sea, they like me could see only the four corners of the sky above the high courtyard wall.
Unfortunately, a month after New Year Jun-tu had to go home. I burst into teats and he took refuge in the kitchen, crying and refusing to come out, until finally his father carried him off. Later he sent me by his father a packet of shells and a few very beautiful feathers, and I sent him presents once or twice, but we never saw each other again.
Now that my mother mentioned him, this childhood memory sprang into life like a flash of lightning, and I seemed to see my beautiful old home. So I answered:
“Fine! And he—how is he?”
He’s not at all well off either,” said mother. And then, looking out of the door: “Here come those people again. They say they want to buy our furniture; but actually they just want to see what they can pick up. I must go and watch them.”
Mother stood up and went out. The voices of several women could he heard outside. I called Hung-erh to me and started talking to him, asking him whether he could write, and whether he would be glad to leave.
“Shall we be going by train?”
“Yes, we shall go by train.”
“We shall take a boat first.”
“Oh! Like this! With such a long moustache!” A strange shrill voice suddenly rang out.
I looked up with a start, and saw a woman of about fifty with prominent cheekbones and thin lips. With her hands on her hips, not wearing a skirt but with her trousered legs apart, she stood in front of me just like the compass in a box of geometrical instruments.
I was flabbergasted.
“Don’t you know me? Why, I have held you in my arms!”
I felt even more flabbergasted. Fortunately my mother came in just then and said:
“He has been away so long, you must excuse him for forgetting. You should remember,” she said to me, “this is Mrs. Yang from across the road. . . . She has a beancurd shop.”
Then, to be sure, I remembered. When I was a child there was a Mrs. Yang who used to sit nearly all day long in the beancurd shop across the road, and everybody used to call her Beancurd Beauty. She used to powder herself, and her cheekbones were not so prominent then nor her lips so thin; moreover she remained seated all the time, so that I had never noticed this resemblance to a compass. In those days people said that, thanks to her, that beancurd shop did very good business. But, probably on account of my age, she had made no impression on me, so that later I forgot her entirely. However, the Compass was extremely indignant and looked at me most contemptuously, just as one might look at a Frenchman who had never heard of Napoleon or an American who had never heard of Washington, and smiling sarcastically she said:
“You had forgotten? Naturally I am beneath your notice. . . .”
“Certainly not . . . I . . .” I answered nervously, getting to my feet.
“Then you listen to me, Master Hsun. You have grown rich, and they are too heavy to move, so you can’t possibly want these old pieces of furniture any more. You had better let me take them away. Poor people like us can do with them.”
“I haven’t grown rich. I must sell these in order to buy. . . .”
“Oh, come now, you have been made the intendant of a circuit, how can you still say you’re not rich? You have three concubines now, and whenever you go out it is in a big sedan-chair with eight bearers. Do you still say you’re not rich? Hah! You can’t hide anything from me.”
Knowing there was nothing I could say, I remained silent.
“Come now, really, the more money people have the more miserly they get, and the more miserly they are the more money they get . . .” remarked the Compass, turning indignantly away and walking slowly off, casually picking up a pair of mother’s gloves and stuffing them into her pocket as she went out.
After this a number of relatives in the neighbourhood came to call. In the intervals between entertaining them I did some packing, and so three or four days passed.
One very cold afternoon, I sat drinking tea after lunch when I was aware of someone coming in, and turned my head to see who it was. At the first glance I gave an involuntary start, hastily stood up and went over to welcome him.
The newcomer was Jun-tu. But although I knew at a glance that this was Jun-tu, it was not the Jun-tu I remembered. He had grown to twice his former size. His round face, once crimson, had become sallow, and acquired deep lines and wrinkles; his eyes too had become like his father’s, the rims swollen and red, a feature common to most peasants who work by the sea and are exposed all day to the wind from the ocean. He wore a shabby felt cap and just one very thin padded jacket, with the result that he was shivering from head to foot. He carried a paper package and a long pipe, nor was his hand the plump red hand I remembered, but coarse and clumsy and chapped, like the bark of a pine tree.
Delighted as I was, I did not know how to express myself, and could only say:
“Oh! Jun-tu—so it’s you? . . .”
After this there were so many things I wanted to talk about, they should have poured out like a string of beads: woodcocks, jumping fish, shells, zha. . . . But I was tongue-tied, unable to put all I was thinking into words.
He stood there, mixed joy and sadness showing on his face. His lips moved, but not a sound did he utter. Finally, assuming a respectful attitude, he said clearly:
“Master! . . .”
I felt a shiver run through me; for I knew then what a lamentably thick wall had grown up between us. Yet I could not say anything.
He turned his head to call:
“Shui-sheng, bow to the master.” Then he pulled forward a boy who had been hiding behind his back, and this was just the Jun-tu of twenty years before, only a little paler and thinner, and he had no silver necklet.
“This is my fifth,” he said. “He’s not used to company, so he’s shy and awkward.”
Mother came downstairs with Hung-erh, probably after hearing our voices.
“I got your letter some time ago, madam,” said Jun-tu. “I was really so pleased to know the master was coming back. . . .”
“Now, why are you so polite? Weren’t you playmates together in the past?” said mother gaily. “You had better still call him Brother Hsun as before.”
“Oh, you are really too. . . . What bad manners that would be. I was a child then and didn’t understand.” As he was speaking Jun-tu motioned Shui-sheng to come and bow, but the child was shy, and stood stock-still behind his father.
“So he is Shui-sheng? Your fifth?” asked mother. “We are all strangers, you can’t blame him for feeling shy. Hung-erh had better take him Out to play.”
When Hung-eth heard this he went over to Shui-sheng, and Shui-sheng went out with him, entirely at his ease. Mother asked Jun-tu to sir down, and after a little hesitation he did so; then leaning his long pipe against the table he handed over the paper package, saying:
“In winter there is nothing worth bringing; but these few beans we dried ourselves, if you will excuse the liberty, sir.”
When I asked him how things were with him, he just shook his head.
“In a very bad way. Even my sixth can do a little work, but still we haven’t enough to eat . . . and then there is no security . . . all sorts of people want money, there is no fixed rule . . . and the harvests are bad. You grow things, and when you take them to sell you always have to pay several taxes and lose money, while if you don’t try to sell, the things may go bad. . .”
He kept shaking his head; yet, although his face was lined with wrinkles, not one of them moved, just as if he were a stone statue. No doubt he felt intensely bitter, but could not express himself. After a pause he took up his pipe and began to smoke in silence.
From her chat with him, mother learned that he was busy at home and had to go back the next day; and since he had had no lunch, she told him to go to the kitchen and fry some rice for himself.
After he had gone out, mother and I both shook our heads over his hard life: many children, famines, taxes, soldiers, bandits, officials and landed gentry, all had squeezed him as dry as a mummy. Mother said that we should offer him all the things we were not going to take away, letting him choose for himself.
That afternoon he picked out a number of things: two long tables, four chairs, an incense burner and candlesticks, and one balance. He also asked for all the ashes from the stove (in our part we cook over straw, and the ashes can be used to fertilize sandy soil), saying that when we left he would come to take them away by boat.
That night we talked again, but not of anything serious; and the next morning he went away with Shui-sheng.
After another nine days it was time for us to leave. Jun-tu came in the morning. Shui-sheng did not come with him—he had just brought a little girl of five to watch the boat. We were very busy all day, and had no time to talk. We also had quite a number of visitors, some to see us off, some to fetch things, and some to do both. It was nearly evening when we left by boat, and by that time everything in the house, however old or shabby, large or small, fine or coarse, had been cleared away.
As we set off, in the dusk, the green mountains on either side of the river became deep blue, receding towards the stern of the boat.
Hung-erh and I, leaning against the cabin window, were looking out together at the indistinct scene outside, when suddenly he asked:
“Uncle, when shall we go back?”
“Go back? Do you mean that before you’ve left you want to go back?”
“Well, Shui-sheng has invited me to his home. . .”
He opened wide his black eyes in anxious thought.
Mother and I both felt rather sad, and so Jun-tu’s name came up again. Mother said that ever since our family started packing up, Mrs. Yang from the beancurd shop had come over every day, and the day before in the ash-heap she had unearthed a dozen bowls and plates, which after some discussion she insisted must have been buried there by Jun-tu, so that when he came to remove the ashes he could take them home at the same rime. After making this discovery Mrs. Yang was very pleased with herself, and flew off raking the dog-teaser with her. (The dog-teaser is used by poultry keepers in our parts. It is a wooden cage inside which food is put, so that hens can stretch their necks in to eat but dogs can only look on furiously.) And it was a marvel, considering the size of her feet, how fast she could run.
I was leaving the old house farther and farther behind, while the hills and rivers of my old home were also receding gradually ever farther in the distance. But I felt no regret. I only felt that all round me was an invisible high wall, cutting me off from my fellows, and this depressed me thoroughly. The vision of that small hero with the silver necklet among the watermelons had formerly been as clear as day, but now it suddenly blurred, adding to my depression.
Mother and Hung-erh fell asleep.
I lay down, listening to the water rippling beneath the boat, and knew that I was going my way. I thought: although there is such a barrier between Jun-tu and myself, the children still have much in common, for wasn’t Hung-erh thinking of Shui-sheng just now? I hope they will not he like us, that they will not allow a barrier to grow up between them. But again I would not like them, because they want to be akin, all to have a treadmill existence like mine, nor to suffer like Jun-ru until they become stupefied, nor yet, like others, to devote all their energies to dissipation. They should have a new life, a life we have never experienced.
The access of hope made me suddenly afraid. When Jun-tu asked for the incense burner and candlesticks I had laughed up my sleeve at him, to think that he still worshipped idols and could not put them out of his mind. Yet what I now called hope was no more than an idol I had created myself. The only difference was that what he desired was close at hand, while what I desired was less easily realized.
As I dozed, a stretch of jade-green seashore spread itself before my eyes, and above a round golden moon hung in a deep blue sky. I thought: hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is just like roads across the earth. For actually the earth had no roads to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made.
———————————————————-My old home
———————————————————————- by Lu Xun (1881-1936)
1. The Chinese lunar calendar reckons 360 days to a year, and each month comprises 29 or 30 days, never 31. Hence every few years a 13th, or intercalary, month is inserted in the calendar.
Countess of Lovelace was born today in 1815, the only child of Lord Byron and his wife, Annabella. Born Augusta Ada Byron, but now known simply as Ada Lovelace, she wrote the world’s first computer programmes for the Analytical Engine. Ada suggested that the Analytical Engine “might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent”. She died, aged only 36, of cancer and bloodletting by her physicians.
Ada Lovelace is the world’s first computer programmer.
Happy birthday, Ada before a woman!
“I’m grateful to the people who are allowing me to exist. I wake up every morning knowing that my voice is heard. I do realise it’s a great responsibility. I have the power to change, change at least some little things, some little old dominating ways of thinking…”
Check out our conversation here
…We live not according to reasons but according to fashion. All right, I tell you what I’m wearing today. A basic cotton shirt with a cardigan, shawl, sweater plus a great, light brown throw-over. I know, I’m over-doing the layered clothing trend and I look like a top-heavy Siberian bear ready to disappear into my den for several months to hibernate. The truth is I like to turn off the heater in my room when I sit down at my desk to write. I just enjoy cold thoughts more, and in northern Europe where I live, these thoughts can be like FREEZING in the winter. Anyway, I was talking about the idea “layered”.
You need to go back to an ultra short story of mine, A Science of Discontent. Open the link and read the post first before you decide to exit or go on to finish reading me.
Now you know something about this weird place called Betty’s planet. You may think: “Wtf. What’s she doing? I don’t get it.” Don’t worry, I get “I don’t get it” often. I’m going to peel off my Siberian layers to show you some heavenly pearls around my neck —
Here are some clues for you to understand our brilliant Betty Turandu and her home.
1. Pythagoras: Harmony of the Spheres.
2. Cicero’s classic piece Scipio’s dream & the near-death experience
[*Bernard Field, in the preface to his History of Science Fiction, cited Scipio’s vision of the Earth as seen from a big height as a forerunner of modern science fiction writers describing the experience of flying in orbit — particularly noting the similarity between Scipio’s realization that Rome is but a small part of the Earth with similar feeling by characters in Arthur C. Clarke’s works. —Wikipedia]
3. Listen to W A Mozart’s version of the “soul journey”. Wolfgang composed the opera when he was 15.
“A woman’s dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view.” So I design my layered dreams. I like classics, they are always modern.
Doorknobs & BodyPaint online issue #68, theme Halloween & All Saints.
For the science fiction section, Editor Doug Mathewson published a foxy gold story by Julie O’Yang.
Click & read: http://www.iceflow.com/doorknobs/writers/JOYANG.html. Pls 2nd click A Science of Discontent. The website works a little too foxy labyrinthine even for the foxy brilliant me. So if you walk around Planet Lei Ying and lose your way, please follow my fox sharp hot smell and come back right here to see the rest of my post.
Have a foxy, smelly day!
A Science of Discontent
—An ultra sf story by Julie O’Yang
It’s July in the year of Our Lord 3888. The Sun shines on Planet Scipio, home of Rigid Economists and Prophets, two last human clans who are rulers of all. The moonshine, the cicada’s song is a lullaby, romances – which victims of the virus euphorically call “the Sovereign Cloud”. Humans also rule Time; they don’t die. On Scipio, you can stretch 1 minute to eternity if you enjoy shopping for instance. One asks why shopping particularly. A priest from the Rigid Economists clan would read aloud from his ancient Numidian Bible: “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. Relativity.” No-one would ask anything anymore, because he risks shopping for the rest of his life due to an irreversible mistake made in the history of encoding the DNA of Eternity. The shops look like toy temples and shrines in perpectual carnival gloss, built to entertain kids. Scipio’ans love kids.
Betty Turandu Lei Ying belongs to the Prophets, the hostile clan characterised by elfin posture combined with their giant heads, which is the only body part that has struggled to keep its original size during collective shrinking. The legend goes that a clan leader in the past summoned everybody to shrink as a response to scarcity. Terrible stories. Ever since then storage spaces have been filled to the brim, even during Scarlet Season when wild fires flare across the high lands. The secret? Betty knows the one secret – an unspoken riddle – which is nevertheless crucial to the life on Planet Scipio. “There is no escape – we pay for the violence of our ancestors,” Betty Turandu knows by her nine-year-old heart. “What if the Prophecy is true? The feared truth named Businessman Dave Wheeler.”
The man who got rich by selling millions of little bars of soap. One day he will come to the Prophets to launder their brains in his notorious washing machine and destroy the piece of evidence that Businessman Dave Wheeler is a real thing.
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