Ursula K. Le Guin’s Revolutions

There was a fantastic review of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ouvre in the summer edition of Dissent by Sarah Jones.  This was by no means the first time the author’s name has come up for me.  She has been in the background of my political consciousness for some time, peeking out most recently with this piece and and the interview of Kim Stanley Robinson that was on the antifada earlier this year.

So, I was excited to dig into a copy of The Dispossessed, Le Guin’s 1974 SciFi classic last weekend after wrapping up the sometimes sentimental collection of short stories by Toshio Mori in Yokohama, California.  It is always reassuring to me to be reminded that brilliant artists such as Le Guin have always been wrestling with ideas like the abolition of state-violence, sexual liberation, and radical forms of education and government.  I expect to continue being inspired by what has started off as a genre-defying bit of genre-fiction.

Le Guin’s work is distinctive not only because it is imaginative, or because it is political, but because she thought so deeply about the work of building a future worth living.

Source: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Revolutions by Sarah Jones in Dissent (Summer 2019)

It’s Time to Retire WWII-Era Euphemisms for Japanese American Incarceration – Densho

Densho is a great organization engaged in archival work and political activism around the World War II Era Japanese-American concentration camps in the Western United States.  It’s based out of Seattle, where they have frequent events.  I look forward to learning more about this important organization and hopefully even using some of their archival materials on a future history of education project.

Another Japanese incarceration lead that I just became aware of is this novel, No No Boy by John Okada (Charles E. Tuttle, 1957).  Unfortunately I had to find out about this in a NYTimes article this week describing a copyright dispute between the Okada family and Penguin Books, who apparently treated it as part of the public domain when they published the latest edition (pictured below).


Source: It’s Time to Retire WWII-Era Euphemisms for Japanese American Incarceration – Densho: Japanese American Incarceration and Japanese Internment

Densho also has  a great article outlining the story of this book and its publication here.


The above is from WJ Ray’s website, which has a great audio recording of Kyger reading her poem, along with many other selections from the late great mid-century icon.

I was reminded of this poem, which I’m certain I read in college, by a short essay called “Listing to Port” from the Ethnopoetics blog, L U N A C I E S.

The author there also recommends an essay about Sei Shonagon (of Pillow Book fame) in the Kyoto Journal here.

My final comment:  I love how such an ordinary Japanese word “tansu,” which is a simple chest of drawers, made its way into this poem… I suppose it’s just as commonplace in Kyger’s world as psilocybin would or would not have been in those days in her cabin in upstate NY or BC or wherever she lived– was Gary Snyder around then?  Had they spent a frivolous expat year in Japan where they could snap up antique furniture on the cheap in between acid trips?  I love how Kyger’s “disaster” is adjacent to such bourgeois luxury as perfume (and the tansu)– I guess I mean I am nostalgic for time in my own life when I could retreat into the medicine cabinet, to the water bed or to the cabin in the woods.

But perhaps this poem is gesturing towards a turning point– when the poet must put away childish things and start looking for blind spots.  After all, the bear has “luckily” done away with the whole medicine cabinet.  This is hardly lucky for the hapless animal.  So, it must be a way out– a sign or an invitation to the next phase in life, whatever that may be.

Here’s to treating life’s disasters with such grace– to letting the bear sleep it all off– to taking stock of all that’s been destroyed– to finding beauty in that list.

from Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter

From Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Newsletter

“We should not think of our past as definitely settled, for we are not a
stone or a tree,” wrote poet Czeslaw Milosz. “My past changes every
minute according to the meaning given it now, in this moment.”

So, yes, you have the power to re-vision and reinterpret your past. Keep
the following question in mind as you go about your work: “How can I
recreate my history so as to make my willpower stronger, my love of life
more intense, and my future more interesting?”

Junot Díaz on Fukuoka, Japan’s Next Great Food City – Condé Nast Traveler

Author Junot Díaz, a ramen junkie, explains why Fukuoka is Japan’s next great food city—and it isn’t just about the noodles.

Díaz is also won a Pulitzer for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I am reading now.  It’s a great, high-energy book sprinkled with Spanish and Dominican History.  He also shouts out Shimokitazawa, the neighborhood in Tokyo he mentions in this piece.  I was intrigued, and when I tried to find more, I came across this article.

Source: Junot Díaz on Fukuoka, Japan’s Next Great Food City – Condé Nast Traveler

Stephen Colbert’s Story of How He Met His Wife Is As Adorable As You’d Imagine

Stephen Colbert’s Story of How He Met His Wife Is As Adorable As You’d Imagine

By Matthew Dessem

Over the long weekend, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert posted this wonderful clip from the audience Q&A to its Facebook page, in which Colbert is asked how he met his wife. His answer is far-ranging, charming, and erudite. While visiting his family in Charleston, South Carolina, to try to decide whether to marry a woman he’d been dating for years, he went to the premiere of Philip Glass and Allen Ginsberg’s chamber opera Hydrogen Jukebox at the Spoleto Festival.*His wife to be, Evelyn McGee, was there too, and the rest was history.

All love stories are the stuff of poetry, but this one has more than the usual amount: not just Ginsberg but Homer and Chuck Sullivan. Other topics addressed include the difficulty of judging sincerity in the South, home of “the Hitlers of politeness,” strawberries, line etiquette, and fateful sneezes. It’s the most romantic TV host love story since Milton Berle met Aimee Semple McPherson. Which, honestly, wasn’t very romantic at all—so if Colbert does a whole show about his courtship of his wife, he’ll lock down the title for all time.

Source: Stephen Colbert’s Story of How He Met His Wife Is As Adorable As You’d Imagine

Why We Never Die – The New York Times

I don’t think my son is old enough to experience these complicated, deep fears, but I remember very clearly when they struck.  I wonder how common this is across different cultures– how parents deal with these fears in their children– how I will handle this coming stage of my children’s intellectual development.  Is this a problem that is ever truly resolved in us?

Source: Why We Never Die – The New York Times

Podcast Episode 36: But WHY!!! Would You Learn a Language? by Fluent Language

A feedback question from James led us to discussing why we chose the languages we are learning right now.

From the email announcement about this podcast episode:

Do you think you’re a crazy person for learning a language?
Do you ever get asked why you would possibly spend your time doing this?
If you’re learning a language and you “don’t have to”, other people think you’re nuts.
Yep, totally bananas. And when you’re busy as hell and trying to sneak in 5 minutes of flashcards at the supermarket till, you may feel tempted to agree.
But I don’t think you’re crazy. I know how it feels when you first speak to someone in their own language and have genuinely made their day. It’s unbeatable to have that conversation in another language. It’s probably as close to space travel as most of us will come.


Interesting podcast and blog, which I have recently begun cluing into when a topic strikes my fancy.  Something about the comparison between language learning and space travel (the transcendent perspective both activities promise perhaps) really struck a chord with me.  From when I was very little up until I went to college I fantasized about space travel a lot, and even very seriously (to the point of visiting NASA headquarters in Washington D.C., my senior year of high school) considered pursuing a space-related career.  Eventually, through the tough reality checks provided by my undergraduate education, however, I eventually landed on English and Linguistics as a course of study.

Am I just a BAD POLYMATH?  How far do my abilities actually go to support my interests in these seemingly disparate subjects.  Or is there some kernel of who I am that has subconsciously been pursuing a common thread all along this winding educational path.  If so, what is that common thread exactly?  And what if anything does this reflective exercise I am engaged in mean for me now, as an EFL teacher, and bilingual parent?

In any event I was happy to come across this beautiful comparison between language and space travel because, on the surface at least, it seems to tie up several of my loose ends.  I have a lot of loose ends at the moment.


Source: Podcast Episode 36: But WHY!!! Would You Learn a Language? by Fluent Language