Sunday, February 28, 2010

Inching forward

I'm slowly getting things done. Never as quickly as I'd like, but it's solid progress. I finished re-reading the bible of eastern papermaking, and felt relieved that it exists b/c it's so good and almost all of it can be applied to Korean papermaking. I loved this quote, b/c it's similar to what my teachers told me in Korea:
I am reminded of an important visit with one of my teachers in Japan. Together we were looking at a book the Japanese government had recently published to help preserve the craft of making his traditional paper. The amount of detail in the government report was astounding. Data on water quality, weather, soil conditions, equipment, tools, and papermaking procedures were all carefully presented. Not a stone seemed left unturned. I asked the artisan, "Kubota-san, aren't you concerned about this book? With it in hand, now anyone will know the details of your craft and be able to make your paper." He was quiet for a moment, then he looked me in the eye and said firmly, "You have to realize this book is almost useless." I was a little surprised. "Why do you say that?" I said. "They've covered everything...." "Barretto-san, you can show a photograph of a drying brush, and you can print a perfect drawing of it in a book like this, but you cannot describe the slightly changing position of a person's hand as he brushes a damp sheet on a board. That, and all the other unspoken things that are essential to making my paper, can only be passed directly from one person to another, as they work together. That is the only way the craft can be preserved. You cannot learn the essence of it from a book, and it is foolish to think you can."

--Tim Barrett, Japanese Papermaking: Traditions, Tools, and Techniques

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Irritable, waiting

I feel badly about being unwilling to talk to people, tired of being asked when Ben is leaving and how I am doing and probably I'm fine, right, since I have so much to keep me busy? The tricky thing being that these people are going to be my support net when he does leave so I can't be completely detached. But most of my energy is going towards work and living with a chronic condition that flares up with stress, so I am a big ball of itchy ALL THE TIME now. But thank goodness I live in an era where smallpox is not a threat to me, since I wouldn't be allowed to get a vaccine.

But on the bright side, I'm done with another book and am hoping to finish a required reading (aka papermaking text) this weekend before settling into an assigned one (Ben's helping w/email prompts and reading suggestions, which I am trying to speed through while he's here, though I have to be working on three other articles simultaneously). This was my favorite quote from the last book:
There are two words whose meanings reflect our somewhat warped attitudes toward levels of commitment to physical or mental activities. These are the terms amateur and dilettante. Nowadays these labels are slightly derogatory. An amateur or a dilettante is someone not quite up to par, a person not to be taken very seriously, one whose performance falls short of professional standards. But originally, "amateur," from the Latin verb amare, "to love," referred to a person who loved what he was doing. Similarly a "dilettante," from the Latin delectare, "to find delight in," was someone who enjoyed a given activity. The earliest meanings of these words therefore drew attention to experiences rather than accomplishments; they described the subjective rewards individuals gained from doing things, instead of focusing on how well they were achieving. Nothing illustrates as clearly our changing attitudes toward the value of experience as the fate of these two words. There was a time when it was admirable to be an amateur poet or a dilettante scientist, because it meant that the quality of life could be improved by engaging in such activities. But increasingly the emphasis has been to value behavior over subjective states; what is admired is success, achievement, the quality of performance rather than the quality of experience. Consequently it has become embarrassing to be called a dilettante, even though to be a dilettante is to achieve what counts most--the enjoyment one's actions provide.

--Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow
I know there are light and dark sides to everything, including the dangers of rabid amateurs (like dentists who are history buffs who think they are entitled to dictate the content of student textbooks while driven by very clear ulterior motives). But I still remember learning the real meaning of "professional." It's getting paid to so something, but has nothing to do with how you actually behave. After I figured that out, I lost interest in being a professional anything.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I love this trip's pics

My favorite sign near ByWard Market, just a minute or two from our hotel. Inside the market, we got super yummy bubble tea and I was tempted to buy TONS of loose tea, but I didn't, since I'm lazy about drinking loose tea.

More ice sculptures. I didn't realize until I saw them that they have to work with big bricks of ice and that it's not just one HUGE hunk that they carve.

Yesterday was Ontario's Family Day, and Rideau Canal was full of people, skating and not. Ben and I are not avid skaters, so we skipped it.

Besides, it was COLD! This was after we drove in--I asked Ben to take me to Gatineau first... see the Afghanistan exhibit at the Civilization Museum (obviously, this is not part of that exhibit). When I found out it was there, AND that they had that gold crown (the one that apparently is very similar to specific Korean gold crowns) from the Tillya Tepe excavation, I had to go. It was quite crowded, but I loved the pieces. The gold work was luscious. There were SO many little hearts!

.This is a more realistic shot of how tiny the parade in Chinatown was: the truck w/a drummer starts it, and the dragon tail ends it. The three performers (two lion dancers and one person in a tiger suit) are inside the Ben Ben Restaurant wishing it good luck. Apparently the parade stopped at any new businesses to wish them well.

We stopped watching in a hunt for very satisfying Vietnamese food,

in an attempt to recover from the decadent dinner from the night before. I did not drink that entire beer by myself, but I ate a lot of food.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rejuvenated by Canada

We've eaten four so far; two left.

Happy year of the tiger! This was the tiny parade we saw today in Chinatown while walking to find a good Vietnamese place where we stuffed ourselves.

Winterlude! We didn't skate, but we did set foot onto the crowded canal. Ottawa was beautiful and cold and just what we needed to process V Day, the new year, Presidents Day, and Mardi Gras tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A truce with ugly

I spent two hours walking over three miles to mail an app at the post office (this pic is from weeks ago, though). I figured that 22 degrees that "feels like" 15 was the warmest I'd get for the trek and didn't want to wait until tomorrow for the car b/c the holiday falls next week on the deadline. It's ugly there, and ugly back, though I cut through trails and woods and deep snow on the way home. At the same place where I was offered a ride before, a nice man with Alaska plates slowed to say he felt sorry for me walking on the side of the road (I am positive that it is a sorry sight), and though it's hard to trust people, he'd be very happy to give me a ride. I was almost home so I declined, but it made my day. I talked to my sister about the walk and she said, so it was a nice walk on country roads and I said, no way! It's ugly but I have come to a peace with the ugly: it's here to stay so there's no need to spend energy on wishing it to go away.

Last night I bucked up and edited the first item to show up on an internet search for hanji, b/c the previous entry was somewhat misleading. It still needs a ton of work but at least I'm making progress.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Mostly odd ends

I had a years-too-late realization that I don't have to work on the weekends. Meaning, it's okay not to touch my email, or other "action items" on my computer. And it's okay not to open the computer. So this weekend I finished reading a book that made me laugh aloud at this point:
Many years ago, when I was writing editorials for the New York Herald Tribune, the editor of the page was a huge and choleric man from Texas named L. L. Engelking. I respected him because he had no pretense and hated undue circling around a subject. Every morning we would all meet to discuss what editorials we would like to write for the next day and what position we would take. Frequently we weren't quite sure, especially the writer who was an expert on Latin America.

"What about that coup in Uruguay?" the editor would ask.

"I could represent progress for the economy," the writer would reply, "or then again it might destabilize the whole political situation. I supposed I could mention the possible benefits and then--"

"Well," the man from Texas would break in, "let's not go peeing down both legs."

It was a plea he made often, and it was the most inelegant advice I ever received. But over a long career of writing reviews and columns and trying to make a point I felt strongly about, it was also probably the best.

--William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Monday, February 01, 2010

Escaping the cage

I was so happy to see Velma's car when I pulled into her driveway. I took my time today going outside to clean the snow off of Ben's car. I was embarrassed once I got out, b/c all the other cars were gone and the lot was plowed, except for the space around his (since all the soldiers went to work while I was sleeping). There was a LOT of snow and I did the best I could (I couldn't reach everything up top) and then backed the car into a clean spot. I got inside and knew I had to make a getaway b/c I wanted to get away from the construction and snow plow guys for fear of looking like an obvious outsider in a very turquoise coat.

I had done such a crappy job of cleaning off the important parts of the car that I thought that my wiper fluid was frozen. Velma helped me when I left, opening the hood, checking the fluid (low but still there), adding some more, and then getting rid of the ice and snow that was blocking the nozzle. Voila! She also taught me the cleaning the headlights w/snow trick, after I stupidly sprayed her w/wiper fluid as she stood next to the car as I gleefully kept wiping the windshield clean. The ride home was a little scary in the dark, but I made it back safely and was relieved to find that they finally plowed the big mess of snow that I had left in the old parking spot.

It was SO GOOD to visit Velma today. I went first to see her daughter Hannah's photo exhibit at the arts council in Potsdam. I didn't want to go to the base post office, so I stood in a long line at the local one in Potsdam instead, feeling like a normal civilian out in the world. It's great to be able to be able to talk about all of my human frailties with her - how I've been stuck these days in a whole assortment of feelings like jealousy, mistrust, and frustration that the world isn't as good as I want it to be. Which obviously make it hard for me to work in a healthy way. But I feel better getting things off my chest to a friend in person, who gets me and the challenges of juggling as a female artist. My throat is killing me, but I am coughing a lot less so I hope it fades soon and I can get to being positive and productive this month.