career, creative writing, libraries, LIS, psychology, writing


Given that my last hard-copy journal entry was titled PPP (Pretty Poor Productivity, which I could easily manipulate into an acronym emphasizing more completely my frustration), it seems surprising that I would come back to the blog instead of doing classwork. Especially as we’re getting set up for another heat wave, to begin tomorrow.

I’ve been intending to get my non-deliverable homework done by the end of the night, as I don’t foresee using the computer in the daylight hours between tomorrow and Monday. I also don’t want to fall behind; it’s disheartening. Tomorrow can be used to catch up on my reading (I only have 20 pages).

Beyond that, though: there’s more to be done, really, than putting one foot in front of the other. Long-term…we’ve just made a decision which may turn out to be momentous in its impact on our lives, though it’s a fall-back position. I won’t get too far into it (in public or at this time, at least), but I wanted to note it.

Right now, I’m feeling distracted. I’ve just gotten through cleaning up a bunch of stuff in the craft area; M is there now, cleaning up her things. I have been…likely distracted since a second round of paints arrived, and then there are the pens I have been talking about, which have been getting attention since maybe Thursday? Then there is the language training thing, which isn’t bad…but if the backup plan goes through, I just might be able to take in-person classes, after COVID is no longer an issue. If that ever happens.

And yes, I do suppose it’s possible that I’m a bit depressed. It’s kind of hard, not to be.

I mean, it’s kind of like, “Where am I going with my life?” I know I have strong English skill and Art skill…and some Computer-oriented skill. But I’ve spent the last 10 years figuring out what I don’t want to do, following a career path that I knew nothing about when I chose it, because of a Vocational program which — other than helping finance my schooling and giving coaching for how to apply for jobs — really may not have been all that great?…

It was good to get me into my first job. That doesn’t mean much, though, except that now I have a track record and people who know me.

The major issue for me, if this fall-back position goes through, is going to be figuring out what to do for money. Especially considering that there may not be many non-service-oriented jobs in the area. Now that I’ve mentioned that, you may realize what I’m talking about…

…and it may be more worth it for me to do some reading on psychology and anger management, and try and adapt to the world, instead of being upset when people fail to live up to my expectations (which, with the general public, is a regular-enough occurrence).

If nothing were to change, I’d be seriously considering writing and art as venues within which, to sell my labor. I suppose I can still do that. It’s just that — and this is something I’ve been dealing with for a long time — working creatively feels like a waste of my intellect.

I think I’ve gone over that in my private journal, though. It could well hold for any job, though: that working as one little cog in a machine is simpler and a waste of my talent, when I could be working on my own projects.

So maybe I really should look at being self-employed.

I’ve been having a recurring series of dreams about going back into Undergraduate training and into the Hard Sciences like I thought I would as a teenager. I just feel like I could be helping to cure diseases or something, and instead, I’ve been dealing with random hostile **** being a front-line service worker.

But — as I have been learning with XML/XPath/XSLT — if I know from the outset that I don’t like the classes, what makes me think that I’ll like the work that the classes are training me to do? What makes me think, “it gets better?” Being “cool” doesn’t get very far when I seriously have to deal with work that I dislike (and Computer Programming, I’ve found, I dislike).

The most obvious opening, for me, is becoming an author or writer or Lecturer or Professor at the University level…that’s possible, and it’s even…interesting. But that’s going back into Academia. Do I really want to do that?

When the alternative is service work or computer work, the answer is yes; when the answer is art work or writing…there’s actually a complication which occurs.

Seriously, though: do I really want to put in another 2-4 years of work to gain an MA or PhD?

(If the question is if I would do that for an MFA, the answer is an emphatic, “yes”; but then I have to pick a field. Creative Writing, or Drawing and Painting?)

And then there is the possibility of studying Japanese Language and Literature, which…I would seriously, like to do. At least, from here, I think I would like to do it.

And if I’m doing that, I might as well work in a University Library and get free tuition. Getting an additional Master’s would clear me to work in the position of an Academic Librarian, pretty much anywhere. Would I really like to do that, though (especially given that Academic Librarianship also involves teaching at the University level)?

That is — am I actually OK with going through the process of gaining tenure, or traveling around until I can do so?

But that sounds sweet, guys. That really sounds, sweet.

Like hella effin’ sweet. I’d learn to read and write in Japanese, and my reading can enhance my writing, and I’d get to help the University kids, and live in University towns for the rest of my life.

I might also be able to focus on comparative literature; at least, after that’s over. Though Comparative Literature has never really been my goal, I’ve read into at least one book (Articulations of Difference: Gender Studies and Writing in French), which was what originally whet my appetite for non-English writing.

I can’t believe it. I found a bright spot! Through writing! I love writing! :D

There are also accelerated courses at the place I’m looking at, which sounds so good! And I could get to teach at the University level, about something I’m actually interested in!

At the beginning of this post, I typed “Hypergraphia” as the title. That’s basically due to the fact that I’m just pretty obsessed with writing, as I can tell from yesterday. “Hypergraphia” is a psychological term for the compulsive desire to write. I’m pretty sure it’s what was getting me through my Creative Writing training, when I felt like writing was one of the only constants in my life. It’s also likely what I was going through, as a teen.

Of course, though: if I had a mental condition which was causing me to write compulsively, and then that condition is treated and no longer rules me…the question is, what do I do with my life, then?

Learn another language? ;) Read a whole lot? Journal? Get back to writing for its benefits without letting it drive me into the ground?

I’m feeling so much better. I’m going to end this, here…


Another fountain pen post

I am, slowly but surely, getting back to a routine. As though, you know, things weren’t…(I can’t use that word, here). For the first time in a long time, I seem to have adapted to things like not going out (and having a lot of time to waste!).

Things are getting done on my end, though fortunately or not, getting things done cuts into my blogging time. I was out of here last Friday, for example, because I needed to work all weekend on my Library Science course. (I’m not using accommodations this time, so I need to stay on top of things.) Then on Monday I was recovering, and Tuesday and Wednesday I didn’t even want to think about the computer. By Thursday (yesterday), I started studying again. Now it’s Friday morning and my eyes are burning at the computer, after I thought to myself earlier, that I didn’t have anything to write about.

I restarted my 日本語 (nihongo; Japanese language) lessons after I-don’t-know-how-many weeks, and I’m amazed at how much I remember. I still haven’t gotten back into the hang of repeating what I hear, every time I hear it; and I’m really not sure it’s necessary, at this point. (Words repeat.) I’m also starting to be able to recognize kanji along with (or even without) their readings.

I know for a fact that I’m fuzzy on terms for home interiors (I never really got “living room” vs. “kitchen”, for example: even though I did eventually find the translation icon), and might want to review that section (and write down the words, this time). Otherwise, even having lost that, I actually am making some headway (especially with number recognition — and the logic behind having different counters for everything).

The majority of yesterday…I mean, if I skip the Library Science studying (I have some things to do in order to keep up, but no deliverables this week)…has been devoted to playing around with my little set of fountain pens. I have a bunch of inexpensive-but-good ones, with a bunch of different colors of ink, and different-sized nibs. I’ve found that Pilot is my newly-preferred brand.

I’m actually appreciating my little $12 Pilot Kakuno with the Extra-Fine nib. If you want to use a lighter weight line or write anything tiny or finely, that’s one to go to (although it can have issues with paper incision, as it’s so sharp). The major annoyance I’m having with it right now, is capillary action drawing ink out of the grip section into the (transparent) cap, though I’m not sure it’s at all correctable, or just a design flaw. It might also be related to the specific ink I have in that one, right now (Iroshizuku Momiji, which is basically red with a touch of orange).

I’m also not sure how many of my other Pilot pens might have the issue, given that only one other of them (a Prera Demonstrator) is transparent at that juncture. The transparent Prera is fine. The design of the cap and section, and thus how they fit together, are just different. The Preras run around $30 to $40 online, depending on the model (Classic vs. Demonstrator) and your source, so Pilot could afford to invest in better design. They did, and it shows.

And no, I don’t know how different the more expensive models are, thanks! :) There is also the option of the Metropolitan lines (about $20 each), or the Penmanship line (about $10 each). They all use the same nibs, apparently (so says the Internet), though I haven’t tried switching them out.

There are also all the different colors of ink. I’m finding a theme in the ones I like…they aren’t simple colors, and they tend towards blue, green, and black for regular writing (meaning, not highlights or corrections). They also dry well — a reason I’m not planning on gambling with another Noodler’s ink.

I have Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses in a Broad Kaweco Sport (another inexpensive option, at least in the plastic models), which has a tendency not to dry. For a while. I understand this was likely done to preserve the interior mechanisms of the pens…but seriously, I want my ink to be able to dry. I write on the backs of my pages, and don’t want a ditto copy of my previous work, behind it.

I’m considering dumping out the rest of the ink in that pen and flushing it. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, after that: I’ve found that I prefer finer nibs, even though the novelty of the Broad nib was nice. It’s not so nice after your ink bleeds through to the backs of your pages and you can’t write anything small.

The Kaweco Sport was overtly an experiment to see whether I liked finer or bolder nibs, better — or whether I wanted a German pen, as versus a Japanese (Pilot, in this case) or Taiwanese one (TWSBI). They differ in aesthetics and intended end-use — though not as dramatically as dot-grid and lined notebooks!

I had to note to myself not to buy any more 5mm dot-grid or grid notebooks, unless I was going to use them for Japanese language practice, or drawings: 5mm spacing is way too close for most English writing (unless you’re great with a Fine or Extra Fine nib). Lines with 6mm or 7mm spacing, are workable for the size at which I normally write.

If you look at some kanji, though (try 語, for starters) you can see fairly easily why people who write in ideographic languages might prefer a finer line. It’s likely why the Japanese pens run finer in nib width than the German ones; although I do believe TWSBI uses German nibs. That would account for my TWSBI ECO with a Fine nib being about equivalent to a Pilot with a Medium nib.

I have tried LAMY; I gave an AL-Star away because I couldn’t stand being forced to push down on it and scrape it into the paper, to get it to write. It doesn’t work well for Japanese language in other than romaji, that is. For cursive English, it’s likely fine (or maybe would have been, if these things have to be broken-in. I don’t know. The one at the art store I tried later, didn’t have this issue; so I’m pretty much in the dark, here).

I also like it when the inks shade well…which is difficult to see much of the time (unless you’re using a Broad, Italic, or Stub nib), but some inks show shading (unevenness of color on the interior of one’s lines: reminiscent of watercolors) even in Fine and Medium nibs. The two I have in front of me are Pilot Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo, and Ku-jaku; which are basically blue-black with a hint of green (in a Medium nib), and greenish-blue (in a Fine nib), respectively.

I’ve had very good experiences with the Iroshizuku line of inks, so far (no trouble with dead pens or stuck ink that never comes out — or, which seals the cartridge down so fast that it snaps off rather than releasing [this happened with a Platinum Plaisir to someone close to me — luckily, the Plaisir uses the same section and cartridge as the Platinum Preppy, and so a different interior could be swapped out with no harm to the housing]), which is why I decided to get another Pilot pen. Well, two. One of them (a Metropolitan Calligraphy Medium) was around $20, the other (a Classic Prera) was around $30. I was going for inexpensive + quality, which I’m primarily gauging as “pleasant writing experience.”

So far as that goes, Pilot wins easily out of all the fountain-pen brands I’ve tried. A runner-up is TWSBI, although I’ve never used a pen of theirs higher than the ECO, and so I don’t really know if they get better. I’ve read that TWSBI’s quality control on the grind of their nibs can be hit-or-miss (that is, they can be scratchy and need “tuning”, which I’m told, likely invalidates any warranty)…which is not an issue I’ve had with Pilot. Ever. Although you still have to find the optimal writing angle (called the “sweet spot” online), particularly with Calligraphy nibs. Even the best pen isn’t going to write well if you’re using it on its side!

The thing about the TWSBI ECO line: they have integrated rubber gaskets which prevent your inks from evaporating while they’re capped. Pilot does not have this, and thus the ink in the converter (or, I would assume, cartridge [I write too much to use cartridges]) gradually evaporates and concentrates, over time. I’ve had good luck with just replenishing them (or flushing and soaking the section overnight in Pen Flush, in the case of a pen nearly drying out all the way). I was also able to take a TWSBI ECO on a plane without it leaking, so there’s that, as well.

Given what just happened to me, though: I’m not certain a converter should be soaked in Pen Flush (it appeared sediment or bacterial growth was in the converter, after a while — then disappeared with use — but this is the same pen [Kakuno] which had odor problems [skunky smell], a while back [it no longer stinks]). For the uninitiated, converters just allow you to use bottled ink instead of snap-in cartridges. Eco-friendly, yeah? (You should see how many disposable pens I’ve gone through, otherwise!)

I mean, if you really want to get into it — I’ve seen worse: like the Noodler’s Nib Creaper I got which could not be sealed off against the outside air (the top of the cap screws on!), and ended up dying from a combination of that and a tiny ink capacity. Then I was turning the piston and something decided to snap (it kept “snapping” even after I replaced the knob, so I don’t know what was up with that, and can’t remember — I just remember seeing a broken-off fragment on the inside end of the piston. It didn’t help that I couldn’t see the other end of the piston). I am not sure whether I discarded it or tried to save it…but it’s not on my list of priorities.

The one Noodler’s pen (this is a U.S. brand) I tried that I’d use again is the Ahab Flex, but that one is a bit large for my hand, meaning it can slip and roll out of my fingers. The next step down (in terms of size) in that line is the Noodler’s Konrad Flex — which leaked. Prolifically. I’m not sure if I did something wrong (there is a slot for the nib I noticed later, which maybe I overlooked); I also never tried to heat-set the feed (as was recommended online). But seriously, I didn’t get this pen to mess with it until it writes.

Anyway. The Ahab, works; it’s also able to be completely disassembled, if you really want a thorough cleaning. I’m not sure exactly how a pen would get dirty enough to warrant that, though. (Actually, I do: it gets neglected for forever and likely should just be replaced.)

Pretty much, the biggest drawback to Pilot pens is that Pilot has a tendency to recommend only Pilot inks, with them. This is the initial reason I branched out to TWSBI and Noodler’s and Kaweco. It’s just that the Pilot pens write, so nicely.

So frikkin’ nicely.

Anyhow. I should probably go to bed, right now. :) I do have some updates as regards the potential debacle with watercolor half-pans (I really should have layered the paint instead of dispensing it all at once), but who’s counting? I also had a catastrophic paint-tube failure from my M. Graham Hansa Yellow on Tuesday night, which got me to realize that one 15ml tube is likely going to fill a full pan approximately four times, or a half-pan, about eight. (I got 3.5 pans out of it, and had already dispensed approximately 0.5 pans.)

The same thing happened with the M. Graham tube as happened a while back with a few of my Liquitex tubes: the part of the cap you hold, peeled off of the part of the cap that was screwed onto the tube. AWWWWW.

And yes, I do realize (now) that M. Graham may never dry because it has honey in it!

Disclaimer: These are all my opinions without input or compensation from any company or manufacturer. I speak only for myself and for no one else, and paid for these materials with my own funds.

art, comics, creative writing, drawing, illustration, self care, sequential art

The things that bring me joy…?

Today has been another day in which M has encouraged me to think about what I really want to do, regardless of whether it pays, or not. I feel…kind of silly for what my mind snapped to, first…but it might have to do with the ethnic identity stuff that I’ve only started to become really conscious of, within the last 5 years. I’ve just recently started diving back into Japanese language study, again. I feel silly because so much of it is so basic.

If I hadn’t left my first Undergraduate University to eventually major in Creative Writing…I most likely would have majored in Japanese Language and Literature: I had a start. I’ve realized recently that my primary interface with the rest of the world (outside of family) is text-based. Having Japanese language skills opens another door onto the world that I only have really had a taste of, in English. I’ve only seen what others have seen fit to carry over into English, or which English speakers have produced.

My main issue has been what I can do with Japanese Language and Literature, other than teach Japanese…or work in a place where my bilingual capacity would be needed and appreciated, like a Japanese food store (have you tried to read the cooking instructions on any all-Japanese packaging?) or tool shop, for example. Or, I could be a translator — although face-to-face translation might be difficult for me because of social issues (race, gender, etc.) combined with obviously not being an extrovert.

However…I’m seeing more openings for the possibility of bridging cultures, now. I’m extremely grateful for the influx of materials and culture from the middle and other side of the Pacific. It’s not out of the picture that sometime in my life, I may wish to travel or stay in one of those places. Not necessarily in Japan, but somewhere safe. Not crazy (like this place is, right now), but if I could find a place to settle in peace, it would be nice. Japanese language plus English would at least give me a couple of routes where I might be able to be literate and function, overseas.

I also believe that part of what I’m dealing with is influence from East Asia through my family and what of culture has filtered through to me in English; but not knowing in-depth any East Asian languages, and having my earliest cultural contact on my Japanese-American side being Nisei (second-generation) — meaning she was missing important information — I’m missing the representations of people who may be more like myself than I imagine, in their own words. Not that I have any pretensions of being especially Japanese-from-Japan.

I know I have been raised in California. My cultural background is thus, hybrid. But there is a lot that has been passed down to me through family, and some things (like how to tie an obi) that haven’t been.

I believe I rejected wearing a maru obi at a young age because it restricted my movement. (Rage at constricting, restricting, and unnecessarily revealing clothing, has been a theme throughout my life.) Of course, the other Japanese-American kids at school probably knew I was half-dressed when I wore kimono to school improperly. My family — my nuclear family — however, seriously didn’t know better, and I suspect that my grandmother not letting me know how important an obi was, was based in passive aggression. (There were race tensions.)

In any case, I still don’t know how to properly wear a yukata (most kimono available here are either yukata [cotton summer kimono], or vintage formalwear) although I have acquired a book on it. Something like a haori or hippari (both are kinds of jackets) would be of more use here, though. Particularly, a hippari: the culture is too casual for something like a formal black haori, unless we’re going to a play or something.

On top of having so many gaps in my knowledge of family (and my own) background, is my awareness that the society I live in now isn’t the best society in the world, just because I happen to live in it. (As well, I’m aware that my ethnic background isn’t the best thing in existence, just because it’s mine…and that my beliefs aren’t necessarily true, just because they’re mine.) So…I see ideas from elsewhere, and I get curious.

It’s nice to see something different! That may be an American appreciation of diversity talking, but it’s one of the things about metropolitan American culture in which I find value.

I had to stop this post a couple of hours ago because I was getting into how I might use the skill to support myself, and totally lost interest in this entry. To be brief: book translation. To move on…?

Earliest loves. First loves.

I still have an urge to make comics. I don’t know why. I don’t know if I’d still like it if I were doing it. My issue is that…a lot of the things I feel, I feel very intensely, and so it’s hard to tone it down, sometimes. (Not toning it down, makes it difficult to sit with those feelings.) I also don’t have a lot of social interaction, which makes trying to describe social interactions as a method of explication, difficult. Third, there are a lot of potential pitfalls in the graphic novel genre.

It’s easier to communicate ideas; but there’s also the risk of creating stereotypes, which no one can (or, perhaps, should) live up to. Then you’ve got kids drawing their eyes in extra big to look like the characters, and it just…it shouldn’t be about the images.

We’re more than what we look like; what we look like doesn’t dictate who we are; and real people aren’t idealized sketches. Real people aren’t the hype; they aren’t the conglomeration of the perfect character design and the perfect voice and the perfect hair and the perfect clothes to suit a certain concept. The strength of the narrative isn’t even always about the individual characters, but it can be about how those characters interact, and the world they’re in, and what they co-create.

But…I should try getting back to this. I did just purchase an apparently Non-Photo-Blue mechanical pencil (this disappears on scanning, or can be selected out digitally), and a couple of fat Copic Multiliners for dense blacks. The reason to use the Copics rather than the Pitt Brush Pens (they seem to perform in parallel, from what little I’ve tried to do with them) is that I know that black Pitt ink (only black, so far as I know) does shift a little, under water. Copic, shouldn’t (none of my other Copic Multiliners, do) — but I haven’t tested the heavy ones, yet.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve realized that I can work pencils, I can ink; but I still haven’t gotten to the point of putting in graphic shadows, or color/shading.

I do, as well, have both a tablet and Photoshop. Not that I really want to try and produce screentones in Photoshop (or Illustrator — and not that I’ll necessarily need to), but I’ve wanted to make comic art. It’s the reason I have both of these resources. Once I actually make some images to work with, I can get Illustrator, again…but right now, it’s superfluous. I’m not to the page-layout point yet. I’m still in the Concept Art/Design/Scriptwriting phase.

And that’s OK.

My major issue is going to be whether and how to work with color…though I could do monochrome or duochrome, easily…which could be interesting. If I get deep enough into it…huh. I have just found, really, that I might want to use earthtone watercolor, as versus Copic. The Warm Greys I see, aren’t really “warm” enough, for me…and Copics are too expensive to settle for something I don’t want.

Perhaps Ultramarine + Raw Umber? (Is that latter one, the right name I’m recalling?) The two colors together create a neutral grey shade, but lean a little left or right, and you get…chromatic greys. They can be beautiful, and with these you can tip the color balance warm or cool, depending on which pigment is stronger. (It is ironic that Ultramarine Blue — at least my French Ultramarine — would likely be “warmer” than Raw Umber, because it leans violet…but then you add in Burnt Umber, and man…! I’m not sure what it would do [Burnt Umber is an earth red, while Raw Umber is bluer with yellow tones], but I want to try it!)

{EDIT, 9-1-2020: I was thinking of Burnt Sienna as an earth red; Burnt Umber is a rather plain brown.}

(For that matter, if I’m using watercolor, I have an entire arsenal at my disposal…though maybe limiting my palette could be useful, in the beginning.)

I could then clean this up in Photoshop (which might be easier than trying to block in color, digitally).

As for anything else…I want to be reading more, so that I have things to write about.

Sequential art plus writing plus reading plus Japanese? Is that what I want to be doing?

(I did mean to get into the fact that I’m attracted to working with color for some reason, but I don’t know why, and haven’t been able to place the venue for its uses…)

It certainly sounds like this is what I want. Even though part of me thinks it sounds childish, just because I’ve wanted to make a, “comic,” since I was in 9th grade (at the latest).

And, I suppose, I should not be afraid of, “illustrative,” styling…I just have to remember that I wasn’t given the gift of creativity simply to replicate reality…

God. I have the materials, and the time, and the preparation, to do this (well, mostly)…

…and I have The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Graphic Novels, here! (Just in case I want to research how other people have done stuff…)

creative writing, culture, politics, writing

Priorities, Version 3

In beginning to write this post, I took it upon myself to dig up past versions of my priorities. There are at least three other versions in this series. I seem to have circled back around to the first one. In the second, I began to consider doing what was easy (refreshing Spanish language) instead of what I was motivated to do (learning Japanese language). That…hasn’t lasted. All it took was trying to read a few kids’ books and seeing references to, specifically, “black slavery,” that pushed me over. Before I go on too long, I’ll leave a link to the third post in the series (ironically titled, “Version 2”).

I have had so many political and social and religious issues with Spanish language, and U.S. missionary and imperial politics in relation to Latin America, and exploitation of immigrant workers here — I’m not even kidding. It triggers me. I know that Japanese isn’t the same way with me, though it could easily be different if I were, say, Okinawan or Manchurian or Korean. I’m not blind to that. But Japanese language is marginally psychologically safer for me at this point, even though I’m aware that it’s still not a great thing to be of African descent, in the area.

The latter, combined with the lack of legal protection specifically against male sexual violence, has caused me to consider not ever visiting; though there are some people who aren’t racist who are (or have been) here — issei (first-generation immigrants) — who have encouraged me to go. Of course, though, they haven’t been marginalized for doing nothing except looking different. After a while one gets used to the listless, hollow stares that plagued me as a youth. That, though, is different than being actively characterized and fetishized as subjugated and inferior (or a possession) and made into a spectacle.

Of course, I do know how often people of Asian descent have to deal with that, here. I am still a part of my family, after all. I’ve also had to deal with it in my life, because no one thought to introduce me to the idea of racism (other than the knowledge that I would have to work twice as hard to be seen as equal), as a child. (Of course, neither did they introduce me to the idea that I could, and likely would, intimidate others by being underemployed.)

This is a reason why I left off of my last major writing project, when I did. I’m repairing it, though. All I have to do is address it, and complicate it, and humanize it; and possibly, I can get around just perpetuating my erroneous youthful thought.

That last paragraph may be for insiders. I’m not sure I should get into it openly, right now. It has to do with racial dynamics combined with age dynamics and gender dynamics (sometimes also with economic dynamics). If you still don’t get it…I might get into it, later. Or you might see it in a book. One or the other. Actually, probably a lot has been written about this, though I’m not sure if it’s been written from my angle.

Though I do seem to have hit a useful vein of content, here…I never intended to be a feminist writer, or, “that nonbinary author;” there’s more to me than just how my gender and sex and race and ethnicity and mental state have combined to produce conflict in this life. But hey, a lot of it is connected. And writing is a great medium to work out conflict, which…due to the complexity of the situation, I may need help with.

Also, if I take all that stuff away, what’s left visible is not even the tip of the iceberg.

I had wanted to try for Spanish to, I don’t know, not be trapped in my own cultural bubble, or not be another person who wants to become a manga superstar. (So far as I know, the sentiment is — or was — common among youth in Japan.) But. It’s pretty apparent that I grew up being influenced by Japanese anime and manga. As far as I can remember, it’s what first exposed me to the language, both in spoken and written form. Of course…there are some weird politics around learning Japanese. Maybe it wouldn’t have affected me so much after the people who just wanted to understand their J-Pop had left, which should have happened after I’d passed my introductory classes.

I didn’t keep on, to that point. Nor did I foresee a desirable future in tolerating the same environment — or dealing with what had been my world of, “Japanese culture,” (i.e. hostile nikkeijin “family” and “friends”) for the rest of my life. (I believe I’ve been told more than once by others, that they, “wanted to be Japanese,” which makes me wonder what they meant by that — and how it was that they felt their culture was inferior.) But those dynamics could have been the reason I would have been required to wake at 5:30 AM if I wanted to major in this stuff. Anime and J-Pop were trendy at the time I was trying to learn, and the Internet had just opened attention to international music that otherwise wasn’t available. However, there’s a lot more to Japan and Japanese culture, than pop culture.

I don’t want to get into race politics right now, but having to deal with unaddressed discomfort based on the makeup of the language class, the students’ seriousness, and their reasons for being there, were largely the reason I stopped taking foreign language classes. Cultural isolation was also part of the reason I left my first University. (Little did I know that cultural isolation would also be the reason I would have trouble in English classes, and also later in my Master’s program.) Then there’s the complex nature of manga-styled art online, which I don’t even feel I can address, here.

I’m thinking that it’s apparent I have a lot to draw off of — and a lot of conflicts that I’ve avoided at the cost of creative growth. The issue I’ve had is, basically, not wanting to deal with this, as I have suspected others don’t have to. Of course, you avoid conflict too far, and soon you don’t have a life worth living. And the people who will drive you out, don’t know; probably wouldn’t understand if they did know; and likely, it wouldn’t make a dent in their lives.

But like I said, writing is an excellent medium with which to work out conflict. Moreso for me, than my other arts. The key is to avoid getting bogged down in the work and so myopic and single-minded about the only possible consequences, that the issues you’re working on drown you.

Another reason I stopped. However, I’m in a much better place, this time around. I’m also thinking that my priorities have again shifted to this:

  • Work
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Japanese language acquisition

…with the subtle switch that puts my writing over my reading, in importance. I still haven’t decided whether to work out the story I’ve started in literary or comic format. I’m leaning towards literary, just because I’m a surer author than illustrator.

Some tougher stuff has happened at work, but it hasn’t developed into anything major, yet. I don’t know that it will, and I don’t know that it’s worth thinking about at this moment. However — it would be good not to push aside my writing. The writing requires the reading. The reading is helped by my work. And…Japanese is just something I want to do, which will enrich my life.

I think I’ve just realized, that is, how central writing is to my life, the calming effect that reading entails with me (when it isn’t offensive), and I’m re-centering Japanese where it comes to acquiring a second language.

Outside of this…I have my watercolors (including ink work), and my quilting, now (including origami-based design). Neither of them is really important, but both of them work with color and can get my mind off of the heavy thought that comes from reading and writing. I also have my beads, but I am not feeling this is the time to schedule overt time for them…


Restarted Japanese language study.

Yes, that’s right. I finally got around to attempting to read in Spanish, again, when I realized that the cultural content of what I’m reading differs between languages. Without getting too personal as to what I read and why I decided to stray from Spanish and get back to Japanese…well, let’s say that Japanese is, culturally speaking, less foreign to me. I have more personal use for it.

Plus, there’s the whole race + gender thing (which makes reading in a colonial language emotionally hazardous to me). And the religion thing. One of the things I appreciated about Japanese at the beginning is that it allows one to claim their own gender, as versus having it simply projected onto one by others. Of course, that doesn’t say anything about what happens to openly non-cisgender, non-heteronormative people in Japan. Do I want to get into studying that? Or do I already know?

The basic reason for learning Spanish, for me, is that I’ve sunk a lot of time into it, already, and I may need a Western European language if I want to be a mainstream Academic Librarian (as versus an East Asian Studies Librarian). But hey, who said marginalized was worse, right?


In any case…I’m getting back into it. I’ve realized that learning Japanese is like learning any other non-mainstream language. Like if I was from any other small Asian country, and wanted to learn the language of my family and heritage…which most of the rest of the U.S. doesn’t care about.

I blew through a couple of course segments last night, and feel set to continue on this way (maybe setting a time for study), especially now that I know I have decided to forgo Spanish. Also — I’ve actually gotten into new vocabulary now (as versus review), and counters aren’t as bad as I thought.

“Counters”…they’re bits of words that modify the pronunciation of what is being counted. They’re prolific in Japanese, and the major reason I backed off, a while ago.

Well, besides kanji.

I can just say — I’m glad I didn’t throw out all my textbooks. Though I have no idea where my Japanese-English dictionary went…

art, libraries, organization, self care

Priorities, Version 2

This is written in continuation of a prior post from November 1 about current priorities as regards my time and resources.

I’m thinking it may be of use to identify where current evidence suggests my priorities lie, prior to describing where I wish my priorities lay; and a map of how to get from one state, to the other.

  1. Work
  2. Writing
  3. Reading (in English)
  4. Organization
  5. Watercolors
  6. Rest

There are three possibilities I can see coming up which may compete for resources:

  • Driving lessons and practice
  • Ceramics classes/studio time (to start in Spring)
  • Silversmithing classes/studio time (to start in Summer)

I don’t see work reducing in priority too much, but learning to drive will likely cut into that. It’s a skill I need to know which is way overdue. Writing also will likely not reduce too much in priority. I’d like to read more. My focus on organization will likely slow down as things…you know, get organized. I’ve wanted to work on watercolors, more; I’ve also found someone giving free watercolor classes. And rest, well…that will come up as I get exposed to pathogens.

I haven’t been engaging Japanese language study pretty much at all, recently, which makes practice in writing…well…practicing writing wrong. Though I did today, out of nowhere, recall the kanji for “hand”: 手

There is also study for essentially Professional Development which I left off on, and should get back to: particularly, in Reader’s Advisory, Virtual Reference, and Online Searching. After that is done, it would help to start looking at materials for how to conduct Library programs.

I’m thinking the priority schedule will start to look something like this:

  1. Work
  2. Driving lessons and practice
  3. Reader’s Advisory study
  4. Writing (Art experiences, sexuality + gender)
  5. Reading (in English)
  6. Watercolor

I still want to add in Ceramics. I believe this will take time away from work, as my work schedule is likely to be more flexible than the Lab schedule. As the Spring quarter starts, my priorities may look more like this:

  1. Work
  2. Driving practice
  3. Writing
  4. Ceramics
  5. Watercolor

…and that’s mostly because I find I write more meaningfully when I don’t push myself to write. Watercolor may actually fall away if I’m also dealing with Ceramics.

You’ll notice “studying Japanese language” is missing. I’m just not sure where to put it:

  1. Work
  2. Driving practice
  3. Writing
  4. Ceramics
  5. Reading (in English)
  6. nihongo wo benkyou suru (studying Japanese language)
  7. Watercolor

I still feel kinda torn about the Spanish thing.

The other day, someone dropped off a pamphlet in Spanish that I could read well enough to know that it was an evangelical text. While I was happy to be able to decipher this (four years of programming was not wasted), the fact is, my being able to read an evangelical text is not a personal benefit.

Before I read Adolfo Best-Maugard’s A Method for Creative Design (originally composed in Spanish), which in turn was recommended by a teacher of mine (I’m pretty sure I know how she identifies, but I don’t know that I can write the term on — those of you who know what I’m talking about, know), there was nothing I was motivated to read in Spanish language. (I did, however, find an interesting Reference book on Latin American Literature in a nearby library, which piqued my interest.) I suppose that this would be a disappointment to my middle school and high school Spanish teachers, but the fact is that no one exposed us to books in Spanish, other than our textbooks. If my memory’s correct, we might have even read Pablo Neruda in English class, not Spanish — though that sounds too ridiculous to be accurate. I hope it’s not accurate.

I’m trying not to get into politics or religion, at the moment. Though español brings up issues with both, really strongly, and really negatively, for me. In a lot of ways.

If I were only going to use it within the U.S., that would be one thing…but I would expect relations with Latin America to be on the rocks right now.

The problematic parallel to rigidly gendered nouns in Spanish language is the hierarchy inherent to Japanese language. The way one person addresses another, or refers to oneself in context with that other, is dependent on the hierarchical relation between them. Though, I’ve mostly encountered respectful people when I have engaged with people in Japanese-American society. (Kids and teens, when I was the same age, don’t count.)

I guess if I want to see if it’s worth it to learn Spanish, I could reach out and start reading some kids’ materials, or something…I’ve heard that it isn’t best to try and learn multiple languages at the same time.

Just…I don’t want to have wasted those four years! And I’m so close!

It’s also more practical…

art media, organization, painting

Seeking myself out

Today was spent eliminating excess — and organizing remaining — art materials. I also finally made it into the office to view and organize the altar area; this led to looking over the bookshelves and attempting to see what parts of those shelves I used, and what I didn’t. Like, things I would read, as versus things that were taking up space. Did I know I had so many craft books? (No. No, I did not.)

I’m still not sure what to do about the books I’ve made extensive notes within. Do I just keep them for the rest of my life?

There are a lot of books I want to read, that I just haven’t. I haven’t had time to, or I haven’t included the memory of them in the floor plan in my head. :) I also have almost a full shelf of books for studying nihongo, to read.

My big fear is that I’m going to end up talking like Siri because of learning mostly from books. There is a pitch/intonation thing going on in Japanese language which it doesn’t seem people think is very relevant; basically you learn it by listening and mimicking. One of my undergrad textbooks tried to demarcate intonation with symbols…but that wasn’t easy to decipher.

My fear is that I’m going to have to travel to the City to take classes so that I can learn the correct way to speak. That’s at least 45 minutes away, several days a week. But, I should remember, there is also the option of a Japanese Cultural Center. No, I didn’t intend to rhyme.

I know I keep going back and forth between Japanese and Spanish. Basically, Spanish would be a lot easier for me because I took four years of it as a youth. It would also be more useful, where I currently live. But there are significant and personal cultural reasons for me to learn Japanese, despite functionality being much more distant than facility in Spanish. It’s kind of like questioning whether to do the easy and useful thing which I have personal (post-colonial) psychological barriers to; as versus the hard thing that connects me with a deeper understanding of my cultural heritage, which I’ve wanted to do since I was a child.

Today I was cleaning out my art stuff. We’re basically getting rid of what we no longer use. I’ve marked most of my pastels for the Center for Re-Use, though I kept some of the collection…the ones that didn’t seem too dried out, and which I knew were relatively safe. These are Conté, Carré, and Prismacolor NuPastels where it comes to the hard pastels; and Rembrandt soft pastels, plus a couple of open-stock Blick soft pastels.

When I say, “dried-out,” I mean that I’ve had a pastel stop being able to draw, incise the paper instead, and literally shatter like a plate on being dropped, before. It’s likely because the pastel I’m thinking of (a Rembrandt, which I consider a less-risky company, though some may differ; there are issues of potential contamination of carbon black, and the ever-present Titanium White scare) is kaolin-based; kaolin is a form of clay. It would explain why those pastels were so incredibly soft when I got them (touching them would make them draw on you), and why they eventually stopped working. I did find today, though, that if they’ve been stored inside a plastic bag, they’re less likely to die.

There are also some charcoals and General’s White Charcoal in my “Dusties” kit (they make dust), though I’m still paranoid about not knowing what “General’s White Charcoal” is made of. I don’t think it’s charcoal. So far as I know, it’s a trade secret. It doesn’t help the paranoia to know that Flake White (lead-based) is still in use as a pigment in oil painting. So far as I know, though, Flake White would be a warmer shade of white than is the White Charcoal.

I also let that Blue Pumpkin nib which I used to test black inks (and a white ink), the other day, soak in pen cleaning solution. I wasn’t prepared to see all the stuff that came off of it! (I put it in one of the little clear polystyrene vials I got for bead storage.) But I do know now that the white India Ink I have (Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay) is basically the most suitable thing in my present arsenal where it comes to white highlights or corrections over marker.

Beyond that, it’s the most useful thing I have to draw in white, with high detail, on a dark surface (I used Strathmore Artagain black paper). I just haven’t tried it on translucent marker paper yet. The paper or board used as a surface for those potential marker (or ink) drawings, will likely limit my options.

I also have Daler-Rowney Pro (Process) White, but that stuff is so thick (basically a paste) that it needs to be stirred and diluted before use. I’m thinking maybe that was intentional (as regards monetary value and compact packaging), but I wasn’t expecting it not to work out of the package with either a dip pen or a brush. Of course, maybe I should just treat it as a watercolor paint, scoop some out to work with, and then work water into it with a paintbrush. That seems to be the most logical next option, if I’m trying to test all my white inks and paints for opacity (other than known Zinc White, because I know Zinc isn’t opaque).

That, in turn, is happening because I’ve realized that white acrylic ink markers lack precision and opacity where it comes to being used as correcting pens. I still haven’t tried the needle-tip Posca that I’ve seen, but…well, markers. They aren’t as versatile as paints or inks used with brushes or dip nibs; at least, not without blending.

I’ve also found that a size 0 round paintbrush isn’t that small. At least, sometimes. But my 2/0 (two sizes below 0) is freakishly small. No, I don’t know if paintbrush sizes are standardized.

Anyhow…I’m still not certain what’s happening with the acrylic colors. I could paint in acrylic; it’s just that I’m not driven to do so, relatively. The fact also remains that I don’t have a wide variety of brushes to use with acrylics (a lot of long, narrow flats, some fans, and some filberts, plus the gesso brushes)…though I do like hog-bristle better than most of the synthetics I’ve used (some of which I outright hate — I mean, they squeak and chatter across the surface).

The problem in my case is that I don’t like using stiff (or blunt) brushes…and stiff brushes are needed to stand up to heavy-body paints. Most of our acrylics are heavy-body, whereas I’m known for using even heavy-body acrylics so that they appear to be transparent watercolors. I guess that should tell me something.

The question for me is whether or not getting a wider variety of brushes would help me transition back to canvas and acrylics. I’m leaning towards, “no.” At the same time, M and I have accumulated a lot of acrylic paint over the years. On top of that, I have no way of knowing which of those tubes are structurally sound, without trying to open them and potentially having a chemical spill on my hands — literally. (Liquitex tube paints, in particular, I know to have lids and necks that will sometimes fail. Like the cap unit will peel away from the rest of the tube. Then again, I have no idea how old those tubes were, individually.) That means that I have no idea how much usable paint I actually have.

If there were anything which could draw me back to painting in acrylics, it would probably be the chance to work with opaque colors, in large scale, and to work out an underdrawing and underpainting before ever beginning — and to edit, in-process. There’s also the chance to save a canvas by just gessoing over the whole thing if I don’t like what I have.

But I can work with opaque colors by using gouache; I can use large brushes (and large papers) in watercolor. The rest of it seems particular to working with canvas or panel, gesso, charcoal/pastel, easel, and acrylic glazing medium. I know the process.

I guess that — like learning Spanish language (I had a choice of Spanish or French; I would rather have had a choice between Japanese, Cantonese, or Mandarin, the latter two of which, I could actually use) — is another one of the things that I did because I had to, not because I particularly had a great desire to. It was a learning experience.

The thing that really bothered me when I was taking painting classes was the fact that the act of painting would basically grind down my hog-bristle brushes. I’m thinking this was from the marble dust in the gesso, or from painting on rough plywood panel. It’s something I haven’t experienced with any other type of paint — though granted, I’ve only worked with water-based paints, not oils.

I was told to save the good brushes for oils, because oils don’t do the same thing. The wear on the brushes could also have been from the fact that I was using student-grade gesso. I don’t think I’ve ever used professional-level gesso. I’ve seen it. I just don’t think I’ve ever bought any — with the possible exception of once purchasing Golden. Not sure.

The other thing about getting rid of a lot of this stuff…a lot of it is about prioritization and considering who I actually am, and what I actually want. Not in an abstract way, and maybe not even in a way that compromises anything to the vicissitudes of present reality…though I’m getting abstract.

What I mean is that I’m fairly certain I know what I want. I also know where wanting those things gets inconvenient. From age, I know that I’m unlikely to stop wanting what it is that I want, just because it’s inconvenient; rather, I’ll likely end up halfway chasing those inconvenient things for years on end (like buying book after book on learning Japanese, as a symbol to myself, and not reading them), while I waste time and energy and brain space paying lip service to what the world tells me I should want, instead.

So I should just do what I want, and be who I am. That’s the fastest route to attainment.


art, drawing, graphic design, technology

Handwriting to drawing to painting

I’m not sure how much or whether I have mentioned on this blog, a thought about the interrelatedness of writing by hand, and of drawing. It’s something that was reinforced for me when visiting an art store today and emerging with a couple of little markers.

Whenever I start drawing, it seems kind of inevitable that I would be drawn into practicing my handwriting in Japanese language. I have a relatively solid grasp of kana (phonetic characters) and a very introductory knowledge of kanji (ideographic characters). The thing is…it’s very, very tempting to try and practice getting stroke quality, size, type, proportion of each character in such a way as it becomes beautiful at the same time as it contains meaning.

Of course, this is likely related to my interest both in Graphic Design and calligraphy, painting, and some spiritual bents such as Zen Buddhism. The last three, in particular, are very related historically in an East Asian context, along with poetry. I wouldn’t have known that without having researched the topic of art and writing within Zen, for a graduate project…but I’m fairly sure that this also pre-dates Zen and goes back to the literati in ancient China.

Okay, and that gets really complicated, with the introduction of Buddhist dharma (way of existence) into China, and the mixture of Buddhism and what are now called Daoism, Confucianism, etc. That was introduced into what is now Korea and from there, Japan, though there were multiple transmissions. (Buddhism is not native to East Asia; so far as I know, it originated in South Asia [now India], and traveled through Central Asia into China — but my sources are skewed due to the fact that I currently can only read English-language versions of the history of this. English-language versions of, “what Buddhism is,” by people who only know other English-language versions, are generally imperfect at best, warped and misunderstood, at worst.)

My point is basically that there’s a large historical precedent for my interest in this, and that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these values were passed on to me by the cultures of family and friends (at the least). To get deeply into that goes into some personal spiritual beliefs (or lack of them), which I’m not even all the time sure on (see the Dao De Jing/Tao Te Ching for a reference to why I may not talk about this — it’s a short work), but it gives me some stability. An inkling of it.

Anyhow…I read somewhere that the expression of the writer/artist with ink and brush was supposed to be a reflection of the one who wrote it, although at times an artist would get someone else to do the calligraphy for him. (Most of what I’ve read goes over male artists/poets/calligraphers; that doesn’t mean they all were, but it’s what I’ve seen.)

I believe that it is because of the high value placed on literacy and writing in at least Japan, that the language has turned out as beautiful (and complex) as it is. There are thousands of kanji (ideographic symbols borrowed from Chinese language) to learn to read and write, though there are also patterns within the kanji (like their formative elements, or “radicals”) that give clues to their meanings and readings.

I did start this post talking about the interrelatedness of writing by hand and of making art. My concern is that when people shift from writing with their hands, to writing by typing — only — that the practice which allows drawing to grow from writing, and painting to grow from drawing, is avoided. I do have some concern over the fact that most of us — unless we make a conscious effort otherwise — will likely be writing mostly by using a keyboard, and facing a computer screen. Not by hand, with paper (or any surface) and whatever instrument you use to write with, which could be pencil or marker or pen or brush or charcoal or something else. Something that will make a mark. Anything that will make a mark.

There’s a freedom to any of the latter in that you can express yourself not only in how the text is encoded, but in how it is drawn, and also that you can draw other things that are not letters or punctuation! My drawing, really, started in the margins of my notes and writings for school, as a young teen. I got bored. I found a way to express myself which no one could take away from me, without also taking away my learning tools.

Coincidentally, it was also close to that time at which I started to learn kana. I was into anime, particularly Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon, and I wanted to know how to read the text in the Japanese-language books I had to accompany the series. This was also, particularly, because I knew there were a number of seasons and movies (most of them, actually) which had not been translated into English. The only contact I had with these movies and series were the anime books (these must have a name; they’re an entire genre) and untranslated VHS tapes which I found through local venues.

I’m guessing that for me — at least, right now — writing in Japanese is closer to art, than writing in English. That is changing a bit, as I experiment with incorporating more cursive into my handwriting (which inevitably makes it messier than my regular [legible] print; or my regular cursive, where my “r”s are a bit…hard to identify). It’s probably also because writing in Japanese is less familiar to me. But I think I need a bit of a challenge in my reading — and not from English sentences being indecipherable. (It happens in college readings, sometimes. I’ve had textbooks like this. I’m not kidding. SENTENCES WHICH MAKE NO SENSE.)

I have, off-and-on, heard arguments or concerns about Japanese youth losing the skill of reading because of the popularity of manga (comics). I’m not so much concerned about that at this moment, but rather the loss of artistic skill and development which may loom because of a digital revolution in which no one can even write (well) by hand, anymore. It’s already a given that a lot of schools in the U.S. no longer teach how to write in cursive, making the reading of things like old ledgers written in Copperplate script, difficult to read. (I can barely read Copperplate. How much worse must it be for kids who didn’t learn cursive in Kindergarten?)

I also wonder how much I have bought into that in the past, because I did have to spend so much of my time in front of a screen. Something that no one told me, though, is that going to school online does mean that you have to take copious notes (even when the Professor gives handouts). Which are best done by hand. It’s hard when you haven’t written quickly and legibly in a very long time. And, I’m finding, it’s likely harder to draw when you haven’t written by hand at all in a very long time.

I’ve been writing by hand recently, though (which I’ve referenced in earlier posts here), and…it is easier to edge back into mark-making by just trying to write correctly in Japanese. I am not entirely certain why, except for the fact that I now can tell when they’re right (or at least when they’re beautiful), and when they aren’t. I do believe that a lot of that is due to my art training. Before someone close to me dropped out of Japanese-language class, the teacher saw my writing trying to help them on their homework, and said I had “nice handwriting.” So…I don’t know what that’s worth, except that I know I’m not going way into calligraphic territory. It’s legible. That’s good.

So far, I’ve not personally focused on this Inktober thing, but it is kind of inspiring to see all the works people are doing. I’ve also been able to get into acrylic paint markers…which, alongside my Pitt pens and alcohol markers…they’re alluring because of the use of color, for one thing. Opacity also helps, and it’s absent in other water-based and alcohol-based markers. I wouldn’t consider myself into graffiti in any way, but there’s something in the graphic qualities of marker that’s there for me.

I’m thinking that if I get deep enough into this…work in paint may come easier to me. I realized that Acryla gouache is what I was seeking, in a hybrid between acrylics and watercolors which I could utilize on paper without abusing my watercolor brushes (gesso is rough) — say for miniatures. (I still love Shahzia Sikander.) There’s also the possibility of using gouache mixed with acrylic glazing medium, or the (gasp!) use of transparent watercolors mixed with gouache.

I haven’t tried any of that yet, though they’re all creative possibilities. Right now what I have to deal with is how to get my markers out so I can see them, and how to combine transparent, opaque, and permanent inks…

…and paints. If I try, I’ll find out what works, and what doesn’t. As I’m learning, a lot of art (or at least design), seems to be about that. That, and not getting hung up on what other people say art should be…

organization, personal, work

Languages and migration: a.k.a. Too much free time

As of last Friday, I completed my initial three weeks of full-time training. I went in to work one time this week to be signed off. Other than that, I haven’t been practicing. I’m kind of scared that I’m going to lose some of what I’ve learned…though a few days on desk for the amount of time I have experienced on a daily basis, should kick that right back in, for me.

I could also be reviewing my notes, from those last three weeks. Even with my attempt to write down only that which I did not know or recall, I filled up enough pages that I had to buy a bigger binder. Don’t worry, it’s done…and apparently a Kokuyo 20-hole binder for A5 paper will also fit Maruman 20-hole A5 paper. Don’t quote me on that, though.

Right now we have a guest, which has me thinking on the actuality of the possibility of taking a job nearer to them. This has caused me to remember plans for joining them, and the potential relevance of my learning Japanese language. It’s almost useless where I am now, but would be used daily at the place to which we’re considering moving.

So…this week has given me the opportunity to check out what I actually will want to do for the foreseeable future. Let’s say the next 5 years. This would impact me especially where it comes to furthering my acquisition of a second language. I have a choice between español (Spanish) or nihongo (Japanese), for a language I would have a head start in picking up. Which I choose, depends on where I expect myself to be in the future.

Based on my experience in learning Spanish language in middle and high school…I would say that most of my discouragement in learning the language, aside from a certain integral component (the fact that all nouns have a gender, which profoundly impacts me as a person who now considers themselves gender-nonbinary), has been in not wanting to be like my teachers. That sounds kind of harsh, but in my experience (in three out of five teachers — and one of the other two teachers was a native speaker, until he got fired) there was definitely a certain type of person — in my school district — who became a Spanish-language teacher.

Nor am I really confident in my Spanish-language skills. But I know enough so that when I start to read something written in Spanish language, I can get the gist of what’s meant. My major difficulty is then with vocabulary. There is also the point that the people I’ve known who have natively spoken Spanish, have been a lot more down-to-earth than my past teachers.

It wasn’t quite until I began reading things in English that looked like they had originally been written for Spanish speakers, that I started to take interest in the language again (I had originally chosen Spanish over French because it was more widely applicable in the Americas; these two languages were the only two I had access to in my regular public school setting). Then there is the issue of International Relations which are just being trashed with Latin America right now…it wasn’t great to be estadounidense in Central and South America before: I don’t expect it to be easier, now.

On the other hand — with Japanese language…the biggest barriers are now 1) kanji (Chinese characters integrated into Japanese writing), which I have not systematically studied; 2) counters; and, 3) practice partners. Apparently, as there is such a shortage of sounds within nihongo itself, differing counters are appended to differing types of objects being counted, in order to tell what the number applies to. There’s that, and the fact that the pronunciation of a number changes, depending on the counter paired with it.

This comes up early…which kind of makes me fear that people in Japan test foreigners by asking them to count things appropriately. (Counting things in a basic way is understandable, but generally only done by small children.) That, in turn…doesn’t have me thinking that nihonjin (Japanese-from-Japan) are really welcoming to foreigners. There’s that, in addition to the fact that I’ve lived the experience of a hapa (mixed-race) nikkeijin (Japanese-of-foreign-birth)…and have experienced issues with racism from within my own family, ostensibly caused by the race of my non-Japanese parent. I say, “ostensibly,” because no minority brings the experience of racism upon themselves. Others visit it upon them, whatever their excuse.

Having said that, I’ve also experienced racial tensions all through my life in University…so I suppose it may come with the package of this rebirth.

The issue for me — when I was taking Japanese-language classes — was the bizarreness factor of being in class with a bunch of anime (Japanese animation) and J-pop (Japanese pop music) fans who just wanted to understand their lyrics or lines…and myself, who wanted to know more about my heritage, and what had helped give form to me.

In short, my drive to learn nihongo, early on, was a drive to understand more about myself and my social, cultural, and historical context. I knew I did like Japanese pop culture (and appreciated what of Japanese culture I did participate in due to family influence), but I didn’t know why. I have a lot more of a clue about that, at this time.

I just can’t see giving up Japanese language study for Spanish, just because Spanish is easier (being closer to English). Spanish would give me a better window into European cultures and American Indigenous cultures…the thing is, I’m not heavily interested in European cultures, compared to my interest in China, Japan, Korea, or Tibet. (I don’t know much about Southeast Asia at this point, but I can see myself curious about that, once I get a baseline understanding of the more northerly territories. There’s also Polynesia, though French may be of more use, there.)

Finding information on American Indigenous cultures is so far from my present capability that I really don’t know how long it will be before I can even source words from the people I want to hear from, or tell whether it would be recorded en español or in their specific native languages. I suppose it makes sense that I would be more interested in regions connected to my diaspora.

Anyhow. I…have restarted my nihongo practice via my library. I can work through the 12 classes, and then see where I am. After all, it’s not like the español knowledge is just going to evaporate. It has hung around for two decades, after all.

And Japanese is so beautiful when written. It just will take some practice to learn. And I have time.