It's Vietnam Women's Day today (International Women's Day is also celebrated, but in March, as everywhere else.) So to mark the day, here’s something about one of the many notable women in Vietnam's history.
Nguyễn Thị Duệ was born in the late sixteenth century, under the Mạc dynasty. I don't know her parentage, but her name suggests that she was from an undistinguished family - Thị Duệ (pronounced, roughly, tea zway) means more or less "ordinary worker's daughter". (It's possible, though, that this was a name given to deflect unwelcome attention - a name to go unnoticed by?)
Of her poetry, I have struggled with the translation of just two lines. I like it very much, but I can't say it neatly enough in English. Here, in fourteen words, she gives a picture of a young girl (nữ nhi) straining to just barely touch the strings (lề) used to bind together the books of her time, and predicts with certainty that the girl who can do so much will advance, first to the humble copy-card used to learn characters (thiếp), and then to take her doctorate (trạng nguyên).
Nữ nhi dù đặng có lề
Ắt là tay thiếp kém gì trạng nguyên
She who uses all means possible to just touch the book's binding
Advances to spell out the words, and to win her doctorate.
The wetness has been a pleasure to the three quiet toads who live in our garden, at least. They are Big, Middle and Little, and like to lurk under damp things - leaves or the edges of the old lily-bowl. (Garden is a bit of exaggeration - there's a small paved yard, and in the corner a quadrant of earth, about a metre/four foot in radius. Not big, but big enough for three toads.)
There was a break in the weather on Sunday, and we took advantage of it to take a walk through the back lanes, and as it happened, found ourselves passing the Water Temple complex - it's not a big complex, but one with a long history, and with two temples, and multiple side-altars and shrines. It was marking a great day of some sort - the day wasn't in itself especially auspicious in the general calendar, so I think possibly the festival ceremonies were for particular community or family occasions, such as an upcoming marriage - there was a young couple front-and-centre in the side temple - but then again it's just over a week since the birthday/translation day of Princess Steadfast Jade, who is linked (if I've got my history and translations right) to this temple, and possibly it was just her celebration happening late. (It may have been two different events just happening in both temples at the same time, too.)
Anyway, everything was very splendid, with big paper horses and paper elephants and slightly smaller paper boats with dragon prows, and multitudes of paper guards and attendants, some with swords and some with cymbals, and of course real people as well... :) Most of the horses were lined up in front of the central temple, but the side temple had one horse and one elephant and one boat; the paper attendants were too many to count (ie while behaving properly, as opposed to standing up and craning!) in both places. In the central temple there were preparatory prayers going on when we first arrived, and then later the shaman/priest began to embody different personas, with different costumes and characteristics - the Forest Princess who dances, the General who declares, with swordplay, his determination to see justice, and so on. Meanwhile, in the side-temple, a scholar/priest was reading and chanting and striking a wooden bell, while people sat quietly and listened.
And here are some photos! :)
The elephant stands proudly with eight horses in front of the central temple. Every horse has a groom, but the sage elephant stands alone. :)
Mandarins and Generals and advisors as attendants in the side temple. (The thing that looks like an airconditioning duct is a snake - snakes wind around through the rafters.)
Musicians and ladies-in-waiting and a Queen (?) stand in attendance on the left-hand side of the side-temple; the side-altar is like a cave because the Mother-Goddess devotion is very nature-linked, very much seen in terms of mountains and forests.
It's Mid-Autumn Festival today! with masks and lanterns and lion-dances and autumn rains. Luckily the rain didn't come in time to wash out the neighbourhood children's party last Sunday night. It was very pleasant, with many cellophane-and-tinsel stars, and little children singing bravely and endearingly and off-key one or two at a time.
We bought a wonderful lantern - also featuring cellophane, but with an inner circle of stiff clear plastic-or-similar, with black outline figures drawn on, and bamboo vanes above, such that warm air rising from a candle would turn the vanes to make a moving show of the figures. That's the theory; in practice, the struggle to make it work will resume tonight.
I'd like to see it, too - it's figures from a well-know folk-motif here called the Mouse's Wedding. I know there's quite a few folk-stories/songs which go by this name - in this one, a large part of the point is how to have a celebration in the mouse community without arousing hostilities from the cat - tricky, but the mice triumph! :)
We get two Junes this year! Or something like it, anyway. ( Mildly complex arithmetic-astronomy under the cut )
So that's how come there are two Junes this year, and why I'm justified in calling this entry Endless Summer.
For your refreshment after all that, two pictures from the endless summer - glorious bang lang trees in flower, and appropriately (since the flowering of the bang lang signals exam time for tertiary students) flowering above open-air bookstalls.
Second, a concert report! Last weekend I heard for the first time Stokowski's transcription for orchestra of Bach's Fugue in G Minor - which absolutely entranced me for the first ... oh, about two-thirds, I guess. And then it got a bit muddied, overloaded, too much jam on a piece of toast - which was more down to the orchestra than to Bach or Stokowski, I think, having come home and listened to other versions. Still - great to hear, and I really was entranced for most of it, and in any case that was only the curtain-raiser to the main piece of the night, which was...
Daimo Eriko on marimba, playing a wonderfully complex piece, Lauda Concertata, by Akira Ifukube. Here's a three-minute scrap of it, but it doesn't do justice to the excitement and dynamism of the full thing (which is about thirty minutes long). Daimo Eriko was amazing, all whirling energy and intensity and total engagement, with the piece and with the orchestra, and they with her. Overall, she and they and the whole experience - brilliant, and very exciting.
(There was some Brahms or other after the intermission, but ... Brahms just didn't cut it after that excitement.)
Third, and less pleasingly, in the category of Things I Didn't Know:
I've only just learned that "Tonto", which is the name I know for the Lone Ranger's offsider, means "Stupid" in Italian and Spanish, which is really depressing.. :(
Spanish is the more relevant, I guess, but it was Italian I saw it in, and only then cross-checked to Spanish.
(Speaking of names, by the way - Reality Winner??)
Last: Best wishes, UK voters!
With reference to the song 'Being for the benefit of Mr Kite' (video, about two and a half minutes) - there really was a Pablo Fanque, running a circus in Britain over several decades in the nineteenth century.
His birth name was William Darby, he was black, and very successful - which is all pretty interesting - but even more interesting is the story of how his circus employed an Irish contortionist (I think - the source says "posture master") disguised as a Chinese man, (to be excitingly foreign and mysterious? - which I suppose is the reason for Darby's own name change) which provoked two other genuine Chinese men to investigate, fearing - after the circus refused to let them speak with the disguised man - that a countryman of theirs was being held in forced labour conditions - and they brought, successfully, a suit of habeas corpus against the circus.
I find this wonderful and fascinating - the awareness of possible forced labour (and implicit possible human trafficking) at the time, and the brilliance of the habeas corpus law being used to fight against it.
I love the gumption of the two Chinese men going in to bat for a possibly kidnapped and enslaved countryman. I really want to hear of other such cases, where a real trafficked person was freed this way.
Well. Well, so back to Dreamwidth. What can I write about? Books and video/television viewing? Okay...
My reading took a huge dive - I abandoned both the books I was properly, attentively, reading, and will have to start them all over again. Mostly, I just read scraps of things picked up from what was around. Two such things were:
Sallust, Jugurtha and The Cataline Conspiracy, as translated for a Penguin Classic, I think - it was an oldish paperback, anyway. I read them because I was pleased to be learning even one name of an African king, even if he was a ratbag (according to Sallust), and also because I vaguely wondered if looking at pre-Caesar Roman evolutions might give me some ideas of how to look at how things are changing politically, now. But mainly just because the book was to hand.
I also read great chunks of the Iliad, in an online translation by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, in order to argue (amiably) with someone about whether Paris was a coward etc. (I would be delighted to discuss such stuff while it's fresh in my mind, if anyone's interested.)
I've watched three oldish British television renderings of PD James novels featuring the detective Adam Dalgliesh. The first one I saw was about the residents of a stately old abbey, stuffed with priceless art, facing the prospect of its shutting down. The second one was about the residents of a stately-home-turned-museum, facing the prospect of its shutting down. The third one was about the residents of a stately home, facing the prospect of... but I gave up on that one before we'd even got to the second murder, because I thought I was getting the drift.
I watched - now this is good! - parts of several episodes of an Australian six-part mystery, called Seven Types of Ambiguity - yes, of course the title's a steal, and that's not something I like, in general, but the Empson book is part of the plot, sort of. The acting and the writing is mostly very, very good, and the cinematography as well. I had to leave and so have missed the closing episodes, but what I saw was very good indeed, good enough to have conversations with strangers about. (What? I'm not sure if that's a sane measure of anything.)
To mark the day, I went to a theatre show last night based on the eighteenth-century Story of Kieu - or on part of it, because it's a long story, covering fifteen years of the protagonist's various struggles against a very oppressive and anti-woman society. ( Cut because of spolier! )
More sombrely, an article about the real-world continuing oppression of women:
The Handmaid's Tale has already come true, just not for western women.
I didn't get to see Arrival over the weekend, as hoped, nor have I yet managed to return to Nirvana in Fire. :( And things don't look like letting up for the next two-three weeks. (I did manage to return to the Narnia Prince Caspian read-through, after a very long absence.)
And now I've checked some of your posts, and found news of the decades-long campaigner for human rights in Manipur, Irom Sharmila Chanu! Wonderful! Brilliant!! More power to her, and achievement of her goals, which are not just for her, but for everybody in Manipur (even the oppressors, who are without question damaged by the wrongs they inflict). And for women everywhere working for a better world!
I haven't done much reading - still stuck at Chapter Three of Nation. I haven't even been able to watch another episode of Nirvana in Fire - and I have a DVD or two hanging ... errr... fire. Still, there's time for two quick stories of good things happening:
Even in a not too flash area of a big city, developers can come knocking on the door of a hotel with offers of big money for a sale - but this hotel-owner would rather keep the low-level good things happening there, happening.
And in a restaurant on the other side of the world, an owner-chef appreciates the hard work and great camaraderie of the whole kitchen team - starting with the dishwasher.
And here - have a link to a couple of great musicians, whom I saw in concert late last month! :)
I've been reading quite a bit, here and there -
- reading the book Nation by Terry Pratchett, and thinking (so far, three chapters in) that it's very good, but erratic and a bit patchy.
- have read the book Olive, by Mrs Craik, which interesting as a record of thinking on various matters (women's art being marginalised/suppressed, physical "deformity" cutting a woman out of the marriage market, race, religion) - but is not particularly worth much as a novel.
- reading The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, which sketches out much fascinating material, so far, but isn't really catching fire (bad metaphor, in the circumstances).
This was also a test-post on cross-posting to LJ; it seems to have worked fine.
So does everybody, of course - I mean, so everybody always has, whether they knew it or not. Today's also, more or less, a hundred years since the stunning, out-of-nowhere (ha!) end of the Romanov rule over Russia, on the back of the chaotic butchery of WW1 and of riots over incipient (or actual?) famine.
Coincidentally, on Nirvana in Fire, talk has turned to how a failure to provide relief in such crises leads to rioting and thus to regional (at least) instability - true enough, and I'm sorry Nicholas II hadn't better advisors, or (if he had them) that he'd listened more. A sad ending for an amiable family.
Great sonnet, isn't it, by the way? :)
So... I plucked those cumquats which were ready to fall from the New Year's cumquat tree, and made spiced cumquat chutney - and I made muesli bars, too, to use up some over-ripe bananas. Went marketing, of course, and accidentally brought home a mountain of lettuce, and much green herbage (because it was past ten, and the market-seller wanted to pack up and go home). Also triumphantly tracked down cinnamon bark, for the chutney, down a market side-street, and generally had a good time. :)
And then on Sunday I went to visit an aged friend - that was absolutely great! She is recovering from a stroke, and it was wonderful to see her so much better, so much stronger. We just sat together for three-quarters of an hour, and drank water, and talked of nothing much - of planting trees recently, and looking at photos . Not a long visit, because I didn't want to wear her out, but a very, very happy one - it was so good to see her, and to see her so strong. :)
And I took in various media throughout the weekend:
- watched the 27th episode of Nirvana in Fire, which means I'm exactly half-way through;
- read some of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, which is about very exciting things, but so far is not very well or engagingly written;
- and read some newspapers online, of course, which yielded this lovely story (with picture) of a desert turtle.
What an amazing creature! And how beautiful it seems in the picture - to me, at least - gold and emerald. :)
Also, I chortled at a word attributed (wrongly, I'm sure - possibly autotranscription from a recording?) to the herpetologist, which suggested that the turtles are excavating underground - making a second pleasing picture, of a different, totally imaginary, sort! (But now I've been back and they've fixed it up - good to see journalistic diligence at the ABC. Unless it was the mortified herpetologist who set them straight.)
Two fannish things
1. Nirvana in Fire - I'm getting deeper in; the turnings of the plot are getting grimmer and more challenging - not in terms of visible bloodshed, but more in terms of the damage wreaked by ruthless and amoral politicking. That sounds so simple - like the Sheriff of Nottingham - but it isn't like that; nothing is simple and innocence is lost, and the consequences of actions keep rippling out forever. The damage, including spiritual damage, rebounds everywhere, including on those who commit to wrenching things and people back from their destructive trajectories, to restore right. I'm reminded of Shakespeare: "the time is out of joint. Oh cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right."
2. Halfamoon has finished, I suppose; at least, it was billed as running for the first fourteen days of February. As the organisers half-anticipated, people's engagement was way down this year. I myself couldn't seem to manage any fiction; I posted three short pieces about characters who met the prompt criteria - appreciations of bad, wonderful Senora Madeline Neroni, and of two of the women in Nirvana in Fire, and of Missee Lee, who is, IMO right now, the most stunningly impressive heroine in all of twentieth century children's fiction.
Two LJ things - one pleasant, one puzzling
1. The problem I mentioned a little while back, about difficulty updating an entry, is now solved - thank you, <user name=maraun.livejournal.com>! (And the trouble there, in that last sentence, is all Dreamwidth's. I've tried three separate ways to link to maraun, beginning and ending with the style set out in DW's FAQ. None of them has worked.)
2. In my inbox is a message reading, in its entirety: "(You are not authorized to view this comment.)" Then why send it to me? (Is there any person who's sent me a message which I seem to be ignoring, perhaps?)
Also about yesterday's post: the move I mentioned to sell off public land in the US, which stank to high heaven, has apparently seemed too bad even for the current climate there - or was it that hunters and shooters threw their voice into the protests? I don't care - it's been stopped, as reported by twistedchick here. and I'm glad.
As for today: it's World Wetlands Day, and people are celebrating the glorious world of places which aren't safe, steady land, and aren't clear open water - fens and swamps and marshes and bogs and quagmires. (What a gorgeous word, by the way! - quag-mire. Is it that the ground quakes, do you think, or does quag refer to its sticky, sucking character?).
But leaving the words, lovely as they are, and just thinking about the wetlands themselves - places betwixt and between, and so which feel mysterious and not quite in our ken - and thus in turn have given us so much, much wonderful literature: desperate freedom fighters holding out against the Normans, and the Swamp Creature, and a gigantic hound with dripping phosphorescent jaws, lolloping towards to an island in the fog, and the Black Lagoon, and bells ringing out from a huge church rising from the flood, and mangroves which are a story in themselves, and strange girl butterfly hunters, and Puddleglum and all Marshwiggles, ever.
editing to add: this link spells out the scenarios, much more informedly than I could, what might be behind the "smokescreen" I was talking about.
All honour to those who are making a stand against unethical, illegal or immoral acts, especially the former Acting Attorney-General, who is one of those described in last Sunday's psalm, about those who can't be moved or shaken, who stand by their undertakings, (as she, Sally Yates, stood by her oath to uphold justice) and don't sell out the innocent - for money or a career move or for anything else.
I said especially her, but I suppose there are others not in the public eye, in humbler positions who dare not go public, but are quietly not selling out the innocent. All honour to them, and may they one day get their due as people who upheld humanity when the system around them went the other way.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to trawl through mainstream media for good news on a daily basis, following megpie71 's lead. Not always easy to find things, but I find it useful, to keep afloat.
February means that halfamoon has opened - fourteen days of celebrating women in fandom.
I'm not feeling any fiction nudging to be written by me, but I'll be contributing by posting about some women characters, anyway, and maybe about a TV series which is crammed with women characters.
And the honey...
I was browsing through some regional newspapers - I think it was the South China Morning Post - when I came across a story of a man hospitalised after eating "mad honey" from Nepal. (Yes, it was the SCMP!) Just one spoonful was enough to leave him in a bad way (temporarily - he recovered!)
But... whoever heard of "mad honey"? Not me, so i went to look for more info, and was vastly intrigued. ( Honey-focussed ramble follows, with various links follows... )
And that's the end of my ramblings about honey (and a little bit bread). :)
In more local news:
The Tet goldfish have all been released into waterways, to become celestial dragons for the three kitchen gods to ride back to heaven. I mentioned last year that student groups and other young volunteers were asking people not to toss their fish-carrying plastic bags in when they released their fish - this year that's become a campaign, with posters and more volunteers and council workers, stationed at the likely places (where there are steps down into the water, mostly).
The poster says: Let loose the fish, hold onto the plastic bag!
I have new glasses, and the world is crystal-clear. (Or as close to it as my eyes allow, anyway.) I am being amazingly conscientious about putting them back in their case, but I expect it won't be terribly long before they're being slung around casually, and ending up as battered as all previous pairs of glasses have been.
Yesterday I made crumpets from scratch! I used this recipe, which weirdly doesn't reveal that the crumpet so made should be toasted later - i.e. that it's not intended to be eaten in its flabby original first-cooked state. The dough/batter was really strange - very gloopy and gluey - but the result on cooking was instantly recognisable as crumpets, though not exactly round due to my not having the poaching rings to make them in. They toasted up well this morning, but were regrettably doughy inside. :( If I do it again, I'll cook them longer at lower heat, in the first cooking.
Thanks to a tip from puddleshark, I've been looking at and enjoying Nirvana in Fire, a 54-part series (I'm up to part 9) set in eighth-century China. ( Read more, if you like... )
So that's one thing to help stay afloat, in these troubling times: the daily good news - big, small, local, global - so long as it's good, and so long as it's news. Worth checking out - and she's very much okay with people replying with more, too.
sovay recently recalled her experience of a large protest march in 2011, and her observation then that in large crowds, mobile phones (cell phones) don't work, or don't work well. This was absolutely new to me - and set me thinking.
Of course pay phones are being ripped out everywhere, and have been for years. I can see the inevitability of this. But given the enormous importance of communication in times of crisis, I'm thinking we should all encourage the preservation of remaining public landline phone facilities. (And maybe be aware of where these might be, in case of need.)