Wednesday, March 25, 2015

#AtoZChallenge 2015 Theme Reveal!

This April on Quiet Laughter it's all about Curaçao. More specifically, the vocabulary of Curaçao.

You may or may not know that Curaçao has its own language. Papiamentu. It's not a dialect but a language in its own right, and if you're going to spend any amount of time in Curaçao and expect it to be a happy time, you best get that straight.

But no, my A-to-Z series this year isn't a crash-course on Papiamentu (you can actually find those online). Instead, I've picked some of the most unique, most representative expressions that people use here... Things like dushi (which we've talked about before) or the confusion with the two meanings of sushi. The posts will be short and sweet, mostly, and will come with photographs... You see, like most languages, Papiamentu has a distinctive place-sourced feel to it. At least to me it does. More than teaching you a new word, I'd like to open a window, maybe even--if both you and I get lucky--a door, even for just a moment, to the world where the soul of these words resides.

I'm looking forward to it. I hope you are, too.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

E-communications: A Reality Check

A friend asked me for some help with a project he's working on, a few suggestions for short stories that might be apt for sparking a child's imagination. I'm not an expert--not even remotely--on children's literature, and I told him that, but he wasn't interested in the traditional stories for kids, so I agreed to come up with some ideas. I compiled a list--dove into my favorites, reread a few (some as a refresher, some just for the sheer pleasure they bring), checked to see whether they were available online somewhere, etc.--and emailed it to him.

And waited.

I wasn't sure how helpful I'd be... Whether my suggestions were PG-13 appropriate, whether they were too long or too short, whether they'd serve for the purpose he intended them. So, yes, I was kind of anxious to hear what he thought. After two days, I went to my inbox and did a global search: could I have missed his response? Could it have gone into the Spam folder? Had I sent it to the right address?

Everything checked out fine. And no, there was no reply.

Before pulling out my violin and climbing up to the rooftop to bemoan my friend's ingratitude in hauntingly melancholic tones (no drama queen here; I'm the freakin' empress), in a moment of enlightened maturity I decided to ask. "Hey. Did you get my email?"

What email, came the response.

Turns out the only way this dude checks his inbox is if you tell him you sent him an email. So I resent it, told him I'd resent it, and he confirmed he'd received it. Yay.

But it got me thinking. Email is a central part of my life. Email, Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype, the blog, social media in general--they're how I stay in touch with the world. Not just with friends and family; my critique group, my publisher, my journalism contacts. Even my dushi Skypes me when he's at the office.

This friend of mine, except for Facebook, uses none of the above.

Perhaps it's my ex-pat status. Or the fact I live in a small island no one's heard of. A large part of the people I speak to every day are too far away for face-to-face contact. But--again, the dushi-with-Skype example above. And it's not just him; most of my island friends are either on Whatsapp or Facebook (or both), and that's what we use to communicate.

So tell me, then. Am I weird? How do you communicate with your world? Do e-communications play a large part in your life? Are they a good thing? Or are we, in Fahrenheit-451-dystopia style, trading real contact for cyber-versions of ourselves?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki -- Haruki Murakami (The B-Quotes Series)

I read this one, my second Murakami, back in January. Outstanding, beautiful book. Murakami is so hard to compare, even to himself... I read Kafka on The Shore last year, and while there's certainly a red thread unique to the author in, presumably, all his works, the beauty of each stands alone and singular.


Not everything was lost in the flow of time. [...] We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something--with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.

[...] That if he intensely concentrated his feelings on one fixed point, like a lens focused on paper, bursting it into flames, his heart would suffer a fatal blow. More than anything he hoped for this. But months passed, and contrary to his expectations, his heart didn't stop. The heart apparently doesn't stop that easily.
p. 377

Our lives are like a complex musical score, Tsukuru thought. Filled with all sorts of cryptic writing, sixteenth and thirty-second notes and other strange signs. It's next to impossible to correctly interpret these, and even if you could, and then could transpose them into the correct sounds, there's no guarantee that people would correctly understand, or appreciate, the meaning therein. No guarantee it would make people happy. 

"[...] You don't lack anything. Be confident and be bold. That's all you need. Never let fear and stupid pride make you lose someone who's precious to you."
p. 342

"We survived. You and I. And those who survive have a duty. Our duty is to do our best to keep on living. Even if our lives are not perfect."
p. 334

In reality, though, none of this ever happened. In reality something very different happened. And that fact was more significant now than anything else.
p. 330

The beating of her heart kept time with the slap of the little boat against the pier.

"Important to me, perhaps. But maybe not to her. I came here to find that out."
"It sounds kind of complicated."
"Maybe too complicated for me to explain in English."
Olga laughed. "Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language."
p. 270

It was a different sense of isolation from what he normally felt in Japan. And not such a bad feeling, he decided. Being alone in two senses of the word was maybe like a double negation of isolation. In other words, it made perfect sense for him, a foreigner, to feel isolated here. There was nothing odd about it at all. [...] He was in exactly the right place.
p. 272-273

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mexico is a proud nation today

At the Oscars last night, back-to-back Mexicans stepped up to the stage to receive little gold men. Emmanuel Lubezki won Best Photography for Birdman, and Alejandro González Iñarritu, the same film's director, won Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Movie.

On his third visit to the awards stage, for Best Movie, Iñarritu dedicated the award to the Mexican people: to those living in Mexico, he said he hoped we'd be able to build the kind of government we deserve, and to those living in the US, those of the newest generation of immigrants, he wished that they be treated with the same respect and recognition that others before them found in "this nation of immigrants."

Bravo, señores. You make us all proud.

The whole thing, from envelope opening (by Sean Penn, whose prelude to announcing the winner is priceless) and all of Iñarritu's speech, including a cute intermission by Michael Keaton, below. (Or you can just watch Iñarritu's bit about Mexico and Mexicans.)

And the Birdman trailer. Just because it's so fucking awesome.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Karnaval! (2015 edition)

Karnaval (Carnival) in Curaçao is the event of the year. Half the island's 150K population participates in one way or another: either they're part of a 'walking' group (the groups that make up the parade), or they're involved in the costume design or the organization or providing assistance to the groups. And the other half is gathered on the sidewalks throughout Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening to watch--and dance, and sing, and drink. I cannot imagine the amounts of beer that get consumed during the two days of Karnaval, but it's a lot.

I've been wanting to take photos of Karnaval for this blog for a while, but I can't seem to drum up enough energy to put myself through the crowds and the loud, loud music. And besides, much better photographers are, thankfully, present. Check out the Curaçao Images album on Flicker, and have a wild dance to celebrate Dushi Korsou!
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