Poem of the Week

Do the Others Speak of Me Mockingly, Maliciously?

by Delmore Schwartz

“As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man”

Do they whisper behind my back? Do they speak
Of my clumsiness? Do they laugh at me,
Mimicking my gestures, retailing my shame?
I’ll whirl about, denounce them, saying
That they are shameless, they are treacherous,
No more my friends, no will I once again
Never, amid a thousand meetings in the street,
Recognize their faces, take their hands,
Not for our common love or old times’ sake:
They whispered behind my back, they mimicked me.

I know the reason why, I too have done this,
Cruel for wit’s sake, behind my dear friend’s back,
And to amuse betrayed his private love,
His nervous shame, her habit, and their weaknesses,
I have mimicked them, I have been treacherous,
For wit’s sake, to amuse, because their being weighed
Too grossly for a time, to be superior,
To flatter the listeners by this, the intimate,
Betraying the intimate, but for the intimate,
To free myself of friendship’s necessity,
Fearing from time to time that they would hear,
Denounce me and reject me, say once for all
That they would never meet me, take my hands,
Speaking for old times’ sake and our common love.

What an unheard-of thing it is, in fine,
To love another and equally be loved!
What sadness and what joy! How cruel it is
That pride and wit distort the heart of man,
How vain, how sad, what cruelty, what need,
For this is true and sad, that I need them
And they need me. What can we do? We need
Each other’s clumsiness, each other’s wit,
Each other’s company and our own pride. I need
My face untamed, I need my wit, I cannot
Turn away. We know our clumsiness,
Our weakness, our necessities, we cannot
Forget our pride, our faces, our common love.

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Word of the Week

Jeong (n.) Human warmth and mutual sacrifice.

This word comes from Ask a North Korean, which I’m currently reading. It’s in a section describing the economic conditions. When you’re poor, people value jeong as the way to help others and to have the right attitude to band together and survive.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Columns

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Phnom Penh

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London

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National Museum of China at night, Beijing

Each week Cee of Cee’s Photography challenges bloggers with a fun prompt. This week we’re to find photos of subjects that feature columns or vertical lines.

If you want to see more fun photos, click here.

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Tell Me Something Good

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Tell Me Something Good is a simple challenge that prompts bloggers to share a nugget of positive news or wisdom and it’s started by the creator of A Momma’s View.

  • I got a surprise call from my friend Jennifer. She lives a few states down and over and we don’t get to talk as much as I’d like.
  • It’s been rather rainy, but the grey skies haven’t made me gloomy. They add atmosphere that heightens the fun of reading. I guess that’s hygge in action.
  • I’m making headway with The Wings of the Dove. Though the prose seems denser than most books I choose, I haven’t given up! A friend suggested we read and discuss it so I’m plugging along.

So for all of you who would like to play along and stick to the rules, here they are:

It’s easy:

Mention something that you consider being good in the comments

• Or write a post about it on your blog (please don’t forget the pingback if you do so I don’t miss out and also share the link to it in the comments below). Something good that happened to you recently, or something good you will experience in a little while, or something good you know will happen soon. Something that makes you feel good.

• Share this post and invite your followers as well.

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea

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I highly recommend animator Guy Delisle’s graphic memoir Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. Deslisle, a French Canadian, had to go to North Korea for two months to supervise the animators his French employer contracted (for their ultra-cheap rates). As you might expect the landscape and city are dreary, dark at night save a lit up portrait of the Supreme Leader. He recounts his dull, ever-present translator and guide. The food is bland and the restaurants dirty. Foreigners are separated from the People. So Delisle’s only companionship is a go-between at work, and other foreigners at the hotel or in the NGO compound, which has parties on the weekend.

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It was interesting to read about the approved responses Capt. Sin, Delise’s handler would give to his queries about the country and to learn of the pervasive propaganda. One “high” point was a visit to the Museum of American Oppression, which was two stories of images (three photos and many paintings) of Americans doing atrocious things to the North Koreans. There are paintings of US soldiers forcing motor oil down the throats of children and other forms of torture including the use of the rack, which seem quite dubious even if you acknowledge that yes, unfortunately, and shamefully, sometimes American military has resorted to torture. Capt. Sin was very disappointed that Delise didn’t react as he’d expected to the museum trip.

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delisle_guy_pyongyangThere are plenty of anecdote’s of the usual the translator isn’t around when Delisle needs him so rather than wait for hours Delisle goes out on his own through the streets of Pyongyang in search of a gift for his godson. “What’s to buy in the DPRK?” you might ask. Delisle did return empty handed as he couldn’t even find a cheap kitsch. Poor North Korea, indeed. Delisle made me feel like a friend he was sharing his tales of North Korea with. I felt his treatment was fair and thorough. I sure wouldn’t want to stay in Pyongyang a minute past two months. If you do have to go, even for a weekend, Bring food. What they offer seems dreadful.

Based on this book, I’m planning to read his books on Shenzhen and Jerusalem. The later I’ve already ordered from the library.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!
Grab a cup of coffee and share with us! What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about?

If we were having coffee, I’d first say that since Starbucks is raising its prices, I’m going to lessen the number of times I go there. I’m branching out to Dunkin Donuts to economize. I realize prices go up but Starbucks doesn’t offer as nice a service in the US as you get overseas so I already felt that I was paying the same, but getting less than when I went to their outlets in Asia.

I’d mention that we had a big storm last night and when I woke up we had no electricity. So much depends on electricity. It was too gray to read. There was no cooking, internet, or laundry.  What was I going to do with my day? Luckily power was restored.

I’d also say I’m delighted with my new job. I’m working at a library and have only done orientation tasks, but it was a positive week. One highlight was a tour of the community. It’s a diverse village with a nice sculpture park, a new technology center for start ups, several synagogues, churches and mosques. There are a few Jewish schools and an Islamic school. Lots of business and industry add to the generous funding to this library. New week I’ll roll up my sleeves and begin to develop an online learning course.

I’m reading too many books, and need to finish a few. I am reading a biography of François Truffaut. It’s heartbreaking how tough his childhood was. His mother didn’t want him and did the minimum for him. It’s amazing how he was able to contribute so much to the world of film. I’m also chugging through Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove, which I’m going to discuss online with a friend who lives in Washington. We read and discuss novels online and are proceeding chronologically. It’s slow going and partly because James has a reputation, well-earned I’d say, for dense prose. I’m also reading a graphic memoir of a trip to North Korea and the novel Radium Girls. More on those another time.

 

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