Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Food for Thought, Entry 3: Tetsunabe

Before I came to Japan, my only taste of yakisoba was as a rather sad little microwave meal. The smell of fresh, hot yakisoba cooking has your mouth watering long before you even bite into it!
My husband and I stumbled upon this little gem of a restaurant tucked away in the basement of the Parco building in Tenjin. The bright red and gold banner reads "Tetsunabe," which translates as "Iron Pan," because the food here is brought out still sizzling in the iron pan in which it was cooked.

(Behind the colorful front entrance are narrow wooden tables with jugs of ice water for the patrons.)

My favorite dish at this restaurant is the yakisoba and gyoza combo. The sides are scrumptious as well: a crisp salad with a light but flavorful dressing, mildly spicy pickles, and a clear fish stock broth with seaweed and green onions.

On the subject of sides, the consistency of Tetsunabe's white rice is always fluffy, sticky and exceptionally soft. I don't even care for white rice that much, but at Tetsunabe I almost always finish my bowl!

Their gyoza are always plump and juicy, even more so when bathed in a strong brown dipping sauce. The yakisoba noodles are addictive in their deliciousness, especially when a liberal dose of nori flakes (dried seaweed) is added on top of everything.

If you ever get the chance, stop by Testunabe to have your taste buds blown by utter scrumptiousness!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Interview with Museum Art Educator Rachel Stratford

This March, I am very excited to interview Rachel Statford, a museum art educator at Utah's Springville Museum of Art!


How does the opportunity to work as a museum art educator enrich your view of the world?

As a museum educator, I am asked to help bridge the gap between artwork and viewer. In order to bridge that gap we ask questions that get the viewer to ask more questions. We want to engage the viewer in the possible meanings of the artwork and create opportunities for a personal connection. I have found that as I think of and ask these questions, I learn so much from both the works and the patrons. This, in turn, affects my worldview. My eyes are not only opened to the life experiences of others, but also to the additional depth of meaning that can be found in artworks.

What have you learned about the creative process from studying other artists?
I have learned that it can be different for each artist. The Springville Museum of Art, where I work, has the pleasure of working with many living Utah artists. Opportunities to interact with them and visit some of their studios have taught me that they are all so different and that they work very differently. Some will do countless studies before heading to the final canvas, while others will jump right in.

What can art can teach humanity about itself?
To never give up. When people have a powerful aesthetic experience with an artwork they see in a museum or gallery, they often feel that the artist that created the work must be insanely talented or a genius of some kind. But what they often don’t think about are the years of hard work, entering shows and getting rejected, and scraping by until a painting sells. Somewhere in all that, there are moments of pure magic where things come together and a masterpiece is made. This is not to say that all artists or musicians or writers will achieve that, but that the kind of art that takes our breath away was not made without persistence. Imagine a world without those masterworks. It would be, at best, mediocre. And all because people had given up on themselves.

If you could ask any artist in history to paint your portrait, who would it be and why?

I have to confess this was the first question I wanted to answer, but I saved it for last like one waits to cherish a good dessert. I would ask Jessie Wilcox Smith to paint me. My mother introduced me to her work has she has been our favorite for years. I am drawn to the way she uses line, to her often golden light, and the gentle way that she depicts women. I would love to be her subject because I feel she would depict me as I see myself (on a good day): graceful, caring, and beautiful in my own way.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Because Spring

A dose of ume (plum blossoms) for the winter weary!

Sarah Page ©2015

*My favorite plum blossoms belong to Tobiume, the "flying plum" of Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Character (In)Consistency

I recently watched the movie Lucy, and found myself highly annoyed by the inconsistency of the main character. Lucy simply made no sense. After gaining exponentially-increasing mental powers when a package containing a new drug is implanted inside her and begins leaking, she walks into a hospital to have it removed. She interrupts an operating room at gunpoint and insists that the medical team help her despite the fact that they are already operating on a patient. Of course, the medical team protests, but after Lucy scans the patient's records with her super senses, she shoots him, informing the doctors that they couldn't have saved the patient anyway. Too bad if the man and his family would've liked a chance for a dignified goodbye; she abruptly murders him. This is not my problem with the movie.

I suspect that the film's makers are trying to amp up the shock value by showing Lucy's callous disregard for a human life as she slowly loses her own humanity and evolves into a Super Ultra Mega Zen Being. My problem is that after Lucy casually knocks off the patient, she then goes on to fight nasty drug lord villains and randomly leaves several of them alive (hanging in the air with her psychic powers, actually) to attack her again later on. The brutal logic that compelled her to mercilessly kill the patient mysteriously breaks down in her confrontation with the bad guys. Furthermore, after her casual execution of the patient, she also takes the time to print out a medical prescription for a sick roommate and give her advice on eating and living better.

Thus, her character makes no sense. The movie would make more sense if Lucy hesitated to execute the villains because that was not in her nature, but became increasingly brutally logical in her decisions as she evolved beyond an emotional rationale. The timeline of her character development is mixed up: Average human girl - ice cold killer - hesitant and vulnerable super girl- transcendent disembodied intelligence.

Character consistency is something I struggle with in my novels, forcing me to ask: Are my characters' emotional reactions equal/appropriate to the circumstances? Are my characters' emotional responses too abrupt? Is there a pattern in their development? A drastic change requires a logical transition. 

Note: Despite the character inconsistency, I will admit there were parts of Lucy that I enjoyed, such as the idea that human existence has become rooted in having, whereas the primary aim of other intelligent animals, like dolphins, is living in a state of being.