Sunday, August 27, 2006

Valentine, George Sand

In light of all the fantastic fiction I'd been reading I decided to read something guaranteed to have nothing supernatural about it. I picked Sand because I've never read her, only seen Impromptu. I'd heard both that she was the French Austen, and that she wrote bodice rippers for her time. Well, both are true. Underneath the flighty romance is a keen observation of French social structure post Napoleon. What I loved was that the observations could be identical to observations today--the young hero is described as having a particularly new ennui of over intelligence. She despairs of it--as we do today. The love story is interesting in contrast to English novels in that it is in fact consummated (discretely), lips meet, passions so long denied could no longer be ignored, yada, yada, next sentence is the next day, while Dickens had real trouble with actual sex. If two people were known to have had sex it would always be revealed that they had been secretly married. However our hero and heroine still die, because it is not possible that they should sin so and live--they can't have a happy life. Our fallen woman who bore a child (but is not the heroine) is allowed a sad spinsterhood.
The most frustrating thing about this novel has nothing to do with the novel. It was a library book and 8 pages at the very climax about two-thirds of the way through) were blank!!!! Suddenly there were two blank pages in the middle of a sentence, then two pages, then two more blank pages. I've looked for another edition in both library systems (no luck, hardly surprising). Project Gutenberg only has a French edition. So if anyone ever finds a copy, let me know.

Three Days to Never--Tim Powers

Speaking of writers who write best in certain landscapes. Tim Powers writes most strongly about LA and the outlying towns, which is not to say that he can't write about other locations, my favorite book by him, Declare, is set in Europe before the second world war, but LA is where his strongest stories are set. This however is not one of them. It's not a bad book, it's just a little simple for him. Tim is another writer who writes about a world alongside this one. His world is inhabited by ghosts and the people who manipulate them and those who would live forever whatever the cost. Famous people routinely wander in and out of his novels--Shelley (The Stress of Her Regard), Guy Burgess (Declare), Edison, Einstein, Bugsy Siegel. Unlike your Dan Brown he actually does a lot of research and makes his explanations fit the facts, not the other way around. In the afterward to Declare he states that the times and incidents he mentions all happened to Burgess--he just puts a supernatural spin on them.
To avoid death--be vague about who you are (have aliases, have a twin), be vague about when you were born (have a twin, fudge the birth certificate, have someone else baptized with your name and make sure key events in their lives match yours). Well, I've got some of that going for me! No definitive birthdate, no definitive birth name, born under the sign of the twins (as far as I can tell). Cool, hunh? And do important deals on water because ghosts can't cross water. It's why so many ghosts end up trapped on boats.
This one has Einstein and time travel, and psychic resonance and alternate time lines. And a blind woman who can see through other people's eyes. My husband is reading it now.

Perdido Street Station

A month ago, when I read this series of interesting "Fantastic" books I was all set to write long and lovingly about each of them and Fantastic Fiction in general, but now time has passed and the need is no longer there. Just in passing this is a very good book. He creates a completely new world where science and thaumaturgy run side by side, where our rules of evolution do not apply and chaos apparently runs through uninhabitable regions, possibly because of the actions of the inhabitants. Yet, like all good fiction, it is in some ways our world. The rich and powerful get richer and more powerful. The slums exist to catch the dregs. Good works give way to squalor because the inhabitants are too tired to care and the higher ups use that as an excuse not to bother. Central to the story is the partnership between big crime and politics and how a quest for power and money leads to a very dangerous creature being set free. The ideas are soaring--great bat like beings that mesmerize their victims by the Rorschact patterns on their wings. A little Lovecraftian (the author admits this) in it's belief that there are things beyond this dimension who drive us mad simply by their otherness. The punishments are particularly cruel and unusual. Thaumaturgical flesh manipulators can "Remake" the criminals into monstrosities--let the punishment fit the crime. Criminals have their crowbars replace their arms, and so on. There is also a race of bird like men who only recognize one crime--the theft of choice--in degrees and with or without respect. As it is described in the book--to steal the cloak of a loved one to hold is a theft but with respect. Rape steals not only the initial choice--to have sex or not have sex, but all others after, to have a child, to be free of fear and so on. It is an interesting way of looking at things. A long time ago I read a book that had the great line, "All commandments can be reduced to theft, what is adultery but theft of a wife, what is murder but theft of a life." I wish I could remember what it was. It might actually be a Neil Gaiman to whom the author, China Mieville has been compared. Both are writers who write best in urban landscapes.

What's in a blog

Several people in my life seem to be examining things--what blogging is, why we do things (like go to college), what is meaning in life, what is purpose--in interconnected ways. Which has led me back again to what am I doing here? What do I want from the blogosphere? A few good correspondents. I'm not really looking to get thousands of hits, because I can't discuss with a thousand posts. Also you run into the bitter who are out to argue. I'm not out to argue. I'm not out to be pedantic--you get a few facts wrong about things I'll let it slide, because I get sloppy and make mistakes too. I sometimes correct people, but only if I think it's relevant to the discussion at hand. One of the posters on the Vietnamese adoptee network wrote a post that seemed to indicate that she thought that Tarzan, The Rescuers and others were Disney stories instead of stories that Disney appropriated. My gut instinct was to write and say, "Excuse me, Tarzan is by Edgar Rice Burroughs and The Rescuers is by Marjorie Sharp and Disney made very silly movies loosely based on these books," but the discussion wasn't literary attribution or the quality of Disney films, it was whether there are good role models for adoptees in the world and what it means when there seems to be an upsurge in adoptees in fiction (like the resurgence in Superman interest, or Finding Nemo). My comment wouldn't serve that topic. It would serve no one but my own ego. I know posters who would have said it anyway but I don't want to be like them. I'm not sure how to get readers beyond my circle of friends and even my friends don't come and discuss as much as I'd like. Then I wonder if I even want to bother with promoting the blog. I've been busy for the last few weekends and I'm getting underway designing a show for the fall and the busier I am during the day, the less inclined I feel to come here and blog about it. Things to ponder.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The end of Cloud Atlas

Feel I must write this--promised it to myself, can I finish before midnight (when I said I would go to bed at 11)?

Where was I?

Oh, yes, section 5, where it gets interesting--because it's the future, at least 25 years, hopefully more. I say hopefully, because I don't want to be living in this future. The section is called "An Orison of Sonmi-451." An Orison (I had to look it up, proving I don't remember my Shakespeare) is a prayer, but in this future world where language has taken as many turns as in Orwell's 1984, it is more a confession or final statement. Sonmi-451 is a clone (as the name might suggest). The section is not entirely original. It owes much to Brave New World and Phillip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (made into the film Bladerunner). I find it interesting that 40 or so years ago--when Dick wrote his book he believed that future slaves would be Androids, replicants. Now we are much more likely to presume they will be clones, fabricants here--we've seen the limitations of imitating the human form in robotics, but cloning has moved faster than we ever supposed--yet we still agree that with the ability to "make" people, will come the decision to 'make" a slave class. Like Huxley's novel, the lower orders are "genomed" to believe that their lot in life is the best (I am glad I am a Beta because I don't have to think as hard as the poor Alphas) in order to prevent uprisings. In high school I wrote an entire essay on the fact that Brave New World really WAS Utopia because the discontent of desiring that which we cannot have is removed--we are happy because we are MADE happy. My teacher was alarmed, but had to give an A for the quality of the argument. And like BNW, chaotic nature will always win out over man's order. Sonmi-451 ascends--that is she becomes aware of her surroundings and desires to learn more than how to be a cashier in a McKimChi establishment. That's right, Korea is a superpower. At one point Hokkaido is referred to as "Eastern Korea." Subtle and frightening--that is Mitchell's brilliance as a writer. It's a throwaway line, and yet it says it all, no needless exposition. Remember, Mitchell has spent the last 10 years teaching English in Tokyo studying the cultures of Asia and this book is nearly three years old!
Added to the mix is the modern sci-fi concept of planned sabotage, of conspiracy within conspiracy. This theme is popping up everywhere--and that means it's in the zeitgeist--this is what we really fear, that the disasters of the world are created IN ORDER TO PRODUCE SCAPEGOATS AND FEAR! "To generated the show trial of the decade. To make every last pureblood in Nea So Copros mistrustful of every last fabricant. To manufacture downstrata consent for the Juche's new Fabricant Xpiry Act." Think about that for a moment. That 9/11, if not actively planned, was at least allowed IN ORDER TO JUSTIFY THE SCAPEGOATING OF THE MIDDLE EAST! Try to sleep now! I'm not convinced, but I'm willing to consider and just considering is scary. Think of the movie Syriana. Give them the weapons and then use their use of weapons as a reason to wipe them out. Oh, dear.
One depressing development in Sonmi's world is the micro-chip under the skin--called a Soul (and clones don't have them) but it turns out that a Soul is just a credit/ident chip so money gives you a Soul in the future, spending is mandatory, perhaps now as well...

Section 6 is even farther forward in time--a wold like that in Mara and Dann where the last remnants of all that we know, of civilization in any form is dying.

In Section 5 Sonmi's last wish is to finish watching the film of Section 4 that was interrupted by her arrest. In Section 6 the narrator (English degraded to another language--I love writer's who do this well, Russell Hoban in Ridley Walker for instance) sees a hologram (magic to his eyes) of Sonmi's Orison. A child, for instance, is named F'kugly. And betrayal is Judasin. "My parents an' their gen'ration b'liefed, somewhere, hole cities o' Old Uns s'vived the Fall b'yonder the oceans, jus' like you, Zacyry. Old-time names haunted their 'maginin's...Melbun, Orkland, Jo'burg, Buenas Yerbs, Mumbay, Sing'pore." Oh, how important we think we are, Ozymandias, don't we.

And then the stories fold themselves up. We flee with Sonmi--here's a terrible line, "Think of the disastrous Pentecostalist Coup of North America." Is it coming? "Once genomed moths spun around our heads, electronlike. Their wings' logos had mutated over generations into a chance syllabary: a small victory of nature over corpocracy." In the end, chaos will always win.

Note: the brand has become the noun--all computers are sonys, all shoes are reeboks, all entertainments are disneys. Thus the line, "[Our retirement paradise] is a sony-generated simulacrum dijied in Neo Edo." Sonmi writes Declarations before her arrest, "My fifth Declaration posits how, in a cycle as old as tribalism, ignorance of the Other engenders fear; fear engenders hatred; hatred engenders violence; violence engenders further violence until the only "rights," the only law; are whatever is willed by the most powerful." Sound familiar?

In the second part of Section 3 we get this:

"Exposition: the workings of the actual past + the virtual past may be illustrated by an event well known to collective history, such as the sinking of the Titanic. The disaster as it actually occurred descends into obscurity as its eyewitnesses die off, documents perish + the wreck of the ship dissolves in its Atlantic grave.. Yet a virtual sinking of the Titanic, created from reworked memories, papers, hearsay, fiction--in short, belief--grows ever "truer." The actual past is brittle, ever-dimming + ever more problematic to access + reconstruct: in contrast, the virtual past is malleable, ever brightening + ever more difficult to circumvent/expose as fraudulent. The present presses the virtual past into its own service, to lend credence to its mythologies..."

He goes on to talk about the virtual future that we imagine (two of which he--the writer--has just presented to us) and how that imagining may or may not influence the future that actually comes to pass. I am reminded of Bradbury's The Toynbee Convector where a man effects change by telling people that he's already been to the future and seen it (very optimistic Bradbury) or of Belamy's Looking Backward which attempted to actually do that (prior to Bradbury). Can Science-Fiction/Fantastic Fiction help us become better by showing us terrible futures that my come to pass from the world we live in today? Can it show us an ideal to work towards a la Star Trek's Federation?

What is memory? Is there any truth (that we can access) that is not ever disappearing Rashomon like in personal bias, need and ego? Do we remember events or do we remember photos of events? In the future will all of these little blogs stand as remberances, Orison's of the great unknown masses?

Section 2--the letters of a composer explores the problem of artistic creation--the author believes he must die upon completion of the Cloud Atlas Sextet because he will never again create anything of such value in his life--the creation itself is killing him, Mozart like. And if he dies, then it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, see above.

Section 1--the end of the diary--a little sorrow amidst the global tragedies, that man is monstrous to man because he can be--yet the hero is saved and still believes in the good in man.

So we are full circle. Some 20 years ago when I first read The Jewel in the Crown and the rest of the "Raj" quartet I was staggered by the perfect structure that Paul Scott had created. The parallels he drew--quite literally starting with a British masacre of Indians and ending with an Indian masacre of Indians. History repeats. What mastery and control, and patience and persistence to write so well.

Took me an hour to write this (the time seems to be from when started). Tired and will be even more tired tomorrow but glad I can say I did it and did not let it slip by for mere practicality.

What's in a date indeed...

Haven't blogged anywhere in over a week and one friend called to ask if I was Ok. Fear you may be my only reader, Red Queen. So why do I blog? Back to that question again. Is it just to get me writing? As a more positive alternative to game playing in the hopes it will lead to real work? I do feel more verbally grounded (as opposed to visual where I start to be aphasic) when I'm trying to write more--and I think of things to write 2 or 3 times a day and write most in my head, even if I don't get the down, a good, I think. And yet, I would like readers who question and discuss--not sure what to do about that. Fear I have too little time to see the few close friends I have let alone write long conversations with people I will never see who could just be yanking me along for their own enjoyment. Hmmm...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What's in a date?

Worked late last night, and now things are too slow.

A friend wrote in July about the Tanabata Festival in Japan. One celebrates by tying wishes to Bamboo and then burning them or floating them on the water (the Japanese are all about burning and floating on the water--preferably together) after the festival or the next day. Now the difficulty lies in the fact that this is supposed to be celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month or July 7th, right? But, NO! The Japanese Lunar calendar is closer to the Gregorian calendar and therefore a month off, so August 7th, but if fact, being Lunar is slightly different each year, so this year is closer to July 31st. So different towns in Japan celebrate it on different days. I found out about this last week and meant to remember not to forget to do it on the 7th, but instead remembered yesterday. So the question is, can I still celebrate this holiday since I would only be celebrating it with my husband and the day is clearly not the issue?
What is in a date after all? It is an arbitrary system by which we organize life, as is language. By that definition I should be able to celebrate anything anytime (and a very merry un-birthday to you!). Certainly the Christian Holidays are quite random--the dates of Christmas and Easter (and even the name Easter) were appropriated from pagan religions in an attempt to cover over and eradicate the earlier holidays. The difference being that ritual requires a repeating and community. It is the coming together at the same time that makes the occasion--the knowledge that elsewhere others are doing the same (as obviously my wishes are no more or less likely to come true for being made on July 7th, August 7th or any day of my choosing--if wishes were horses...; no more or less likely than wishing on a star and then discovering it was a plane or satellite invalidates the wish). This is why C. S. Lewis believed in the act of church going while not endorsing any particular church. The focus of ritual helps reinforce the belief (and in Lewis's case, the CofE certainly is full of ritual). In the same sense attending a concert of even an indifferent band can be quite remarkable because of the essence of the crowd.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

As Advertised--David Mitchell

Finally, time to write about some amazing books that everyone should read who enjoys good fantastic fiction or even good fiction.

David Mitchell, author, two time Booker Prize nominee. British.

I can't remember how I first picked up his first book, Ghostwritten. I really thought it was an advanced reader's copy but I have it in front of me and it clearly isn't, so either I got it from the library and then picked up a copy, or I bought it in one of my rare random buys from a bookstore. I read so much and in so many varied genres that I become overwhelmed in bookstores. So much sounds good; I can't afford much so I buy nothing rather than choosing and then run to the library with a list so long I can't carry it. What I do remember is that about half way through I looked at my husband and said, "This belongs on the shelf," and "You MUST read this."

He did and was as blown away as I. It's a first novel which is so confident and sure of itself it's staggering. It's a book of ideas, but it's never heavy handed. As the blurb by A.S. Byatt says on the back, "...never clotted by its ambitions. It easily covers the global village but there's no sense that it's striving for multiculturalism or spectacular effects--just that Mitchell knows what he's doing." It's told/experienced by several narrators all with their own distinct voices and worlds. An Okinawan terrorist, a Tokyo orphan, a Chinese peasant, a Russian tour guide and a ghost, to name a few. It is a story of the world and progress, and human emotion and loss. And the pieces stand alone and weave together. Breathtaking. Mitchell is an Englishman who taught English in Japan for eight years before writing this novel in his early 30's and returning to Ireland and his details are perfect.

When we were in England two years ago I saw that his second novel was in paperback and his then new novel was in hardback. I picked up the paperback and made a mental note to get the hardback when it came out. The second book, number9dream for which he was short-listed for a Booker is slightly more straightforward (one narrator) but still in a world of it's own. The protagonist is a poor clerk in Japan who is looking for his father but he slips effortlessly into a fantasty world as real as Walter Mitty so the reader is left wondering what is happening, and what is illusion. As he gets closer and the world gets darker, again his knowledge of Japan is rich and fresh in detail (including very, very disturbing Yakuza violence). I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the first, but still astounding.

Which brings me to Cloud Atlas. Where do I begin... This was the book I was supposed to remember to buy when it came out in America in paperback and didn't. Then as I was leaving San Francisco I stopped into a book store for a book to read with dinner and on the plane (passed out cold on the plane as it turned out, but what I read at dinner was enough to have me desperate to return to it). I went in to buy Umberto Eco's book in paperback which I had seen at the airport bookstand on the way out, but found this. (Great bookstore, by the by--Cody books--you know you're going to like a place when you have all the books from the staff picks wall) Finalist for the Booker. Because I knew that I was going to want to write about this I kept a stack of post-it-notes next to me while I read (most of the Sunday afternoon after I returned) and marked pages. Like Ghostwritten it's got 6 voices/stories (I say that rather than narrators because not all sections are in first person) and this is the shape A, B, C, D, E, F, E, D, C, B, A, moving forward and then back in time. Each section gives birth to the one after--that is B is reading A's diary, C knew B, D has the manuscript of C, E is watching the film of D and F sees a recording of E. Got it? Then the stories are closed in the second half. E asks to watch the rest of the film, D gets the rest of the manuscript and so on. In a way it is frustrating as the stories in the first half will just end--reminiscent of If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Calvino--sometimes mid-way through a sentence though their is some conclusion in the second half (as opposed to the Calvino which is painfully frustrating even now). Michael Chabon compared it to nested dolls.

And what is it about? What we are doing to ourselves as a people, what we do to ourselves personally, the act of creation, lies that are told by governments. Things like that.

Listen to this line from the second section set in the 1930's--"Faith, the least exclusive club on Earth, has the craftiest doorman. Every time I've stepped through it's wide-open doorway, I find myself stepping out on the street again." Wow--doesn't that just sum it up--the confusion of the agnostic in a world of relgions, the problem of wanting to believe but not actually believing--you'll find yourself outside again.

Elgar wanders through this bit; it's about a muscian writing the "Cloud Atlas" piece. The stories are interwoven that way too--and linked with a crescent shaped birthmark on their shoulders, so it's about reincarnation too, only it isn't, not really or no more so. So he has Elgar say (and maybe he did--I don't know enough about Elgar to know), on Pomp & Circumstance, "Oh, I need the money, dear boy. But don't tell anyone. The King might want my baronetcy back...I always say, Ted, to get the crowd to cry Hosanna, you must first ride into town on an ass. Backwards, ideally, whilst telling the masses the tall stories they want to hear."
So this character finds the diary that the first character was writing but just the first half, ending mid-sentance, just as we have read it. He writes a friend (all of his section are letters) to scour bookstores for the second half because he questons whether it is real--too styalized. So here we not only have a contrivance, you have read a book this character is reading, but also the suggestion that it's fiction when you are obviously reading a work of fiction. It's a dangerous balance--to remind the reader that they are reading a book but it's also bold and daring when it works.

The first section was the diary of a clerk in the Chatham islands in the 1840's. He writes about the Maori and the whites wiping out ANOTHER aboriginal tribe that lived in peace on the Chathams. True peace, no murder, for to spill another's blood renders you non existant to the tribe--truly do unto others here among the "Godless heathen." And of course they are slaughtered by the somewhat bloodier Maori who don't view them as people. The human way, no matter how low you are, there's someone lower to kick! So the Maori fled the white man and pretty much commit genocide. This is mankind.

Third section--1970's. "Hey, metaphysics seminar is on the roof. Just take the elevator up and keep walking until you hit the sidewalk. Anything is true if enough people believe it is." The main character of this section is left the letters of the second section by their recipient. Got it?
They quote a joke that I vaguely remember hearing, "What's a conservative? A mugged liberal." Someone on another board discussing the death penalty said that lots of people say that they don't believe in it, but if something terrible happened to someone they love then they are all for it. Yes, but some how, some time we must transcend that. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind as they say. I'm bucking the trend--becoming more liberal as I grow older. I don't know if that's a sign o' the times or just me. Another little note which kind of ties into the next thought, and kind of doesn't. The main characters name is Luisa Rey. Her father is Lester Rey. Lester Del Rey was a golden age of sci-fi author. She's writing about a possible safety hazard at a nuclear plant. Lester Del Rey's first big story was about a disaster at a nuclear power plant. That's another thing about the authors on "The Shelf." They've all read what we've read and they've all read each other. They are all well read, like Neil Gaiman who weaves the myths of a dozen cultures into one new whole.

Fourth section--now or near future. "You would think a place the size of England could easily hold all the happenings in one humble lifetime without much overlap--I mean, it's not ruddy Luxembourg we live in--but no, we cross, crisscross, and recross our old tracks like figure skaters." Yes, the world of coincidence. I think of this one all the time, of how small the world is sometimes. How a fellow actress is working with a cousin of mine when the cousin and I grew up in KC, MO and ended up here. Little things. How Hyde is Hyde and Hyde is the name of where the detective of "Life on Mars" worked, my new favorite show. Stupid and small and yet somehow they feel like they should add up to a pattern, but they really don't.
"Sometimes the fluffy bunny of incredulity zooms round the bend so rapidly that the greyhound of language is left, agog, in the starting cage." Oh, my God! Is that not just a brilliant sentance? The greyhound of language does not do it justice.
The character in this section, he of the razor wit is reading a manuscript of the third section. So once again we play with reality. If the third section is a novel, then so is the second and the first, but we are clearly reading a novel, so the fourth is not real either, so what is real? Alice like it folds back on it's own reality but always with perfect control.

I'll stop now and post this. Then come back for the last two sections of the first part--this is where things get really weird.

Three Chinatowns

Above--Chinatown, San Francisco
I've been in three Chinatowns in a month. Pretty cool. Went down to NYC yesterday to see a show that I designed in the spring be part of a Play Festival. So I've had costume design in NYC--Woohoo! It's my set too, but they really couldn't take many pieces so it wasn't really much of a set by the time it got there. One of the actresses had strep this week and I wondered if they might ask me to step in (I did once before for a read thu, and I know they respect me as an actress), but she took antibiotics and recovered and I'm glad. It's her role and she's fantastic in it, plus I'd have to still be there and not getting back until midnight tonight and I have a mammogram in the morning--blech. TMI, TMI! But still, I'd have been acting in NYC. Once upon a time (at about 18 or so) I thought that would be my life, but in college I realized I couldn't live with that poverty and constant uncertainty so instead I've vascillated through 10 years and am still poor and only moderately in theater and I don't know what lesson to impart from that--do it with all your heart? embrace being poor? don't do it (as I was told). I met the aspiring actress daughter of a friend recently and I didn't know what to say to her. I didn't want to discourage her but I didn't want her to have vague pipe dreams as I did at her age--that hard work is enough. It's not. All of the actesses in this show I designed are very talented, reasonably attractive and some have worked damned hard at marketing themselves as actresses (as opposed to me) and none of them has ever been able to support herself as an actress for more than 6 months at a time or without a loving and wealthier partner.
We stayed in the apartment of a friend of one of the actresses--a former Bostonian actor who married the man of his dreams and they live in a studio in Chelsea. I kid you not--I have a good apartment, an amazing apartment for Boston and for the rent I pay but nothing staggering--and their entire apartment could fit in my kitchen plus my laundry room. Welcome to NY.
I found New York walkable (well, until I tripped in the road and skinned my knee trying to get to my bus out) but like San Fran. I was really only in mid-town not trying to get from uptown to downtown on a regular basis. Took the fabulous Fung Wah bus home (rather than staying until after the show tonight and riding with them). The Fung Wah bus runs from Chinatown to Chinatown--New York to Boston and back every hour on the hour, approx. four hour trip for $15.00. Pretty damn good. Unfortunately I had to run through the New York Chinatown to catch the bus and made it, dripping sweat with a sore knee with a minute to spare so really only had time to register the table upon table of knock off junk lining the streets, home of the $10 Rolex. Arrived in my Chinatown (Boston) at the tail end of some festival likewise with tables of stuff. Welcome to America.

Not sure what this one is about, but felt it worth noting.