vertical pillars

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Milky Way and Aurora Borealis with some lovely vertical pillars over Finland

Ok, I have to talk about this shot.  It’s probably my favorite shot of the movie because not only is it incredibly beautiful, compositionally speaking, it also has some brilliant symbolism.  Notice the two different elements that dominate the background for Stoick and Valka: Stoick the Vast is surrounded by stone.  The seemingly unchanging, strong, and “stubborn” nature of stone perfectly reflects Stoic’s personality.  However, even stone can be bent, changed with time and circumstance: the visual above shows this in the vertical pillars of stone to the pillars that have tilted (and this is where Stoic stands, as he is still tough as stone but has been changed in his views on dragons).  Now behind Valka is ice.   Water, the element often used to symbolize change, has been hardened to something less than yielding.  This reflects Valka’s struggle to change the village’s mindset to one of peace, but ultimately resigning to her own belief that people simply couldn’t change and there was no point in trying.  However, with just a little heat, that ice turns to liquid again…and coincidentally we see Valka collecting melt water from the ice in the next scene.  I’m not saying that all this symbolism was planned just so…but I kind of am :)

A list of types of northern lights except not bulleted & in an ugly format bc im on mobile


1. the “is it really northern lights or just a cloud?” kind, boring & lame 1/10

2. would be cool but it’s too foggy, just looks like blurry white shadows dancing in the sky. like #1 but faster. usually happens sept-october 3/10

3. the “green glow behind the treeline” kind. nice and soft but not very eventful 4/10

4. the 2 or 3 slowly flowing green lines in the sky kind, would be super cool to someone who’s never seen them before but really they’re sort of average 5/10

5. same as 4 but with maybe another line or 2 & more action, 6/10

6. pillars!!!! instead of the lines in the sky it’s giant green vertical pillars shooting up from beyond the horizon or just appear magically in the sky, one after another like keys on a piano. one of my personal faves 8/10

7. pinks and purples!!! rare!! 9/10

8. swirls and loops, really fast moving energy like flames or furious spring rivers very nice and breathtaking. only happens when it’s super cold & no clouds. very pretty with the stars and milky way 10/10!!

9. 6 7 & 8 combined!!!!!! pillars shooting up from behind the trees the whole sky is on Fire w pink & purple swirls and u can literally see the curve of the planet on the horizon along with every star in the universe…. incredible 1000/10 there is literally nothing greater

What’s In a Book? Part 19

Book’s cover courtesy of Amazon.

Women of The Pleasure Quarters: The Secret History of The Geisha by Lesley Downer (ISBN 978-0767904902)
Date of Publication: 2002
Language: English
Format: Hardcover, Softcover, and Digital
Availability: Extremely Easy to Find
Price: About $5-10
Errors: 36+

This was requested a while back and, since I recently got hold of a copy, I figured that it was time to do a new review for an English language book.

As for the book itself, I have very mixed feelings about it. I honestly wanted to stop reading the book after the first 20 pages or so as the introduction and the author’s terrible attitude towards her work made me literally mad (sorry to the poor people who had to hear me complain my head off that night during dinner). What specifically bothered me was thus:

-The first mention that the author makes in the book about anything related to the subject is Author Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha. She spends almost an entire page going on and on about how “amazing” and “factual” that book is. Yes, I gagged and lost my ability to even.

-The second is that she thought that she could just walk into Kyoto and everyone would fling their doors open to her and talk to her. If that isn’t a major case of ignorance and white privilege then I don’t know what is.

She spends the entire first chapter going on about how she was treated when she arrived (which was completely and well deserved) to how she slowly learned to shut up, look around, and just observe. You can drop names all you want, but if you’re rude as hell then no one will bother with you. It took her weeks to grasp this, but at least she ended up learning some manners by the end.

For a book that’s subtitled “ The Secret History of The Geisha” it sure as hell doesn’t talk about geisha as a main topic. Less than half the book deals with geisha directly, and that includes the final chapter that’s almost ridiculously ignorant of how the karyukai works and just says that it’s going to die out. I’m sorry to tell Ms. Downer, but the number of geisha in Japan has actually increased since 2002, so they are no where near dead.

So, for a book that supposedly talks about geisha yet doesn’t, what is written? Well, there’s a lot of history and it covers more of the stories of the women who worked in the red light districts beside geisha (including but not limited to: tayu, oiran, and yujo) than the geisha themselves. Near the end she also goes to Tokyo, Kanazawa, and Atami to see some of the geisha there, but those parts have very little about them and you’d learn just as much by reading Dr. Liza Dalby’s book, if not more. 

As for errors, well…

-First “thanks” is to Author Golden for his “amazing and insightful book”
-Calls okobo “clogs” (sorry, we’re not in Holland)
-Calls a shamisen a “banjo” (again, no)
-Page 13: Says that Kyoto is the only place where “strict geisha training continued and the geisha traditions were passed down” (no)
-States numerous times that geisha entertain men only (no)
-Easy to understand why the guy beside her on the plane was so angry with her writing about geisha - In her opinion, Arthur Golden’s book had opened up new fashion and brought back “femininity” to the fashion world (I gagged)
-Says that Madonna’s outfit had “long flapping sleeves and a plastic obi” that was “the talk of Tokyo” (yeah, ‘cause it was cultural appropriation).
-Who would have known that back in 2000 people wouldn’t know much about geisha, especially in the West, seeing as the internet was in its infancy?
-Continuously calls Gion Kobu “Gion”
-Gets her white privilege checked on page 20. Good on the okasan. Not an error, I just liked to include it as an observation.
-Maiko isn’t translated as “apprentice geisha” - the correct term is “dancing female” but “apprentice geisha” is a job description. (page 22)
-Compares an obi to a corset. One holds a kimono on the body while the other is meant to give a small waist (one is comfortable, the other is not).
-Not sure why she refers to cloth in a maiko’s hairstyle as “ribbons” (she ends up referring to any piece of silk as “ribbons” and it gets very annoying by the end)
-Throws in so many random French terms to sound… educated? They’re just incredibly unnecessary. For example, in her “glossary” at the back her definition of shogun is “generalissimo” (not French, but close). That’s not a definition! She loves to throw in “passé” and “accoutrements” often. 
-When she arrives in Kyoto she laments about finding herself at the bottom of the pecking order. Where the hell would she think she would be, besides the bottom of the pecking order? She’s an outsider with no manners.
-States that being a man would have made it easier to gain access to the karyukai. Being a man would have made her more of an outsider. Geisha don’t dote on men they don’t know, especially ones without an introduction.
-Hakama are not kimono (page 32)
-Uchiwa are not shaped like ginkgo leaves (page 35)
-Uchiwa with a geiko’s name on it uses red ink, not black ink (page 35)
-Pages 50+: Constantly makes references to different periods and historical women and then saying “these became geisha”, but so many of them did not (like those who taught nobility). It’s akin to saying that skullery maids became receptionists.
-Page 81: Mentions that the tayū of today are merely actresses - that is a disgusting summation. Yes, they no longer practice anything sexual, but they are still talented artists.
-Calls the juban a “petticoat” (wtf?)
-Refers to bira as “silver dangling combs” (wtf again)
-States that shikomi wear yukata everyday (yukata are only for summer wear) and then calls yukata an ankle length kimono-like garment (they are a kimono) on page 134.
-Not sure why the author calls walking in okobo or zori as “hobbling”
-Author doesn’t understand the meaning behind the heel hanging off the back of geta and/or zori.
-A handara knot does not go down to the back of one’s knees - it’s shorter than that.
-Page 153: Refers to the kenban as the “kemban” and Shinbashi as “Shimbashi”, both of which are outdated terms (same with “aduki” beans).
-Page 164: States that sakkō is worn for an entire month (it’s 2 weeks)
-Starting on 162: Refers to the wareshinobu as a “bagel”.
-Page 167: States that all maiko must be “adopted” by an older geisha to serve as their onesan (nope).
-Page 167: States that maiko seek out the geiko they want to be their older sister - this is done by the okasan of their okiya only.
-Page 171: Stated earlier that Haruka was 18, but then goes on to say that she’s been a maiko for 5 years. That’s impossible under current labor laws.
-Page 172: States that geiko wear their hair in a “bouffant bun” (she likes using “bouffant” a lot) and only wear katsura on special occasions.
-Speaks as though marriage past age 23 is almost impossible for geisha (it’s not)
-Page 173: States that maiko only exist in Kyoto now (they don’t).
-Page 175: Suddenly states that Harumi, the maiko who just debuted, was wearing ofuku (not possible).
-Calls furisode-san “fake maiko” (not even close).
-Likens a tori gate to Stonehenge (’cause they’re two vertical pillars topped with a horizontal one?).
-Continuously states that zori are straw sandals. Yes, that is the literal translation for zori, but they haven’t been made out of straw for a very long time. I couldn’t even imagine a geiko wearing straw to an appointment. 

And those were just some of the things that I bothered to make notes about. Overall it wasn’t too bad, but it’s just so ignorant of customs and traditions and the information that it does give can easily be found in other books. I’m fairly certain that she modeled hers after Dr. Liza Dalby’s, but she just can’t produce any new information that wasn’t already known and ends up making a fool of herself.

Rating: ✪✪ (out of 5)