road trip, osaka


Here is a shot of a neighborhood shrine, caught on the fly, walking down a hot noonday street. I went down for a workshop this week, the first road trip after my first official year of work/teaching was over.

It was the yellow “police line” protective barrier that caught my eye–the shrine is on the corner of a highway-esque main street as it turns into a small alley. One of those streets that is basically a 400-year-old road, now half a foot wider…I had to wonder at what brought on the neighborhood decision to shelter the shrine with this mild barrier…

The wellesley farmettes

While doing research for a syllabus on urban agriculture, I came across this image.

The “farmettes” were women who were enlisted into building and cultivating war gardens during WW1. The gardens were one of the array of volunteer and state-sponsored edible gardens that were later gathered together under the title of “victory gardens.”

from 1918 (Source: Wellesley College Archives)


Though I’m late on the draw, it’s my favorite month…gothtober! If you’ve been working, inventing speculative fictions of parallel lives, and entertaining relatives, as I have, perhaps you, too, are in the same boat. Never fear–not yet at least, though the time for fear is nigh–a rickety boat it is! And you, too, can backtrack over missed days of mutilated monkey meat and jalapeño spider feet, to the lovely advent calendar that these folks put out each year, to the tune of an appropriately tinkly piano.  The awesome poet/translator extraordinaire Jen Hofer put me on to them a couple years back. Each features a lovely gory feature, mostly in Flash. Enjoy!


on hiatus, mostly

The boom has lowered on the semester~~it’s an energizing, generative boom, but a boom none the less. And it has fallen, in the last week in the form of final edits for an article finished (and you as an editorial team were sooooooo lovely to work with, thank you!!!), a grant written, and a big handful of nice meetings with citizen scientists, gardeners, and other interesting and lively folks. I literally can’t keep up with the volume of prose demanded. And still keep up a life/work balance. So, keep an eye out for the translations, which will keep coming. And intermittent sparks of posts.

Farm to table, 1918


I first read about this program in Brkt‘s issue on farming, in a short essay illustrated with this intriguing but unsourced image.

Farm to table produce available through the mail in the ‘teens

As I’ve been reading the histories of community gardens, I’ve often been surprised when notions that seem hard-wired to post-millennial ways of knowing, mapping, and circulating in cities actually have much longer histories. Stories about food trucks in LA, for example, have clustered around discussions of Los Angeles as a lateral city, one where people drive between far-flung points to get food that they were informed about through the data points of iPhone apps and Twitter. (Of course, there is a separate but parallel story of gentrification, loncheros and Latin street food that makes structure of the discussion seem rather like the divided city in China Miéville’s The City and the City.)

So I was surprised to learn of the US Postal Service’s 1918 “farm to table program.” This scheme coincided with the beginnings of the Victory Garden program that was intended to stave off food shortages in the cities during wartime. It’s also an interesting glimpse into the beginnings of mail delivery in the US, which first became possible by motor vehicle in the late nineteen-teens, and was a big boon to marketing the postal service. If I remember my meat-packing history correctly, it was also the time that the refrigerated railroad car went on line, so to speak, enabling the systems of distribution that underwrite “big meat” and the lives of the characters in The Jungle. Here, the postmaster general, James I. Blakslee, explains the advantages of the government tie-in:

New York Times, April 14, 1918

The piles of puffy lettuce reminded me a bit of Japan’s postal service, where you can ship anything, including a tall stack of Fukuzawas, for a small fee. Press coverage, at the time, is pretty ecstatic about countering the diffusionist drain of information from the cities–magazines and newspapers sent to rural areas–with the blowback of fresh produce.

You can read the entire NYT article here. The robust confidence in the post office’s profits is also an interesting contrast to the wan expectations of today, and complicates the general “the Internet killed the USPS” sentiment. The more I read about food networks in the US, the more they seem to wend back to the nineteen-teens, and even the LA-centric stories seem connected to other and earlier imaginaries…

“arirang” clip for my class

The song that appears in the novella Kan’nani had its biggest national circulation in Korea thanks to a 1926 film called Arirang. That film, like many made in Korea before 1945, is now lost. But the lyrics and other recorded versions are available on LPs and lyric sheets that circulated. This is a commentary by a musicologist of Japan, Taylor Atkins, who has dug up many versions of the song–which was also fabulously popular among Japanese listeners during the colonial era.

In the clip, he plays the “standard” version, as well as a couple local versions. As you listen, and think about what you have read, you might ask yourself:

  • is this a national anthem? Why or why not?
  • do the variations matter? If so, how do we interpret the version(s) in Kan’nani?