Yukio Mishima and Donald KeeneEighty-five years old next week, Donald Keene is a man described as having done more for Japanese literature and culture than anybody in the world. A former wartime translator, author of 25 books in English and 30 books in Japanese, he is Professor Emeritus of Japanese Literature at Columbia University and holder of eight honorary degrees.

Serious credentials in anyone’s book. Yet despite eminent qualifications, I have to confess that it is only Donald Keene’s status as friend and translator of writer Yukio Mishima that piqued my interest in him. I doubt he would be offended—he is I am sure long resigned to being known for his connection to the most famous, perhaps infamous Japanese author of the twentieth century.

About midnight on the night of the incident, the telephone rang in my apartment in New York. The call was from a Yomiuri reporter in Washington. He informed me briefly what had taken place a few hours earlier in Tokyo and asked my impressions (kanso). I was too stunned to make a coherent reply. The telephone rang all night long, from many Japanese newspapers and magazines. Each asked the same question, and I gradually grew more articulate in my response, until I felt as if I were reciting lines from a play.

As is obvious from his output and recognition—the first non-Japanese to receive the Yomiuri Literary Prize and only the third non-Japanese person to be designated“an individual of distinguished cultural service” by the Japanese government—Keene is a fine writer in his own right, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the following account of an attempt to rewrite Mishima’s modern No plays for their first ever staging outside of Japan:

The producers were unsuccessful in raising the money, with or without strings. They decided that the problem was that the three modern No plays they had chosen for a program were too similar in tone, and suggested to Mishima that he write a modern Kyogen to be played in between“Aoi no Ue” and “Sotoba Komachi.” Mishima was aware of the difficulty of preserving in a modern adaptation the humor of Kyogen, which depends so heavily on exaggerated gestures and inflexions of speech. He decided nevertheless that it might be possible to make a modern version of “Hanago,” with the daimyo of the original changed into an industrialist and Tarokaja into a butler. The Zen meditation scene could be rewritten as yoga, then popular in New York. Finally, knowing of my special interest in Kyogen, he asked me to write the“kindai kyogen.” He recognized that certain passages in the original, quite normal expression in medieval Japan, would not be tolerated in a modern play. For example, when the master threatens to kill Tarokaja if he does not obey his command, this would not seem comic to a modern audience. On the other hand, Mishima thought that when the daimyo’s wife threatens to beat Tarokaja if he does not reveal why he was sitting in meditation, this was amusing and could be retained. Even today a woman carried away by anger might say the same.

Mishima gave various other tips, but I was unable, even with great effort, to do what Mishima always did so easily. I tried everything, even making it a comedy in the manner of Moliere and giving the characters Greek names. Nothing worked. I confessed my failure to Mishima, who thereupon bought a notebook of the kind American junior-high school students use and wrote a modern Kyogen, based not on“Hanago” but“Busu.” He dashed off the manuscript at full speed, changing hardly a word.

The producers attempted to find backers with the new combination of two modern No and a modern Kyogen, but they still had no success. This time they decided that the problem was that Americans did not like one-act plays. They asked Mishima to rewrite three of his modern No plays as a single play. I thought this was virtually impossible, even for Mishima. The plays have entirely different characters and atmosphere. How could he join them into a single play? But Mishima was so desirous of seeing the plays performed in New York that he did the impossible: he made one play of the three plays. He gave the new play an English title with a double meaning—“Long After Love.”

One of only three people to receive a personally addressed farewell letter from Mishima, Keene is frustratingly reticent in his recollections of his friend of sixteen years, and understandably defensive. He describes himself as not a“kokoro no tomo” (bosom friend) of the writer, who from the outset of their friendship made it clear that he did not desire what he called“sticky” relations—the sharing of vulnerabilities or emotions.

We did not share secrets or ask each other for advice. We enjoyed meeting and conversing, whether about literature, the state of the world, or mutual acquaintances. It was also a working friendship. I translated not only Mishima’s serious works of fiction and plays but also amusing essays he wrote for American magazines.

Our relations were always rather formal. This was mainly my doing. He once asked that we drop polite language and talk in the informal manner of old friends, but I found this difficult and somehow unnatural. I did not grow up in Japan and had never talked Japanese to my family or to classmates. Calling Mishima kun instead of san would not have made me feel any closer, and might have sounded affected. Mishima, noticing that I did not respond to his request, never again asked me to speak more informally.

Although we were unquestionably friends, his politeness was unfailing and extended to every aspect of our relationship. He was my only Japanese friend who always answered letters promptly. He was never late for an appointment. When he invited me to dinner, it was invariably to a fine restaurant, even though I often suggested we eat in less expensive places. His conversation gave me greater pleasure than any meal. While eating, we laughed a great deal. Sometimes his laugh rang out so loudly that other diners in the restaurant turned in our direction. Yoshida Kenichi once said that Mishima laughed with his mouth, but not with his eyes. Perhaps this was true, but sincere or not, Mishima’s laughter was infectious.

In the summer of 1970 Mishima invited me to Shimoda where he was accustomed to spend August with his family. He normally worked on his writings every day from midnight to six, slept from six to two, then went to kendo practice or to some gathering until it was time to return home and start writing. He spent little time with his children, but he made up for the neglect by devoting to them the month of August.

I almost cancelled my trip to Shimoda because of a painful attack of gikkuri-goshi (slipped disk), but I was instinctively certain that Mishima had planned every moment of my stay in Shimoda from arrival to departure and I could not bear to upset his plans. On the train I debated whether or not to mention my gikkuri-goshi, but when I saw him on the platform, sunburned and cheerful, I decided I would act like a samurai and keep the pain to myself.

We had lunch at a sushi-ya. Mishima ordered only chu toro. Afterwards, I was able to guess the reason: he had no time to waste on lesser fish. That evening we were joined by the journalist Henry Scott Stokes who later wrote a book about Mishima. Mishima took us to a restaurant where lobsters were served out of season. He ordered five dinners for the three of us. When the five dinners appeared, he ordered two more, not satisfied with the quantity. I thought this was peculiar, but no doubt he wanted to be sure we would have our fill of lobster at our last meal together.

The next day Mishima and I went to the hotel pool. He did not enter the water, but he was pleased to display his muscular body. We talked about his tetralogy“The Sea of Fertility” that was approaching completion. He said he had put into the work everything he had learned as a writer, adding with a laugh that the only thing left was to die. I laughed too, but I must have sensed something was wrong. Violating our pledge not to discuss“sticky” matters, I asked, “If something is troubling you, why not tell me?” He averted his glance and said nothing. But he knew that three months later he would be dead.

I’m going through something of an extended, on again off again Mishima phase at the moment—an interest encouraged by his sensitivity, aesthetics, effortless writing ability and preference for action over ideas; utterly discouraged by his fascination come obsession with violence—if read literally.

Yet in reading about Yukio Mishima I have inadvertently discovered Donald Keene—writer of some of the most lucid, insightful commentaries in existence on his tragically flawed friend, but much more than that as well.

Keene’s fascinating essays on Mishima form only a small part of Chronicles of My Life in the 20th Century, a series of forty-eight, serialised installments written just last year; each well worth reading aside from their compelling insights into a most famous author.

I have often regretted that I haven’t kept a diary. A diary would surely help me to recapture much of the past. But perhaps it is just as well to have forgotten so much. If I remembered everything, I would recall things that frightened me when I was a small child, teachers I disliked at school, friends who I thought had betrayed me, people I loved who did not love me. No, it is probably better not to try to remember. I hope that this chronicle, for all its deficiencies, has at least suggested how one human being spent an essentially happy life.

The following is one of my very favourite passages, admittedly from only a very small sampling of Chronicles of My Life in the 20th Century, yet more than adequate representation of the author’s life-long pacifism and love of Japan—either of which are enough to make me his kokoro no tomo, and unabashed fan:

One day I noticed a large wooden box containing captured documents. The documents gave off a faint, unpleasant odor. I was told that the little notebooks were diaries taken from the bodies of dead Japanese soldiers or found floating in the sea. The odor came from the bloodstains. I felt squeamish about touching the little books but, carefully selecting one that seemed free of bloodstains, I began to translate it. At first I had trouble reading the handwriting, but the diaries, unlike the printed or mimeographed documents I previously had translated, were at times almost unbearably moving, recording the suffering of a soldier in his last days.

Members of the American armed forces were forbidden to keep diaries, lest they reveal strategic information to whoever found them; but Japanese soldiers and sailors were issued with diaries each New Year and were expected to write down their thoughts each day. They were aware that they might be required to show their diaries to a superior, to make sure the writer’s sentiments were correct, so they filled their pages with patriotic slogans as long as they were still in Japan. But when the ship next to the diarist’s was sunk by an enemy submarine or when the diarist, somewhere in the South Pacific, was alone and suffering from malaria, there was no element of deceit. He wrote what he really felt.

Sometimes the last page of a Japanese soldier’s diary contained a message in English, asking the American who found the diary to return it to his family after the war. I hid such diaries, though it was forbidden, intending to return the diaries to the diarist’s family, but my desk was searched and the diaries were confiscated. This was a great disappointment. The first Japanese I ever really knew were the writers of the diaries, though they were all dead by the time I met them.

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I might have once wanted, a long time ago, and just for a brief moment when I didn’t know any better, didn’t know myself any better, to be Johnny Depp. Not really though—not enough to watch all of his movies, learn the guitar or grow my hair long. At least not any more.

I wouldn’t be the first that once did though. A former workmate, one of the most selfish, narcissistic people I have yet had the“pleasure” of working with—yet extremely funny and strangely charismatic—admitted to me that he was secretly in love with Johnny Depp. In an innocent way I am sure, or certainly hope.

While I have yet to buy the 21 Jump Street box set, there is something about this former wanna-be rock star, effortlessly-is movie star that is eminently likable—he exudes charm, and of course untouchable“cool.”

Still, news that he will play the lead in the adaptation of Shantaram, a physically intimidating Aussie hard man with a heart of gold and mastery of Marathi as well as Ocker raises my eyebrows at least. For all that Johnny Depp is a character, I’m not so sure he is the best character actor, or at least a master of accents, although admittedly late 20th Century Australian is hardly the definition of elocution—electrocution maybe?

The following video clip from Reuters is a case in point. It is truly one of the oddest things I have ever seen. Is he in character? Out of character? Temporarily out of his head? Just why is he speaking with one of the strangest accents—at times Irish, at times American, most of the time garish, very much hard to believe?

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.reuters.com/resources/flash/includevideo.swf?edition=US&videoId=51881" width="344" height="320"/]

I may be mistaken about Depp’s accent. I often and happily am mistaken—joyful surprises can’t always be guessed or assumed.

Perhaps Depp is similar to a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, who, in one of the funniest, most irreverent TV news clips I have to this day seen, part of a series that almost had the TV channel in question censored by an outraged Government, was shown, or mercilessly mocked really, speaking in a different accent to every foreign dignitary he met, seemingly at some subconscious level picking up on and then mirroring the inflection and delivery of the people he was talking to—outrageously funny with the German foreign minister and the American ambassador, but completely surreal with the Dalai Lama.

A cross-talking, muddle-mouthed habit ripe for the ribbing it is true, but just maybe evidence of a very adaptable, flexible personality—in a spiritual sense oneness even?

A recent posting on time management (13 Tips for Increasing Productivity on the Internet) got me thinking, or self-justifying really—am I really so bad at managing my time?

Something of a“creative type,” I’ve always been famously off-topic. It is said that only women and dual-core computer processors can multi-task—not true! As a teenager I was famous for simultaneously having the television on, using the computer, listening to music and reading a book, and those formative habits continue today fully blown: dual monitors, a television—albeit now in an almost permanent off state, music, and instead of books or magazines, I kid you not up to fifty browser tabs open at a time.

Information overload or fingers in too many pies, I’m aware that, like your average recycling program or a bank, I take in rather more than I put out, and thus have been trying in recent years to rectify the situation, although certainly not as systematically, not mention whole-heartedly as the 13 tips above.

Recent refinements to my working method have included:

  • Turning my instant messaging (IM) status to busy most of the time, when not turning it off altogether. For a while IM was a novelty, and conversations with friends a welcome respite; now as I try to increase my productivity they seem more and more like a distraction. Unfortunately I don’t live alone or else I would take the phone off the hook as well.
  • Eating less, which is good for both weight control and control of tiredness—am I alone in wanting to disappear under the desk after a large lunch?
  • Giving up coffee. At first coffee seemed a necessary evil, fast an enjoyable pleasure when working two jobs and countless hours, but without its dark embrace I am seldom a gibbering, moaning wreck of tiredness in the early evening. Furthermore, that caffeinated, buzzing feeling of semi-excitement has some benefit in getting you working, but not always in working focussed. You can call me a girl, but six shots a day was probably a little too much;
  • Running more. While exercising may tire you out in the short-term, in the long-term it increases your energy levels, which in turn dramatically improves clarity, concentration and focus. It’s not for nothing that meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy calls running meditation for the physical body;
  • Meditation. Yes, I already do this, but it’s no secret I could do more. Meditation adds a whole lot of ticks to the positive column and not a single cross, improving concentration, mental strength, calmness and happiness—it’s perhaps little recognised that we work faster and smarter when in a positive frame of mind—not to mention improving the quality of your sleep and decreasing the amount you need. Particularly if in a profession that requires inspiration or creativity—essentially the same thing in my book—meditation is like an instant recharge of the creative juices, even five minutes replacing that empty, eviscerated feeling that comes when you are near the end of your tether, close to tendering your end.

My approach to increasing productivity had previously been, somewhat like an amateur athlete, to work harder rather than smarter, but I’m beginning to think that this donkey can not be whipped any harder—not to mention that I’m tired of being a donkey.

The aforementioned tips have been useful in upping my work-rate, not to mention raising the rating of my work—its overall quality, and even more importantly, its joy to produce.

Which may all seem rather obvious, but in truth most solutions are.

Related reading:
Experience Mocha: a coffee-addled impression of a Chinese coffee shop.

Rafael Benitez meditatesAll is done now, the final ball kicked and the whistle long blown. What can I say? Fairy tales are rare enough in life—what chance the fantastic and outright miraculous repeating itself in the Champions League?

In a reverse of the“Miracle of Istanbul” of 2005—a come from behind football victory so preposterous it could only have been scripted in heaven—and this scribe certainly wrote it so (Formality Warped into an Epic), Liverpool made all of the running against AC Milan in Athens today, had all of the chances and most of the possession. They played with heart and with passion, and fully deserved to have won. But sadly, it wasn’t to be so.

The resolute but barely deserving Italians, in a fashion similar to last year’s World Cup, made the best of only a handful of chances, scoring twice against the run of play. Whatever the scorecard might say, money, corruption and negativity were at the final whistle, winners on the day.

While admittedly Milan scored one worthy goal—the other a hand ball if not offside as far as this red-hearted, red-eyed fan is concerned, it is controversial that the champions elect were even in the title race. Convicted of match fixing and corruption last season, they were initially barred from participation, a punishment only overturned on appeal. Money and power so often talk louder than justice it does seem; miracles were always against the run of this particular play.

Coach Rafael Benitez of Liverpool, all dignity in the face of near conspiratorial adversity, questioned the questionable long and loud; his final substitution delayed for more than four minutes, extra time cut mysteriously short, almost every close decision going against him and his players when the going got tight.

When all is said, protested and done, he can be proud of his team, however unpalatable the final result, as can the legion of red fans. Liverpool played with a stature far above their individual ability, and just for a moment, a goal in the 86th minute drawing the score back to 1-2, it seemed a glimmer of the miraculous might shine forth again.

Perhaps the problem was that Benitez, so poised in the face of a semi-final penalty shoot-out two weeks before that he appeared to be meditating—literally, like a yogi, seated in semi-lotus position as his team slotted home the winning goals—put his faith in protestations of injustice, official incompetence at best in the dying minutes, instead of concentrating on the beneficence of some hidden, inner power.

Concentration gives us victory,
But we need meditation
To maintain our victory-joy
When fear and doubt
Threaten to take it away.
Sri Chinmoy

Excerpt from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 19.

Thirteen more facts about myself as a child

Some are memorable, some infamous, all fun to relate from a considerable distance—a follow up to Thirteen Facts About Me as a Child.

  1. PEI 1984I mistakenly stabbed the family rubber dinghy with a pitch-fork. Twice. My father almost hit me.
  2. I detested manual labour as a child (see no.1). Funnily enough I chose a career as a postman, a.k.a.“human pack-horse” for the best part of 10 years, deliberately disregarding my university letters.
  3. I set club records as a sprinter, topping my best friend’s times who was one year older and number one in New Zealand. Yet I never made it past regional finals. Unlike my friend, I never actually trained.
  4. I first discovered I could run fast in primary school and would delight in games of tag, sprinting as close as possible to walls and watching the bricks blur by. One day I ran so close to a wall that I collided with a tap, sprawling head over sneakers, cutting my thigh to the bone. Bundled into the back of a teachers car and sped to a doctor, I received all of six stitches, the nurse praising but not convincing me of a bravery I neither felt nor believed; I had blubbered despite myself and was very much afraid. Funnily enough, at the point of collision time slowed to a crawl, my brain—and pain—yet to catch up with sprawling body—an experience typical of accidents. When I first looked down at my leg, expecting to find only a scrape or a scratch, I was instead shocked to discover a gaping wound, through which it appeared I could see my breakfast. There in the torn skin, muscle and bone, it appeared as though milky cocoa and cheese toast were floating around.
  5. I did Cubs for a year, the junior version of Boy Scouts, and hated every moment, only going along because my best friend was. Let’s just say that being locked in a cabin for a night with a bunch of junior psychopaths was not a highlight. The only badge I managed to get was the one for being able to iron your own uniform.
  6. My favourite author for many years was Enid Blyton—a Secret Seven novel was the first proper book I ever read. Yet when, in my constant search for secret passages and hiding places, I discovered my yet to be wrapped birthday present—a Famous Five annual, my mother made me give it to a friend. Funnily enough, he wasn’t a fan of Enid Blyton. In fact he wasn’t even a reader.
  7. Apart from the year I spent living with him, I essentially grew up without a father—he missed almost every birthday and Christmas—none of which is particularly unusual for my generation. According to a psychic and naturopath whom I saw as a teen, I have“issues” with him, but in truth I regard cathartic navel gazing with as much enthusiasm as for the poetry I once wrote—in other words not very much. Unless it helps in the telling of an interesting story that is. Which is not to say that I didn’t try self-therapy once—not recommended.
  8. While living with my father he gave up smoking and drinking and became a vegetarian. He also was a Tai Chi instructor. I thought he’d lost his mind, and was highly embarrassed by his slow-motion prancing in local parks and backyards—always subject to cat-calls and mockery by the“provincial” locals in those parts. I now respect him highly for all of the above, and discovered years later that his life-style changes were a part of practising meditation. I am following in his footsteps despite my best intentions.
  9. According to various relatives, teachers and other assorted busy-bodies, everything“wrong with me” was due to being fatherless. I will refrain from describing what was wrong with them.
  10. I would get hyperactive if given food rich in artificial flavouring or food-colouring. Not normal kids-on-sugar crazy, but bouncing off the walls, human wrecking ball crazy, as in incidents that got talked about for years.
  11. I got sick at school once and threw up in the classroom. The school rang my mother at work and asked her to come in and clean up. And you wonder how school arsons are caused. Ironically I had told my mother, with all the sincerity I could muster, that I was not well that morning, but she insisted I go to school.
  12. Up to that point self-taught, my mother took me to a piano teacher once who happened to also be the mother of a class-mate. This young girl was there with several of her friends, one of which the word“gossip” doesn’t even begin to describe. Suddenly shy at revealing hidden talents in front of what was an unexpected audience, I refused to play, at which point my mother says I threw a very embarrassing tantrum. Whether this is true or not, the piano teacher declined to take me on, and in fact refused to talk to my mother again. I have absolutely no memory of this part of the story, and strangely it is one of the very few moments from my life that I can not remember. There might be one or two others but I’m keeping them off the public record.
  13. Meeting my Canadian grandfather for the first time as a five year old, the first thing I did was say“Hello GrandDad!” and then punch him in the stomach. It was apparently the best thing that I could have done. A tear in his eye he exclaimed,“At last, a real man!”, and from that point on I could do no wrong. Chocolate milk was sneaked in to my room after bed time, I got to watch TV secretly in his room, and on outings my mother and grandmother were banished to the back seat, the“men” sitting in the front. To the horror of my pacifist father and my own delight I was taught how to fire a gun, and would revel in target practise with an air rifle at any opportunity. What I didn’t know was that my grandfather had harried and teased my father, the eldest and only son of five daughters, for not being manly enough when he was a boy. Still, I only had love for my granddad.

Do respond with your own childhood recollections if you are inspired.

windowThere’s something to this meme thing. Dinner from a can is so much easier than chopped, boiled and strained, and whether ready-lifted from the shelves of another or in a packet, I’ll take my inspiration where I can, especially in times when words home-made are rare.

Camille of Now wrote recently of a Favourite Post 2007 meme doing the rounds, and not wanting to miss a band-wagon ripe for the jumping, I am getting on board. The meme in question is rather self-explanatory: name your favourite web diary posting of the year to date.

I could nominate a number of posts by a multitude of authors, but one in particular jostles for pre-eminence in mind, a story by David Raho on his most excellent bog The First Word, which by the way I have the very small distinction of discovering before he hit the big time: Lucy the Girl in the Window. 698 points on reddit.com can’t be wrong.

Actually they could be. Somewhat missing the spirit of the post, and its authors’ increasingly weary comments, several members of reddit started trying to piece together the identity of the girl. But you’ll have to read the story to know what that means.

To those not nominated, no insult intended or should be taken—I actually like far too many other writers and their postings to even begin to do them justice, which leads me to wonder if a“What I have been reading, enjoying, stealing from and forgetting to thank recently” update could be in the works.

Incidentally, is this the Oscars? Why are we choosing the best blog post of 2007 at the start of the year!

Getting over myself and with the spirit of things, I’ve joyfully embraced all things meme—Thirteen Interesting Facts About Me as a Child one of the most entertaining to write posts yet, hopefully entertaining to read as well—and even inspiring a sequel.

I checked the Thursday Thirteen meme out a while ago, and I must say that I didn’t get it at first. Unlike other memes, which in the blogging sense mean being tagged by someone else to participate in a conversation which, much like the only invented in the seventies moniker, resembles an idea spreading and replicating itself, virus-like across the internet, Thursday Thirteen is very much self-participatory—i.e. you make up your own list and then go and read others—tagging and commenting being strictly optional.

Because I’ve always been highly suspicious of new terms that don’t describe anything particularly new—we used to call these fads and crazes in the offline world—I’ve taken a while to catch on to this meme thing. But before I get called a wet blanket…

Staying offline for a moment longer, a meme is kind of like a chain letter but better, which reminds me that I really should tell my grandmother, still new to the internet but very well meaning, to stop sending the entire family“Read this now and pass it on to ten people immediately” chain-letter spam. But as you might have guessed, I really don’t have the heart (God bless her).

Right, back on topic. Thursday Thirteen, much like Wordless Wednesday is a networking and blog promotion tool. Every Thursday you post thirteen facts about, well, anything—although preferably in some way related to yourself (isn’t everything when you’re blogging?).

The part I didn’t get though is how exactly that is networking? Well, if you scroll, and scroll and scroll through the website you’ll find that you’re encouraged to visit other Thursday“Thirteen’ers” and leave comments on their blogs. You can also promote your site by participating in the Thursday Thirteen forum and blogroll.

Ho-hum… whatever. It all sounds too hard. And did I mention that their graphics are terrible! Being a design snob from way back my first reaction was and still is,“Ew!—I’m not putting that on my site!”

However, being an open and eminently flexible personality (it’s official, my Intrapersonal Intelligence is (self) rated at 96%) a.k.a. a Libran, I’m prepared to revisit my hasty decision, aided and abetted by Titania Starlight, a recent visitor here (thanks MyBlogLog) and participant in the best Thursday Thirteen I have yet seen, Thirteen Funny Facts about Me As a Child.

Ok, so here goes…

Thirteen Probably Self-Serving and Highly Selected Facts About Me As A Child

  1. I was born three months premature and weighed approximately 2.2 pounds. I didn’t really get much bigger…
  2. I used to be able to dream with my eyes open, although only at night time, as doing so during the day would get you committed, no matter how seriously cool it would be.
  3. I hated all fruit and many vegetables. I have improved.
  4. I never had a dog, and all my cats died or ran away.
  5. I used to dream of being a kitten
  6. I saw a ghost once. It was a young girl all in white standing at the end of my bed. I freaked out and ran into my mother’s room.
  7. I was pushed from behind as a two-year old face first into a metal plant holder, smashing many of my teeth up into my gum. My smile never really recovered.
  8. I taught myself to play the piano and would play Beethoven’s Für Elise over, and over, and over. I later took lessons and was apparently very talented, if I could only“get over my mental block” according to one teacher.
  9. I was never ever in a fight. But I did once punch a bully in the stomach and then run away.
  10. I lived in Canada for a year at age 11, hated almost every minute of it, and now think it was probably character building. And despite myself have some very good memories.
  11. I hated going to Church but would read a picture Bible over and over. I even tried to pray every night before going to bed.
  12. I would only listen to classical music until I was 10. The first tape I ever brought was by Cyndi Lauper, and I regretted it soon afterwards. The next was The Cars, with the same result, as I had only really liked one song. The third was Nik Kershaw. And I used to listen to Madonna in secret because my mother didn’t approve.
  13. My father said he’d buy me a tape once, and then ignored the list I gave him and brought home Bob Marley. I was so disappointed I smashed the tape to pieces.

So there are my thirteen facts, and it’s not even Thursday!

I believe at this point in the meme I am supposed to tag other people. Well, if you’re reading this, you know who you are. Leave a comment or trackback and I’ll do an update mentioning you, and will definitely read your list.

But just don’t go thinking I’m going to put the Thursday Thirteen graphic on my site…


  • Alf of thousandeye has left a list of his childhood facts in the comments section of this post. Despite the fact he only got to number nine and forgot his number eight, I enjoyed them very much.
  • Camille of Now has also written her own Thirteen Childhood Facts, of which the following is definitely my favourite:“At ten, during recess at school one day, I saw a bunch of kids beating up my little brother. They were all bigger than me but I jumped in anyway and started pounding them away from my brother. I lost a lot of hair and when the teachers found us they blamed me. I took my brother home at lunch and refused to go back to that school ever. My mother found us a new school.” Outstanding story!
  • My favourite by Larry of Mental Blog:“My experience in public, in performance, began in Grade 2. I sang a song at a school event, like a Christmas concert or something. The first time I sang over a microphone. I knew even then there was something special about that. I literally felt the electricity. No, it wasn’t a shock from the mic.”