Saturday, March 3, 2018

Art Mail 12

Even in this busy, country-hopping, unemployed without savings, going through the lengthy and complicated process of marrying into the EU from a tourist visa, way-less-than-ideal interim situation, snail mail communications with friends and loved ones have endured.

Life in limbo? Art mail don't give a fuck.

Things are admittedly not very artsy at the moment, as we're still settling in and I still don't even have legal residency status or work permission three months on, but hey, there are always postcards.

What is it about postcards, anyway? 

Ever since I picked up a couple at the extraordinarily and dangerously inexpensive National Museum of Taiwan back in 2013, I've amassed an unwieldy stack of them that rivals in thickness and heft the very chunkiest of the paperbacks on our shelves. Maybe I'm being unreasonable, but I'm too deep in it now, I can't stop, and you can't make me!

Most of them I accumulated while in Japan visiting dozens of art galleries and exhibitions in Tokyo that have all sorts of really cute artsy ones sitting there as free advertising. Spoiler alert: it's a trap. It became standard for me to unload several from my bag, book, and pockets when I got home after a casual weekday of gallery gallivanting between work shifts in Roppongi or after any weekend outing, in or outside of Tokyo.
For whatever reason, for example, I was way too excited to visit Kawagoe's Little Edo with NiQui and Rejon again last spring - one year ago this weekend actually - and bought several from a kindly little old lady shopkeeper (which is what all of the shopkeepers there are like: warm and friendly and adorable). She was so pleased to see young, foreign women so interested in and excited about her little home city, and about extremely quaint watercolour renditions of its famous buildings done by a local artist.
"That was me once," she said, pointing with a wobbly little finger to one of the postcards fanned out in my hand. It was a photo of one of the many ornate, palanquin-style shrines carried through the streets of Kawagoe for their annual festival, its costumed rider framed in deep purple fabric, dressed as one of the foxes that serves the goddess Inari.
"Well, I mean, not this one. But I dressed up and played that part before, when I was younger".

Things like that are worth so much more than a 100 yen coin.

Once people found out that I liked these things so much they started coming in from all over the world: from China, North Korea, Thailand, Turkey, South Africa, Djibouti, and all over the western United States. I've made sure to send them to my mom and grandparents from places like Seoul, Taipei, Hiroshima, and Berlin. It makes them happy to know I'm thinking about them.

There's just something subtle in these little paper tokens that we're missing, I think; it's easier for us than for any other humans before to communicate and stay in touch over long periods of time, instantly, no matter where we are, and yet, most people still completely suck at it!
24/7 access to novel technology has destroyed our attention spans, sure, but beyond that, I think social media is a pretty sinister aspect of the same vacuous consumer culture that drives people to shop and then leaves them feeling even less satisfied and without purpose than they were before. It provides a lot of instant gratification, lols, and snippets of entertainment, but nothing substantial. Except maybe cats and other cute animals doing stupid things.
No, no: those fluffy little bastards won't cause me to lose focus here. They are good and pure but belong in the lols and snippets categories, and those categories seriously need balance and moderation.

We can keep in touch so easily over WhatsApp or Line or Facebook messenger, and send photos, and Giphy is so great (seriously: Giphy is always there for me and totally understands me), but there's nothing tangible there. Not only that, but so many people are somehow completely addicted to and surgically attached to their phones and they're not even responding to or keeping up with messages, with actual people. What are they even doing if not messaging?! 
Checking your phone becomes a mindless, automated, repetitive motion. We constantly hear and feel ghost vibrations that people just 25 years ago would have thought was a bee, or a neighbour using a power tool, or something. They're skewing our reflexes and other natural reactions. I'm not saying that no one out there is happy to get a message from a friend and chat with them for a bit, but we've become dependent on the damn things in such a negative, counter-productive way. Despite their incredible speed and usefulness and variety, I can't possibly think that the rows of people with terrible posture on the subways of the world are made any happier by them.

And then, you know, one day, you visit an idyllic, scenic place or just have some time to kill waiting for a train or plane to another city, and you think, I bet So-and-so would have really liked it here.

You take a minute to decide which image is the nicest, or most relevant to So-and-so. 
You take a lot longer than a minute actually writing a short letter, realising you're not really sure what to write. When was the last time you even did this, fourth-grade cursive practice? 
You ask the post office lady for a cute stamp, or you're too shy and just hope for one instead. Eventually your postcard shows up in your friend's mailbox, that bland and nearly-forgotten receptacle of irl spam, and brightens their day. It's like finding a tiny treasure.

So, anyway, that's my little ode to the humble postcard. I can extol its many virtues as much as I want, but at the end of the day, maybe I'm just rationalising the last vestiges of the packrat tendencies I've mostly succeeded in abandoning over the course of the last several years.

Also, I wanted everybody to have our new address.

So, sure, why not: the Christmas cards and postcards!
It only took some of them until early February to arrive, 
that's not even that late by the standards of this blog!


I really like that Edward Gorey card I sent Erin; I ended up with a set of them from, 
I think, when Borders closed its doors, or at least from one of their after-Christmas sales. 
Since it is a set, there will eventually be more..

The only really "artsy" one ended up being the one for Makiko, because her doodles are bae and I'm hoping to eventually get a reply. That little "Oh-kaaay!" Japanese boy stamp was handmade by a young woman Rejon and I met at the fabric dyeing festival we went to last year. The bunny and the bird are our neighbours.


After a long and fruitless search for a cooking-related gift for NiQui, this was one day staring me in the face. She visited a friend on a trip to Germany the year before last and enjoyed it very much. She said she had been learning a bit of German, too, so I looked for some kind of cute cookbook or something. Naturally, the only ones with language simple enough to be easily understood were for children, and she's like, semi-pro. Hmm..


Ah, but! A cozy old-fashioned calendar with grandma's hale and hearty German recipes, short and to the point? I've never been a fan of calendars as gifts, but even if she doesn't try any of the recipes, it's decorative, and somewhat practical. I hope she likes it, and thanks Hannes, for buying it!


I accumulated and wrapped more, wanting to send combination Christmas-birthday boxes to both NiQui (whose birthday is in January) and Rejon (whose birthday is in December), but the DHL box sizes were really awkward, so all in one the goodies went!


Like the Edward Gorey Christmas cards, that magazine page envelope and a few others 
came from the storage unit. I made them when I was in high school lol.


I already had a bunch of cat and other images set aside to make a card for Rejon, but this woman with her freshly-made doughnuts also came from storage. Once at a Goodwill or a Savers I found a vintage children's book by a Japanese author and illustrator in really poor condition, so I cut out and saved what images I could from its thick, semi-glossy pages. 
(-whispers- I told you man, packrat)


Definitely not the first Pokémon JR flyer I cut up and sent to somebody as a collage


Also, if you were wondering about those cat chocolates up there..


Finally! Also a sweater and a bar of lavender soap from Provence for Rejon, super cute baking accessories for NiQui, sweet fruity teas, more chocolate, a miniature stollen, mini Hello Kitty hand cream tins, lebkuchen (basically soft, chocolate-covered gingerbread cookies), sandalwood tealights, and very realistic, fruit-shaped marzipan. I can't wait until I have my own money again so that I can send more cute tasty gift boxes. They enjoyed it a lot.


Instead of making a card for my mom I made these two pages. 
Her Christmas package was, like, hella late. Way late. But she still liked it, too.


Here are the other sides, and the pretty card and bookmark we got at the Christmas market, more lebkuchen and stollen, and these potato balls. Laugh if you want, Germans! Americans have never seen these before! My mom loved all the glorious holiday food the year before last and missed it this time around; this was the only way I could send her something savoury.

First mail to the new apartment, from Sara!
I gave her and her older daughter Julie a Rainbow Brite colouring and sticker book I'd gotten myself when it was re-released back in the early 2000's, so a page they coloured together is what she wrote the letter on. Super cute, right? 

And the first postcard and the new address, Patrick's reply to the Christmas one :D


Just before the holidays Hannes' parents went to Turkey for a few days, so akchually
this should have been the first postcard we got.

And then, boom! The box from Rejon!

I stopped blogging about last year at the end of March because I was out enjoying myself way too much to keep up with it, so the post about our trip to the ceramics festival in Mashiko is still forthcoming once the disk error on my external is fixed. Long story short, we lost track of the plates and teacups we wanted to go back for, but knew they were still there because we saw them from the bus window on the way out as I yelled, "Noooo!" so Rejon swore she would go back for them. We went in spring, but the festival is on again in autumn, and she did indeed go back, with her friend Gillian. 

So that's what those pretty plates and cups are that look like the beach. She also went to the Van Gogh ("a.k.a. the Original Weeb") & Japan exhibit, so she sent the flyer, a tiny metal pin, and also a decorative tin full of chocolates (◍•ᴗ•◍)♡ダイスキー For the holidays she was in Georgia with her family but also visited South Carolina, so she sent - you guessed it - a postcard, a delicious peach and onion salsa, and also Japanese sweet potato treats and Korean face masks.




The Powerpuff Girls keychain has to be a reference to our Powerpuff photo booth pics in Taipai, which I'll also get around to posting about probably a year after the fact. So memories, many friendship (◍•ᴗ•◍)♡


Also, yeah, you probably noticed this hilarious handmade Valentine. Hah!
(If you're not an American girl who grew up watching Sailormoon in the 90's: Neptune and Uranus are lesbians, which did not translate well into a kids' cartoon in the U.S., so some geniuses in a corner office somewhere decided to explain their closeness by making them cousins. Ohhh, okay, that's -
wait, what the fuck, right? Even as kids we were all like, "Ummm..")


I sent this ghost hug to thank Rejon. The Berlin postcards for my mom, grandparents, and Zac (he's a train nerd and one of the my consistent correspondents) came from the day I spent there getting the final marriage document we needed. The final Hamburg postcard Hannes at long last sent to Akim, his only coworker and best friend in Tokyo. The other card, another lovely storage unit find, is still in progress..


And finally, replies to the Christmas ones from Louise, back in Tokyo, and the very same Zac! 
One of his colleagues stayed at that hotel in Okinawa and grabbed a few of these postcards, making for a much more interesting reply than something from my own hometown, of course.

I already have more waiting to be written and sent, from the Das Kapital exhibit at the Arbeitsmuseum, the used book flohmarkt in the building the Goethe-Institut is in, where I took the basic German exam, and an especially cool one from the amber museum we went to in Ribnitz-Damgarten, which I'll get around to posting about pretty soon here. So, until next time (◍•ᴗ•◍)♡