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Sequoyah :: Cherokee Genius

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Portrait of Sequoyah courtesy Wikipedia.

Sequoyah was a Cherokee silversmith who created an alphabet and syllabary for the Cherokee nation.  Noticing the effectiveness of the “talking leaf” (pages of writing) used by the pale skins, he divined that his people needed a similar written system to communicate.  During twelve years of labor and study he completed a syllabary of 85 symbols representing the sounds in Cherokee spoken language.

Sequoyah’s achievement is all the more remarkable in that he did not know any written language — was illiterate — when he embarked on this project.  The syllabary that Sequoyah developed enabled the Indian nation to attain literacy in their spoken language.

The Sequoyah League in California was founded to  improve conditions for First Peoples.

Further information:

*Foreman, Grant, ”Sequoyah”, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman,OK, 1938.

*Biography/Early Life of Sequoyah  – http://www.georgiahistory.com/containers/1146

*Chronicles of Sequoyah – http://digital.library.okstate.edu/chronicles/v008/v008p149.html

* Wikipedia Biography of Sequoyah – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoyah

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Written by patwa

06/12/2012 at 10:36 pm

Gastronomica Reader :: Wikimania 2012

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The Gastronomica Reader
Univ of California Press, 2010.

What fun to find that the Gastronomica Reader , which includes my long article about Diana Kennedy and Mexican organic farming,  is on a book list run by an Estonian webrarian!

Fun because this connects directly to last week’s Wikimania 2012 in Washington, DC where I met a wikimanian from Estonia, Raul Veede.  Synchronicity and random serendipity are the most reliable indicators I follow in order to avoid the contrived pressures of marketing, crowd control, greed and aggression.  Long life the randomness of the internet and the global volunteer efforts of wiki writers everywhere.

P.S.  If you’ve used Wikipedia, consider making a donation.  What would we do without it?

Japanese Calligraphy :: National Geographic Society

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National Geographic Society

1145 17th St. NW, Washington DC

Workshop on Calligraphy

July 8, 2012, 1 to 3 pm

The workshop opened with a discussion and projected slides that explained the differences between Western Hemisphere and Eastern Hemisphere calligraphy and writing. The way language itself is represented by these different geographic areas reflects their approaches to writing down the concepts or things expressed.

The Western Hemisphere relies on alphabets that are combined in various ways to express words that represent concepts or objects.  The Eastern Hemisphere, at least in China, Japan, Korea and other areas where Chinese culture influenced social evolution, relies on characters or symbols to represent concepts and things, often these characters are based on pictographs.  For example, the character for “mountain” looks like E turned on its spine, with the three upward spikes representing mountain peaks.

Chinese characters are called Kangi and came to Japan in the 3rd century C.E.  In Japan, these characters have been simplified visually and organized structurally to match the phonetic letters or combinations used in Japanese spoken language.  This occurred in about the 8th century C.E. and the Japanese call their characters Kana.

The function of calligraphy is also different in the two hemispheres.  In the West, the emphasis is on hand-lettering for inscriptions, decorative scrolls and ceremonial documents or occasions.  In the East the design of the word and the spirit of the word or character are considered more important when it is expressed in writing.

Training differs too:  In the West, penmanship is on the decline.  In the East, school children practice writing characters all through their primary education and scholars practice calligraphy as a zen mental relaxation exercise.

The principal styles of calligraphy in the East are: tensho, the seal script used for official purposes; the reisho script for clerical work; the kaisho for regular use; the gyosho which is semi-cursive; and the sosho which is cursive.  There is also a running style which is a very fast cursive script.  The cursive calligraphy is nearly unreadable and mostly serves as artistic decoration or design on paper.

The Tools used in Eastern calligraphy are called the “Four Treasures” and are:  natural hair brushes set in bamboo “stems”, mulberry paper, ink stick and ink stone. Mulberry paper is quite thin and until a certain level of skill is developed, students should use newsprint to practice writing ink calligraphy.  Ink sticks are made from soot remaining from burned wood or coal.  The ink stone is a shaped stone on which ink and water are mixed for the calligrapher’s use.

Our workshop assignment is to practice the characters that express the Seven Virtues of the Samuri:  Loyalty, Honor, Honesty, Respect, Benevolence, Courage, and Rectitude.  We will also practice the character for Forever which includes all the various brush directions and line weights that a calligrapher needs to learn.  The workshop leader explains the development and brush strokes for each of these characters.

While Eastern Hemisphere calligraphy is usually written from top to bottom, right to left, accommodations have been made for novice calligraphers from the Western tradition and we may write our characters left to right.

Seated at long tables covered with plastic, we each receive a little ink in a plastic dish, a natural hair brush in a bamboo “stick” and several sheets of newsprint paper and a mulberry paper with grid markings to help us properly align the character brush strokes.  We also receive a very helpful model of the characters that represent the Seven Virtues of the Samuri with the strokes marked in numerical order for correct duplication.

We watched Ms. Lok demonstrate the proper way to hold a brush and approach the paper.  She demonstrated writing each of the eight characters we would be practicing.

Then, for the next 45 minutes, the room was silent while adults and children, parents and their kids, and several single adults practiced writing Kana and learned the character virtues of a Samuri.  The writing was achieved by paying attention to the meaning built into the brush strokes that become characters representing the virtues.

As part of my year-long Mandarin language training program in 2007-2008, I had to write Chinese characters every day, but we were using pens or pencils for this activity on gridded paper, which is very different from freehand brush calligraphy.  While I have studied Italic calligraphy and am familiar with brush work from my art training and practice, I had not approached Eastern calligraphy before.  Therefore, I was a near-novice, just like everyone else in the class.  It was gratifying to see that nearly everyone managed to approach the calligraphy and focus on the spirit of the characters while also following the guidelines shown for the order of the brush strokes.

The workshop leader Ms. Lok, and her assistant (her son), walked around and helped anyone who needed specific guidance. The workshop offered special insight into the language and visual representation of Japanese and its mother language, Chinese.   The workshop was interesting, completely engaging and an appropriate length for adults or children.  The children in the audience were attentive and well behaved. A workshop aimed just at children might have less background and more practice. Some of the adults assisted each other and Ms. Lok spent time with each participant demonstrating the finer points of brush control. An excellent experience by all parameters.

Written by patwa

09/07/2012 at 1:20 pm

Writers in Washington, DC

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A writers’ gathering, “Third Annual Conversations and Connections” held on 11 April 2009, involved a trio of excellent literary journals — Barrelhouse, Potomac Review and Baltimore Review — with sponsorship by the Johns Hopkins University and Montgomery College.  The venue was SAIS near Dupont Circle.

The conference opened at an early hour on an unfriendly wet day. I rolled in late to the Christian Herter Room, named for one of the least known 20th century Secretaries of State who was also a co-founder of SAIS. A panel of experienced and informed novelists — Susan Coll, Keith Donahue, C. M. Mayo, Leslie Pietrzyk — began a conversation about how to manage point of view in fiction.

Ducking a hard rain shielded by a Munchkin umbrella made in China for Marimekko, I scooted across Mass. Ave to another office building that’s now part of the SAIS complex.  Years ago, the Italian Cultural Institute occupied the first floor of this building, where films and lectures in Italian were followed by Prosecco and amusing canapes.  The Italians have moved on, now hosting cultural events in their swank Embassy across Whitehaven Parkway from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s residence.

The panel exploring the Digital Literary Landscape offered the most international perspectives. Editors M. Flinn and G. Donovan  from Blackbird, a lit journal nesting at Virginia Commonwealth University, told a SRO audience that among their global 750K page views is surprisingly deep market penetration in Turkey where women read online and join book discussion groups, which is an acceptable social activity outside their nearly-cloistered homes.

Blackbird receives submissions from the global anglophone writing community. Other contemporary literary journals whose editors were also on the panel — Failbetter.com, JMWW, LOCUSPOINT  .  They  publish a diverse pool of writers. A key point that there’s no need to distinguish between serious  online lit journals and printed literary journals.   The editors pointed out that online literary publications offer added value with audio and video files that enhance understanding of poems, stories or essays read aloud and published in the journal.

How to tell which online journals are worthy, someone asked. Read the masthead and take note of a stable publication schedule answered a panelist.

The future:  More of everything digital.  Kindle books; print-on-demand books and articles; novel serializations chapter pre-releases, partnering with universities, publishing on cellphones.  Just possibly literary gatherings facilitated by VOIP or video conference.

Written by patwa

22/04/2009 at 12:00 pm

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