Feb. 18th, 2017

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There are as many as 800 languages spoken in New York City, and nowhere in the world has more than Queens, according to the Endangered Language Alliance (ELA).

You can see many of the languages in the map above, which is featured in “Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas” by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. The map was created by Molly Roy with help from the ELA, and also shows libraries, museums, and other linguistic centers.

“The capital of linguistic diversity, not just for the five boroughs, but for the human species, is Queens,” Solnit and Jelly-Schapiro write.

The five miles from Astoria to Forest Hills have a dense progression of languages: Greek, Filipino, Urdu, Indonesian, Russian, Japanese, Lithuanian, and others, including more obscure ones like Chavacano, Waray-Waray, Minangkabau, and Bukharian.

One limit of the map is that every language shows up only once, when in fact many show up throughout the borough. Mandarin, for instance, is listed in Flushing, which is Queens’ original  Chinatown, but not in Elmhurst, which also has a prominent Chinese community. Flushing also has pockets of Cantonese, Shanghainese, Taishanese, Sichuanese, and other dialects.

(My apartment’s in the second map. We have good eating.)
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Blurry Chita says, I got u fam, u can’t paint this shirt if I sits on it

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I keep starting and deleting posts about what I’m writing because I’m feeling lost and blocked and stuck and lonely and disconnected, but also am convinced that nobody wants to hear about any of it, so anyway, that’s a highly effective way of wasting a ton of time it turns out. 

Bodhi in this A/U is turning out really really sad and it’s just awesome because I was trying to write fluff. 

He stalked [his sister’s] Facebook, but she’d locked it down when her older kid started kindergarten. Fortunately he’d saved the photo of her first day, her in pigtails holding a sign that said “First Day Of School!” and her little brother holding one that said “I Wanted A Sign Too”, and he had it in his phone still, but ever since then her page had displayed nothing beyond her profile picture, cropped from a photo Bodhi himself had taken of her at her wedding with the fancy camera he used to own.

This package had a pair of fluffy bunny slippers he’d found, luckily in her size, in the clearance bin at Target, because of a joke they’d shared as children. He’d written a note and tucked it inside the toe of one of the slippers, just saying that he hoped she was having better luck staying warm in this weather than he was.

He couldn’t give her any way to contact him in return, though, because he knew she’d turn it over to their parents, and he couldn’t face that, couldn’t face them.

It was like being a ghost, only sort of in reverse: he couldn’t see them, or know anything about them, but he could send them signals. He didn’t know her kids; they’d been so little when he’d left, they hadn’t had defined preferences yet. He never knew whether any of his gifts had been popular or ignored. His sister might just throw them away. But he still felt compelled do it, and was always collecting things to send, assorted little things in a basket in his closet. Every time he sent a package he thought he should stop doing this, and sometimes he even lasted a week or two without anything in that basket, but inevitably he’d see something perfect and pick it up before he remembered to think better of it, and then there he was again with a collection started, just waiting for his next trip far enough out of town.

(Thirty miles, was his threshhold. More than thirty miles from where he lived, he’d consider sending a package or dropping a postcard into a mailbox. But only eastward. He wouldn’t send one from westward, to keep anyone alert from triangulating. His sister was an engineer, after all; she could probably pinpoint his location with not a great deal of data.)

(If she cared to. He didn’t know if she would. It wasn’t worth the risk that she might. He wouldn’t let himself have that wistful bit of self-sabotage, of hoping she’d care to.)
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I thought about that quote. I also thought that somewhere, I have read a wonderful essay about just the point I tried to make in my response– but I can’t remember enough of it to google it. That was the overarching point, thought– you can tell a story CONTAINING anything you want, but to presume to tell a story ABOUT that thing, as if an authority on the subject, is presumptive. It is not for me to write The Great American Novel About Being [X Marginalized Identity] when I am not [X]. But I can sure write The Great American Novel In Which [X Marginalized Identity] Exists And Does Stuff, regardless of who I am, if I do my research and, crucially, believe in my subject.

But to get back to the meat of that quote– the “write what you know” adage is a terrible one from the usual angle. You can’t take it literally. 

You have to know things to be true before you can tell them as stories, that is true. You have to work out the internal logic and believe in them, even if only from a sidelong angle, to get a really effective story. 

But that doesn’t mean you can only write about things that you specifically are. 

It means you’ll tell a really shitty story, though, if your characters aren’t fully human to you. 

There’s not really a formula you can employ. It does make it difficult to Discourse about. It’s very hard to define. But the line does exist and is describable. And I’m sure that damn essay I read did a better job of it, I just literally don’t remember a single coherent phrase from it, don’t remember where I read it, don’t remember what it was called or specifically what it was about. It’s just the point of it that’s stuck with me.
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I don’t spend much time on Facebook lately but I do have a solid-gold extended family, beyond even my immediate family. This is from this morning:
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Might it help to have an online witness? Does knowing I’d be here waiting for a report back make it possible to do just one of those things? If picking is hard, I nominate getting the water first.

<3 I did manage to get the water and the phone. I even got things done. The online witness of writing about it had the effect i was going for, which was articulating what it was that I wanted. It’s still ridiculous though! WTF. 
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ok the thing i was trying to make myself do last night was to decorate a t-shirt for a gift for a child whose birthday I’m going to today.

He is four. He wears Size 4T. That’s literally all the information I have.

The blank t-shirts, of course, were in Child sizes, not Toddler, so there was nothing with T in it, only S, M, L.

I’m just trying to find out where S starts. Like, what size is that. How big is that. I measured the shirt but it doesn’t tell me anything. It’d be too big anyway, it’s fine that I just let Chita sit on that shirt all night and didn’t paint it; I’d better just go to Target and buy him a damn shirt there, it’s better that way. (If I do this right, though, I can buy the shirt, take it home, and add rhinestones, which I want to do because Boy Is Fabulous, and while his mom generally dresses him in gender-conforming ways so he doesn’t get shit out in public, she would absolutely be keen on Stealth Fabulous, and he would LOVE IT.) Anyway.

Googling around to try to be informed so that I don’t wind up standing paralyzed in the kids’ section at Target on a weekend, and I found this chart, and I’m just going to put this up there and let it stand on its own.


one more time: 

why the fuck would you do this to me. It’s not even that I can’t envision a cm it’s that literally every other chart on the entire internet talking about US sizing is in inches so I can’t fucking compare this, you absolute dick. why would you do this.Just. Fuck you.

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Did I just buy a 4T boys’ t-shirt at Target and then glue rhinestones to it because I was so mad that all the girls’ stuff had glitter but lower-quality fabric? You bet I did! Is this for a boy, you ask? Whatever, I say! Boys deserve rhinestones! Children’s clothing is a hellscape!
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Give The Child The Hand of The Beans

fill it with dry rice and then microwave it first, boom, parent substitute
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“The bottom line is this: You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it…If there is no moral question, there is no reason to write. I’m an old-fashioned writer and, despite the odds, I want to change the world”
- James Baldwin (via afrohijab)



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