A Tale of Two Appliances

by Barbara Fischkin

Our air fryer adorned with lyrics by Garrett Hedlund
Our air fryer adorned with lyrics by Garrett Hedlund

Part One

This story begins, as no great story ever has, with a dustbuster.

That’s right: A cordless, rechargeable handheld vacuum cleaner. If you don’t know, consider yourself lucky. It means you have had so much household help, that you never needed to recognize that dustbusters exist. Align yourself with George H.W. Bush, amazed, as he was, by a supermarket scanner.

A dustbuster once infiltrated my life and as much as I would like to make it the culprit of part one of this story, I blame two other operatives. For a dustbuster to be an actual culprit it would have to star in an anime film—or take on the alternative meanings assigned to it by the Urban Dictionary. (Don’t go there for this particular word, unless  you want to read about raunch—or worse—ice hockey.)

As for the actual culprits, they are my husband Jim Mulvaney and his late mother, Eileen O’Keefe Mulvaney. My husband is an intrinsically good guy. But nobody is perfect. My mother-in-law—whom I loved deeply—had her own flaws. Super practical, but  more about other people’s needs as opposed to her own. When we cleaned out her house, we found scores of nearly identical striped, button-down oxford shirts in their original packaging. I realized it was the shirt she wore on a daily basis. She was not a serious hoarder. She just hated going to the dry cleaners. Read more »

Zizek and the Noh Mask

by Leanne Ogasawara


Noh 能

The masked actor walks slowly forward. Pausing, he ever so slightly tilts his head upward. The audience is astonished; for with that tiniest upward tilt of his head, the facial expression of the mask is transformed –and he now appears smiling. How had these mask carvers, now long dead, managed to create these works of art that appear so different depending on the angle they are viewed?

The Noh theater is often cited as being the longest continuously-performed theater tradition in the world—with masks considered to be amongst the finest ever created.

Attending a performance, the first thing you might notice is the way time itself immediately slows down and takes on a stretched-out quality.

You suddenly have time to notice all kinds of things.

Like how long it takes the actor to walk toward center butai stage from the curtain. Several years ago, I worked on a translation on the traditional Japanese walking style, Nanba aruki. Commonly associated with Edo period samurai dramas, the style is to walk with knees slightly more bent and to move the arms as little as possible—But if moved the right arm moves in tandem with the right leg, the opposite of modern styles of walking.

At first, it was surprising to realize that people might not have always have walked like we do now. But some people think this nanba aruki style is healthier since hips and shoulders move together, rather than opposed. Also, I learned that because the center of gravity is lower due to slightly bent knees with feet gliding on the surface, it is an effective way of moving through marshes or other tough terrain. Read more »