Don't Shake the Flask

Because you don't know if it'll explode

Portable Stationery

Recently I came across this thread: What’s in your pencil case? Obviously, if you’re a postcard enthusiast who likes to travel, you want to make sure that you have all your essential writing utensils with you. The minimalist, of course, will just say that one pen is enough, but if you’re the sort of person who likes to make the back of a postcard visually interesting, you’ll need more than that.

Before the pandemic, I had a packed pencil case similar to the ones in that thread, but during the pandemic when I was trying to organize stuff at home, I decided to take everything out of the pencil case I had been using. However, whenever traveling becomes feasible again, I’ll repack a pencil case with what I consider essential postcard and journaling items:

  • A 0.7 mm black gel pen (with at least one backup),
  • A 0.5 mm black gel pen 
  • A fine or extra fine black ballpoint pen
  • A fine black sharpie
  • An extra fine black sharpie
  • Four 0.4 mm Stabilo pens of various colors, or equivalent
  • A mechanical pencil
  • A pair of scissors
  • A ruler
  • A couple rolls of washi tape (encompassing several themes)
  • A roll of clear tape
  • A variety of stickers
  • Around 10-20 postcards with various themes
  • A set of page flags
  • Some envelopes
  • Some postage stamps (if traveling within the US)

The trick is to try to pack as much of this stuff as one can in the smallest amount of space. I think I still have a ways to go to perfect that particular art.

Accents

I recently watched this on Youtube: Why Americans Including Asian Americans Have Issues with Foreign Accents. I agree that there are Americans who have some strange antipathy against people who don’t have standard accents, but this is also true in many parts of the world where certain accents have implications of ethnic groups, class, and socio-economic backgrounds. This just seems particularly prevalent in the US because, well, people are so vocal about it and it’s the most readily apparent because the US has many immigrants.

Perhaps other people have never noticed accents until they’ve ventured outside of their insular enclaves, but I’ve always been acutely aware of accents. It’s probably because I’m a child of immigrants–English is not my parents’ first language and even as a child, I’ve seen them discriminated against because they didn’t sound like a native speaker. (There have been times when I was a kid that I had to answer the phone because whatever crazy adult on the other end couldn’t handle my parents’ accents.) Technically English was not my first language either, but I learned it early enough that I mostly have “no accent” (or perhaps more accurately, the standard accent). If people do detect an accent in my speech, they would label it as Canadian.

I don’t really understand people who work themselves up into a frenzy because not everyone has a standard accent. Accents are an indication of someone’s background but it doesn’t indicate the true character of a person. I suspect some people use it as an excuse to divide the population into us and them because they are too lazy and too small-minded to try to get to know a new person. Unfortunately such people are still very pervasive in society and that’s why there are many who struggle to get rid of their own accents in order to get a job that would have been a no-brainer otherwise.

A Tentative Idea for Camp NaNo

With the April session of Camp NaNoWriMo just around the corner, this is basically the prime time for planning out some ideas for a new writing project. Unlike the November version, the April and July challenges are more relaxed and half the time, I don’t finish the challenge (I’m old school and keep my goals at 50,000 words–so even if I reach 25,000 and “fail”, I may have still written more than others who win with smaller goals.) I primarily use this time to test out ideas.

My thought was to play around with a written form that is usually not thought of as a straightforward storytelling device. Specifically, I want to tell interconnected short stories through entries in a fictional museum catalog. The museum and the artifacts within will be fictional. Through a curator’s voice, I want to hint that there’s something odd going on aside from the boring work of researchers and archivists through the stories and myths behind the objects on display.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been doing some pre-writing, trying to figure out what kind of narrative voice to take. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I’m veering towards “apparently neutral yet deeply unsettling”. I have also been trying to get a firm visual in my head of the museum–I haven’t decided yet on whether to set it in some kind of historical palace or a modern building, but I definitely want to convey a sense of vastness, sort of like Borges’ The Library of Babel

And as for the artifacts populating the museum? I think they will come from all sorts of fictional times and eras and places and cultures. But mostly they will be MacGuffins, only serving as entryways into something else altogether.

Month of Letters: Day 28

Finally! The last day of this challenge. I think the intent was good, but it takes more time out of your day than what one might expect. I think this would be a great project for people who have more free time than I do. As I’ve mentioned before, after this I’m sticking to doing all my mail on the weekends. If I were to participate again next year, I may reduce it down to one postcard a day. Maybe two.

Anyways, this last batch. The first one is going to someone in Russia who likes local nature scenes–I think I got this one in a tiny convenience store I stopped in while driving around Marin County a while back. The second is going to Belgium to someone who like comics and food (hence the food stamps and decorations and the Superman postcard from the Vintage DC Comics postcard box set put out by Chronicle Books). The third is to an animal lover in France who particularly likes all the animals that I’ve managed to squeeze into this (the postcard is from a set called “The Art of Instruction”). And the fourth is to an old school postcard collector in Germany who had a, um, roundabout way of stating that they didn’t like anything but tourist postcards and no decorations at the back. I also took care to not place any of the stamps over the writing because they specifically didn’t want stickers over any writing. And, you know, all the US stamps are stickers now. They might still not like the stamps, though, because they don’t like art.

Month of Letters: Day 27

First up is a postcard from the Earth and Space postcard box going to someone in Italy for a space tag. The second postcard is one I actually purchased at the San Diego Zoo going to someone in Taiwan for a zoo tag. And the third is also going to someone in Italy who likes bridges. Well, bridges is actually one of their minor preferences. They actually collect postcards with naked ladies on them and since that’s a subject I have no interest in accumulating in my stash, I had to find something else. Also, this person specifically said no cute things–hence the lack of decorations on the back of this postcard. I had to use the plainer stamps because this person also didn’t like flowers. I suppose I could have gone for the ship stamps, but they’re not the specific type of ships this person likes.

Honestly, I feel that my interest in postcards and an old dude’s interest in postcards only intersects at a very technical level.

Month of Letters: Day 26

The first postcard today is going to someone in Germany who is having a postcard contest with their parent to see who will get the most cards with a specific theme. That theme is “mother and child” and fortunately, I had a gorilla postcard with a baby riding on its mother’s back. I knew that if I had any chance of finding a postcard matching that theme in my stash it would have to be animal related. The only reason I have any postcards with people on them are because those were on sale when I got them. (If I’m going to pay full price, it had better be something that I personally like a lot. And I’m not a fan of human baby pictures in general.) The second postcard is a special one I obtained when I had visited Yosemite; it’s going to another person in Germany, this time for a specialized amphibian “tag”. The third postcard is part of a book of postcards on Frank Lloyd Wright–it’s going to a Canadian for an architecture tag.

Month of Letters: Day 25

Seriously, I feel like everything is due this week–hence why I’m later than usual in posting this. The first postcard is going to an Alice in Wonderland fan in the Netherlands. This is actually from a smaller set published by Dover and not the giant 100 Alice in Wonderland set you may have seen floating around. (I don’t plan on purchasing that box set–I don’t know enough people who are fans of it to justify buying so many unless it’s on sale.) The second is an illustrated postcard of my favorite bookstore in San Francisco–Green Apple Books. It’s going to someone in Kazakhstan. And third is a tiger painting by Eugene Delacroix going to a tiger fan in Russia.

Month of Letters: Day 24

I’m going to reiterate again that I will be glad when this Month of Letters is over. I know the purpose of this is to slow down and communicate with people using a slower medium, but this only works if you unplug from everything else. There’s a reason why I leave writing postcards to the weekend–the rest of the week is just filled with work stuff that seems to multiply overnight.

Anyways, first postcard on this list is going to someone in France who likes Japanese stuff. I’ve also been to Tō-ji Temple before, I particularly remember the visit because it was one of the monthly flea market days and it was raining. The second postcard is to a person in Taiwan who likes butterflies. I had obtained this postcard at a rummage sale–it’s pretty old since the attraction it’s from no longer exists (according to Google, it was replaced with Legoland). And the third postcard is going to someone in Belarus who requested this sent in an envelope. To be honest, I found their profile a little confusing–I think they were requesting postcards that would match some kind of romantic coffeehouse aesthetic theme. I don’t have any coffee postcards on hand right now, so I just picked something else. Hopefully this random illustration will work.

Month of Letters: Day 23

I find it interesting that some parents want to collect postcards for their kids while they are still infants–how do they know that their kids will actually appreciate the postcards once they get old enough to understand? Anyways, that’s where the first postcard (a colorful Tokidoki) is going to–as for location, it’s Italy. The second postcard is another entry from the Animal box going to someone in Australia who likes horses. And the last is a postcard of storks going to a bird enthusiast in China.

Month of Letters: Day 22

First up today is a cat postcard for a cat tag going to someone in Taiwan. And in a related feline tag is a postcard I had originally gotten at a rummage sale of a lynx in the middle of a leap–going to someone in France. And finally, a postcard of the de Young Museum since the German person this is going to had requested local attractions.