I had no idea this story was such a well known legend until I did a Google Image search of “Watanabe No Tsuna” and turned up a lot of results, many of them depictions of the battle with the Irabaki Demon. Here are a few:
Depicting the demon having recovered her arm - by Kiyotada
Sometimes when I am performing, an idea for a new story pokes at me. Sometimes it comes to me in a dream as I sleep and I have to rush to write it down in the notebook beside my bed before it fades. And sometimes the story wakes me up at 4:00 am.
I know I’m not alone in this, but it still is gratifying when the real master folk I admire talk about the same creative process I experience. In Jon Stewart‘s interview of Bruce Springsteen in Rolling Stone, March 29, 2012, Springsteen talks about how when he’s writing an album the urge is like a “visitation”: “the guitar sits at the foot of the bed, you’re up at 4 a.m., you have the book nearby, the tape recorder…” and Stewart responds: “I used to love that feeling, nothing better than waking up to a joke. You wake up and go, “Shit, it’s right there.” It’s great.”
I agree with part of that. I love the compunction, the waking up in the middle of the night with the urge to write—but I don’t usually get that “Shit, it’s right there” feeling. The middle of the night inspiration is the first step of a journey. It’s pretty rare that the story springs forth fully formed like Athena. Continue reading →
George Clooney had himself arrested to bring attention to the one-sided warfare being inflicted by the northern Sudanese government on the people of the Nuba Mountains—and he has done much more than that, he has set up the Sudan Sentinel Project to monitor the ongoing human-rights abuses. The crux of the problem is that the Nuba Mountains are located north of the newly created border with Southern Sudan, though the people there are aligned with the southern Sudanese. New Yorker online: FREEING SUDAN—AND GEORGE CLOONEY
The traditional body arts of the Nuba have been a major inspiration for my work (see related articles below). In addition to the destructive actions of years of civil war and government aggression, their traditions have long been under cultural attack. In my research for the article on the Nuba for my book in 2005, I read in a National Geographic Magazine that the body art traditions have pretty much vanished from their culture. The religiously conservative Sudanese government was against traditional nakedness and bodypainting, and were working to eradicate those traditions—a primary method they were using was to put satellite TVs into community centers, to lure younger members of the tribal groups into a fascination with modern culture and away from their traditions. Continue reading →
We are the proud owners of a Dinocritter made by John Fink. Here he is, staring at us from his shelf with a quizzical look, as if he wonders how he got into our world. Also apt is John’s alternate name for his ceramic creations, “Far-Fetched Dragons”, for they often find themselves in larger, playful constructions—so playful that I found myself laughing out loud at his exhibit in Gallery West at Suffolk Community College, Brentwood. Maybe our critter got here “Through the Portal” with the help of the Scientist Critter operating the bizarro device. Maybe he came as a little egg on the “Maternity Express”, guarded by a fiercely grimacing dragon. It is the expressions and individual identities he gives to each of these critters that makes a room full of them so fun to explore—a gallery full of John Fink’s playful sculptures is a really fun exhibit. Article on the exhibit.
Maternity Express - detail
The joy John brings to the creative process is also why I keep returning to take his classes over the years. From John’s article Creative Thinking: “…creative strength is found through ‘weakness,’ not by being egotistically confident in your abilities, but to come innocently to work as would a child. To accept vulnerability as strength, rather than a weakness.” An important understand for any artist, and particularly appropriate for those of us who play with clay. Continue reading →
I ran into a couple of old friends at the Metropolitan Museum of Art yesterday in the exhibit Storytelling in Japanese Art. In an “emaki” (handscroll) illustrating the story of “The Drunken Demon” I found the hero samurai Raiko (who I know from a folktale I tell of his battle with the Goblin Spider) andAbe no Seimei (my favorite Onmyoji, or yin/yang magician)—both in the same story like a Spiderman/Dr. Strange crossover in an issue of Marvel Team-Up.
Marvel Team-Up — Twice as Many Pages! Twice as Many Thrills!
Emaki are like the original comic books or animated movies, telling a story through text and sequential illustrations. A scroll might be 30′ long, and to read it you would look at about two feet at a time, unrolling it with your left hand while simultaneously rolling it up again with your right. “The Drunken Demon” version in the exhibit was told over three scrolls from the Edo period by Kaiho Yuchiku (1654-1728). A boyish demon becomes terrible when drunk, stealing all the beautiful women. When he captures the daughter of an aristocrat, Abe no Seimei uses his powers to find where the girl is held, and the Emperor orders Raiko and his warrior companions to rescue the girl—which they do with the help of three gods disguised as men, a tree that grows across a chasm to become a bridge, some poisoned saki and a golden helmet. In the climactic illustrations, after a wild feast featuring human sashimi, the sleeping demon is depicted as filling an entire room (described in the text as 10′ tall, but illustrated as if 30′ tall) before Raiko cuts his head off, blood spraying out in a fine mist just like in the modern samurai movies like “The Warrior’s Way” (a fun one I watched last night). Continue reading →