Friday, December 29, 2006
When I was young, I was a figure skater. I started when I was five, and skated like a fiend until I was thirteen. My sister and I were in two ice shows every year--The Nutcracker on Ice every December, and a big revue in the Spring. We also competed in local and regional competitions and came home with our fair share of ribbons and trophies. Skating was a huge part of my life; for a couple of years, we skated almost every day after school and some days before (for some reason, I have a very clear memory of waking up for an early session one morning, crumbling some chocolate chip cookies into cereal bowls for me and my sister, pouring milk over them, and telling my mom we were eating Quaker 100% Natural cereal. I recall thinking that the extra sugar would help give us more energy for our skating.)
Every session of skating club would start with an hour of figures (or "patch" as we called it, since each skater was assigned a patch of ice to practice our figure 8s). I enjoyed the hush of the rink during figures, the slice of the blades on ice, the whir of the scribe (the big compass that we used to trace circles on the ice that we'd try to follow with our blades--or that we'd use to measure how close to a circle we were able to get on our own.) After the quiet, focused hour, we'd change into our freestyle skates (which had different blades, with an extra toepick) for an hour of jumping and spinning and footwork, for practicing our routines, and working with our coaches, and going as fast as we possible could, the air cold and sharp in our noses, eyes watering, hair flying back like streamers.
I can't begin to do the double jumps and intricate spins of my youth, but getting on the ice still feels like home to me, like freedom. You can see my edges blurring in this picture, my skates edging me toward flight.
Mess is robust and adaptable...as opposed to brittle, like a parent’s rigid schedule that doesn’t allow for a small child’s wool-gathering or balkiness. Mess is complete, in that it embraces all sorts of random elements. Mess tells a story: you can learn a lot about people from their detritus, whereas neat — well, neat is a closed book. Neat has no narrative and no personality (as any cover of Real Simple magazine will demonstrate). Mess is also natural, as Mr. Freedman and Mr. Abrahamson point out, and a real time-saver. “It takes extra effort to neaten up a system,” they write. “Things don’t generally neaten themselves.”I used to think that one day I would be more organized, more neat (and therefore more "grown up"), but I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that that's not going to happen.
I am a fan of entropy. I like to see how things unfold, evolve (sometimes devolve) over time. I remember my Physics for Poets professor said that entropy is very powerful because it's the way of nature--things fall apart, then find a new sort of order. It's the whole cycle of creation and destruction. "That's why it's so hard to keep your room neat," he told the class. "You have to work against entropy. It's a losing battle." I prefer working with entropy. It's much more interesting and comfortable (and it definitely saves time.) Not that I live (or want to) in squalor and filth--I just don't mind a cozy jumble. Every once in a while, I get self-conscious about clutter--especially if someone shows up at my house unannounced--but the feeling tends to pass pretty quickly.
I know some people who find cleaning to be meditative, relaxing, empowering. And that's wonderful for them. It's like with writing--everyone has to find their own best process, their own path to bliss. It's so individual. And I know my own personal path to bliss (and health) doesn't require a feather duster.
Happy birthday, my sweet, smart, funny, beautiful, talented girl.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Life is B-A-N-A-N-A-S right now (thanks to Kit Stolz for alerting me to this wonderful image!) but I thought I'd take a moment to touch base and wish everyone a joyous and decidedly non-banana-like holiday season (unless, of course, that is what you are hungry for!)
Some fun Self Storage news...You can also find the book in the January issue of Redbook (recommended on the same page as my friend Laura Ruby's new book, I'm Not Julia Roberts!) Here is what they have to say
Self Storage doesn't hit stores until January 23, but Bookreporter is giving 10 free advance copies away to people who would like to preview the book and comment about it on their website. You can find out more here.
Flan Parker's Children and friends mean everything to her, but she still yearns to find her own place in a confused, fearful post-9/11 world. Guided by the words of her favorite poet, Walt Whitman, Flan sets off on a surprising journey of self-discovery in Gayle Brandeis's witty and heartwarming novel, Self Storage.
Happy holidays, everyone! Hope they're warm and delicious and meaningful for all of you.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Here's the text (under the headline 2 LOST WOMEN, 2 MUST-READ NOVELS--the other novel mentioned is Vendela Vida's Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name):
Self Storage by Gayle BrandeisPretty cool, huh?!
Flan Parker's life has spun out of control. But when she hides a burka-clad neighbor from vigilantes post-9/11, she finds the strength to help herself.
(And for other burqa-related writing, check out this cool essay at Nerve.com; it finds parallels between burqa-wearing and recent celebrity waxed-nether-regions flashings!)
Friday, December 15, 2006
The poem, Sheridan Square, honors the street I grew up on in Evanston, IL, right on the border of Chicago. You can see it on Google Maps here.
It wasn't a square, really,
just half of one,
the L-shaped street
I grew up on.
I loved saying I lived
on an L-shaped street;
maybe that's where my love
of letters grew from,
living on the forearm
of those two perpendicular lines,
lines that instantly lulled me
as I turned the corner
at the green mail box
on the way home from school,
the L bent like an elbow,
holding me close
to the heart of my life.
I've lived in the "Inland Empire" for 20 years--it is a much-maligned, misunderstood part of Southern California. I doubt David Lynch's new fever dream of a movie, Inland Empire, is going to change that in any way--a review in the New York Times made reference to the "bleak Southern Califonia region" of the movie's title. And yes, the Inland Empire is bleak in places, but it's also beautiful and wild and complicated and growing, and, as the back of Inlandia notes, it's a "breeding ground for passionate literature." The book features a diverse mix of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction, from Joan Didion, John Steinbeck, MFK Fisher, Mike Davis, Laura Kalpakian, Susan Straight, Alex Espinoza, Michael Jaime-Becerra, and many other voices (including an excerpt from my novel, The Book of Dead Birds.) I am very grateful to Heyday Books for honoring this adopted home of mine, for celebrating it through the written word, for helping people begin to understand the majesty of this often misread place.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
Arin had to take off his long sleeved shirt to accomodate the cast. We were in a room divided into two exam areas; the two women--one probably in her late 30s and her mother--waiting in the adjacent area couldn't take their eyes off Arin's bare chest. The older woman actually took a few steps closer to get a better look. So interesting to see women staring at him that way (although I don't blame them; he is a gorgeous 16 year old guy.) I looked at Arin's shoulders, and remembered a portrait of him from when he was about 6 weeks old. A photographer came to our house to take pictures, and propped Arin up, his little arms crossed on top of the cushion in front of him. His shoulders looked so burly for a baby as he rested on his elbows, so well muscled and defined, lightly feathered with hair. They look almost just the same now, only on a much larger scale. My baby, almost all grown up.
I think of Arin's hand bones, shoulder bones, forming inside my belly, and it makes me dizzy again to think of anything happening to any sweet part of him.
I was recently asked to read two novels in manuscript. In both of them, women lose their sons when they are young men (one dies of an overdose; the other dies in an accident after being kidnapped in Africa.) I have been feeling such sharp stabs of loss as I read these beautifully written stories. They remind me that Arin's skateboard accident could have been so much worse. Still, his injury can't help but drive home how fragile life really is, how the world as we know it can change in one swift moment, how we need to hold those we love close to our hearts because we don't know how long we'll get to keep them there.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
2) Every scene has a mood, and everything in that scene should contribute to that mood. Just as in poetry, where each word counts, each sensory detail, description, and image should work to evoke the mood you intend. Nothing you put in a scene should be arbitrary — every word should count towards creating the overall tone.Yes (although these issues come in to the picture during revision for me, not during the initial writing, when I am usually not very conscious of what I'm doing). I am not sure how I feel about the next item on her list, which talks about manipulating the reader's emotions. I try not to think of the reader as I write. I try to not have an agenda or be manipulative in any way (although I often do feel manipulated by my characters--they toss me all over the place.) I am in awe of writers who have a handle on the tone and effect of their work; it tends to be a big mysterious mush for me.
I still haven't read Newman's book, Mary. I am very eager to do so.
For another perspective on writing, here is an Author's Prayer from Ilya Kaminsky. I especially love these lines:
I must write the same poem over and overI went to my montly poetry group tonight. I love meeting with this group of poet women--all of them are so talented and insightful and fun to hang out with. One woman, Lavina Blossom (an amazing name, yes?) shared a prose poem that holds one of the greatest sentences I've read in a long time: "As for me, I seemed to be slipping into something comfortable that felt like infinity."
for the empty page is a white flag of their surrender.
If I speak of them, I must walk
on the edge of myself, I must live as a blind man
who runs through the rooms without
touching the furniture
That's how reading and writing often feel to me, like slipping into something comfortable that feels like infinity.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
After the concert, my family got into a van along with Lebanese singer/songwriter Tania Saleh and her band to head back to the hotel. A wildeyed man who looked a little bit like a dirty and disheveled Santa Claus had been hanging around the front of the theater, pushing his bicycle, chanting something about Death. My daughter was getting very freaked out by him as we stood on the sidewalk, and was relieved when the van arrived and we were able to get inside. The man, however, proceeded to get into a tussle with one of the musicians still standing outside, and ended up opening the van door right next to my daughter and lunging toward her with all his anti-Santa-Claus rage. She jumped across my lap, screaming--I've never seen her move so quickly before. Thankfully someone was able to pull the man away, and we shut and locked the door before he could get back in.
My daughter was deeply shaken, of course. I was so moved to see how this group of Lebanese musicians--men who might be mistaken for terrorists by ignorant Americans--worked to calm her down. One of the men asked her her name. When she said Hannah, he asked if she knew that it was an Arabic name. Hannah shook her head--we had only known it as a Hebrew name. Hannah means "happiness" in Arabic, he told her. "Be your name," he said with a gently teasing smile. He was able to get her to stop hyperventilating, get her to relax, even laugh.
It is direct experiences like this one that can really break down preconceptions and help us as human beings open our hearts to one another. We need more cultural dialogue like this, more avenues toward understanding. I am so glad my brother and his wife built this bridge of music; the show will probably air sometime in April--I will be sure to share the information when the time draws near.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
The Book of Dead Birds (2003), Brandeis’ debut, won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize. In her second brisk, covertly trenchant novel, Brandeis manages to weave Walt Whitman, 9/11, and secondhand goods into a provocative story about the nature of one’s self and the intrinsically human need to find meaning in life. Flannery cherishes an old edition of Leaves of Grass, her only bequest from her long-deceased mother. With Whitman as her spiritual guide, she lives hand-to-mouth with her soap-opera-addicted graduate-student husband, high-strung young son, and escape-artist toddler daughter in a Riverside, California, enclave for international scholars. To make ends meet, Flan buys and resells the auctioned-off, memory-laden contents of abandoned self-storage units. As though life isn’t precarious enough, Flan is drawn into a high-stakes drama involving her burka-wearing Afghan neighbor, the target of prejudice and hate crimes. Executing a marvelous narrative sleight of hand, Brandeis uses slyly insouciant humor and irresistible characters to delve into the true significance of neighborliness, advocate for doing the right thing, and celebrate a Whitmanesque embrace of life. ––Donna SeamanI am very grateful.
Monday, November 13, 2006
NPR's Novel Ideas: How Writers Create Their Fiction (scroll down to the bottom of the page)
an interview at Mom Writers Literary Magazine
How about them elections, by the way?! I am still beaming.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
It is my great pleasure today to welcome Donna Druchunas to Fruitful. Donna is currently on a blog tour to promote her new book, Arctic Lace. I asked her to share how she weaves together writing and knitting and social responsibility (a mix that is central to her life). Here is her beautiful and inspiring response:Hi Gayle,
Thanks so much for inviting me to post a guest entry on your blog. I am very excited to talk about social responsibility and how it relates to my writing and knitting. It’s something that I think we writers forget about sometimes, when we get sucked into the rat race of book sales or we focus too much on using our writing solely to fulfill our own creative needs.
When I first thought about writing my second book, Arctic Lace, my goals were basically selfish. I had read an article about a group of 200 Native Alaskan women who knit delicate lace using fur from the arctic musk ox. I wanted to know more. I wanted to read a book on the subject, but it didn’t exist! So I set off on a journey to follow my obsession with the story. I thought it would be straight forward and I would write a “normal” knitting book about my discoveries.
However, as I worked through my research, and especially as I traveled in Alaska in 2004, I began to realize that there was a lot more to this story than I originally anticipated. Not only is it the story of a unique style of knitting and an unusual type of yarn, but it is the story of empowering women, of protecting the environment, and of appreciating and preserving cultures that differ from the mainstream.
When the Musk Ox Project, as it was first called, began in the 1950s, it was headed by a Vermonter named John Teal who had a vision to domesticate the musk ox and to create a cottage industry that would provide income to Native Alaskan people living in rural villages. At the time, the only job available to most women was to be a man’s secretary. Several of the women who were very influential in the birth and development of the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-operative, as it came to be known when it was incorporated, were hired as secretaries. Today, however, the co-op’s director is a woman, most of the people who work in the retail shop are women, and the Musk Ox Farm’s manager is a woman. My how things have changed! But the lack of economic opportunities that provide independence for women is still a huge problem around the world.
In Eskimo villages around Alaska, life for women is more difficult than it is for those of us who live in cities, suburbs, and even in rural towns in the lower 48. Because the villages are so remote, the cost of every-day items is outrageously high. When I visited Unalakleet, a village of 600 on the West coast of Alaska, I went to the general store and did some comparison shopping. A pack of hot dogs cost $7, a gallon of milk, $6.99, a quart of apple juice, $4.59, and one pound of low-quality chop meat cost $3.49. In addition, most of the food available was processed and frozen, and the selection of fresh, healthy items was all but non-existent. At the same time, jobs are scarce, often seasonal, and usually go to men first. This is true all over the Yukon Kuskokwim River Delta, where most of the knitters from the Oomingmak Co-op live. With so few opportunities to make money and little healthy food available for sale even at high prices, the people there still depend primarily on traditional food gathering techniques for their survival.
Most of the Yup’ik people who live in the delta want to preserve their Native traditions and live off the land, but that does not eliminate the need for cash. Today snow mobiles have largely replaced dog teams for winter transportation and aluminum fishing boats have replaced kayaks for summer travel. Both of these vehicles run on purchased fuel. Traditional fur parkas have been replaced by modern Polar Fleece and ready-to-wear winter clothing. Indoor plumbing, heated houses, and computers have become necessities of life in Eskimo villages, just as they have for the rest of us. These are just a few examples of how modern technologies are being incorporated into the traditional subsistence lifestyle. And all of these things cost money.
Knitting gives women in these villages the ability to make money while they travel to fish camps and berry picking areas in the summer, preserve food for the coming winter each fall, and care for young children or elders throughout the year. (There have been a few male knitters in the co-op but none are actively involved today.)
Traditional Yup’ik society was much more egalitarian than today’s capitalist culture. Wealth was often redistributed at annual feasts and ceremonies, and families took care of one another in a way that is not common in modern American society. The changes that have come, in many places just over the past 40 or 50 years, have not been easy for many Eskimo people to accept. They struggle to maintain the important aspects of their culture while adopting modern tools to help them gain a stronger political voice and to make life easier for themselves and their children.
One of the most basic values of the Yup’ik people is the protection of the environment. A core philosophy is to make sure that any decision made and any action taken is not only right for the current moment, but also for the future of the next seven generations. It is often difficult for the older Native people to understand how the actions of those of us so far away in the lower 48 and around the world can impact their environment so destructively. And yet they stand almost powerless as they watch the polar ice melting and the sea swallowing their villages. At least two of the member villages of the Oomingmak Co-op will have to be moved due to erosion caused by global warming. In addition, the loss of polar ice disrupts the food chain, as marine mammals are forced to change their normal migration paths. While politicians in Washington ignore the scientific data that does not support their ideology or the goals of corporate lobbyists, Native Alaskans are watching their lives and livelihoods being washed out to sea.
In addition, the musk oxen that provide the fiber for the Oomingmak knitters, are not suited to living in warm climates. The animals evolved to live in a frigid, arid climate and they can overheat in temperatures as low as 70 deg F. They also cannot survive in deep or wet snow. Their hooves are suited to dig only through shallow snow to find food in winter, and they are so well insulated that if they are caught sleeping in an icy storm they can be frozen to the ground and die. With the climate in the arctic changing at a much faster rate than in other parts of the world, the future of the musk ox is, at best, in jeopardy.
As I learned about these things through my research, I decided I would have to incorporate all of these ideas into my book or I would be selling my readers short. Although some of the topics I discuss can be controversial, and I might have been advised that to talk about these things could diminish my book sales, I decided that I had to speak the truth that I learned.
Here are a few links for those who would like to help the Oomingmak knitters or other socially-conscious knitting related groups:
The Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-operative sells unique hand knitted items, knitting kits, and musk-ox related gifts. The profits of the co-op are distributed annually to member knitters. A portion of my royalties for Arctic Lace also go to the co-op, and the book can be purchased directly from them, as well as at local yarn and book shops around the country.
Lantern Moon is an organization that sells beautiful and functional handcrafted products that provide income, education and self-reliance to Vietnamese women and their families.
Mango Moon sells recycled yarns and other products that help provide income and independence to women in Nepal.
Himalaya Yarn is a small company offering mostly handspun and hand-dyed yarns made with recycled and Nepal-grown fibers. The company provides business opportunities for local people. For instance, its recycled silk yarn is handspun by women’s cooperatives and the profits support women’s shelters and programs.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
An ode to VCCA
On the cow-flanked road
between bed and desk, a patch
of asphalt has fallen away,
exposing large chunks of quartz
beneath, as if the road itself
is a geode, broken open
into radiance. We all break open
here—"I had a break through today,"
I hear again and again, from writer,
from artist, from composer, each of us
cracking through the stone skin
of our lives to find hidden minerals
that startle us with their color, their ability
to catch the light. One day, I opened
my studio door to find the room full
of ladybugs, walls seething with them,
air alive with specks of red, and I knew
my own heart had burst open there,
coating every surface with its jagged,
Sunday, October 15, 2006
I am going to try to go on a media diet while I'm there (I loved Shalom Auslander's recent column about how the media affects his writing process) and severely limit my time online. So if I blog between now and October 25, please give me a kick in the butt and tell me to get back to work!
See you when I return...
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Saturday, October 07, 2006
I'll try to post pictures when I can find my camera, but until then, here is the text of each:
--Sandy & His Friend (featuring one Peanuts-like character, and one blobby, less distinct character, both in baseball garb)
Love always bring us luck
They only say
loftyness is that the more time goes
the more it adds the value.
The world of shining hope for
you and me
--Bobi & Tom (featuring two dinosaurs and a teddy bear)
From time to time, the usual moment seems terribly beautiful
--Super Happy Girl (featuring, not only a super happy girl with a super happy dog sitting on her head, but free floating strawberries, doodles, and random newspaper clippings about Bill Clinton)
A new morning came to seen. My eyes glittered at the moment.
(and, my favorite)
--Animal Kids (featuring kids wearing hugely-headed animal costumes)
I'll sticky about my favorite things. Waves of joy, coming with feeling. How are you?
Thursday, October 05, 2006
In this picture, Arin is jumping his skateboard from one roof to another at the elementary school down the street. I asked him not to do this any more after I first saw the photo (the fact that the portable buildings in question have recently been dismantled will help enforce this!) but I have to admit, the picture gives me a thrill. I love seeing his grace and courage. I love seeing him soar.
May this be a year full of the best kinds of flight.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Saturday, September 30, 2006
I am amazed at how the producers were able to take seven hours of footage and boil them down to one and three minute stories! Such an incredible editing process.
I had so much fun the day of the shoot. My mom and my friend Stephan acted as Production Assistants, setting up snacks and moving furniture and doing whatever the producers needed them to do. I had to pull together a writing class very quickly for the shoot--it was during the summer when school wasn't in session yet, so I sent out frantic emails calling for potential students, and, with the help of friends and family, was able to assemble a class of twelve wonderful people (including my son--he's the one who says his strawberry was "buggy".) The crew was great and made me feel so at ease, even though I normally am a bit camera shy. I learned a lot from them (including the fact that voice over artists eat apples to get rid of "mouth sounds" before a recording session!) And even though I have a hard time watching myself on film, it is great fun to see the fruits of that day.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Salon.com is featuring an essay today written by a first time author struggling with bad first reviews. As my editor assured me, the trade reviewers (PW, Kirus, etc.) tend to be a little cranky. I hope the author of the essay will find some more thoughtful reviews elsewhere--his book sounds wonderful. Plus, I need to keep reminding myself that my PW review is not bad; it just has that one whopper of a sentence!
The sting of that sentence was alleviated greatly by the fact that I received an amazing blurb from Barbara Kingsolver today. Barbara read an early draft of the book and was very honest with me about all of its flaws and all the work I had ahead of me. She said she would only write an endorsement for a book she truly believes in. I'm so delighted that she believes in it now. Here's what she wrote:
"With fluid skill, bold as brass, Gayle Brandeis has revised the "Song of Myself," reconfiguring "self" as an open circle. This is a novel of passion and consequence, identity and accountability. I love the narrator, her children, her wild ride, and this truly American story of getting mad and getting wise."Her feedback means so much more to me than any anonymous reviewer's!
In other review news, Google Alert recently pointed me to this lovely review of The Book of Dead Birds, written by the fabulous author Damian McNicholl. Thanks so much, Damian!
In the essay, Newman writes about how she baked some of Mary Todd Lincoln's recipes (namely her "white cake", a vanilla/almond confection) to help get under Mary's skin. She talks about how the scent of almonds during the baking process helped her understand Mary's response when the spirit of her dead son Willie came to her during a seance. Willie's skin smelled like almonds, Newman decided, so when Mary smelled almonds in the air, she knew his spirit was in the room with her.
The main character of the novel I'm working on is a 12 year old girl who thinks her family is the Lincoln family reincarnated; she believes she used to be Willie, herself. It's interesting to see how another author envisions Willie's life/death. I don't plan to steal Willie's almond-smelling skin for my own book, but I'm eager to see what Newman does with the Lincoln family in her novel. And I definitely want to try that cake.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
You can read my latest CODEPINK alert here.
I look forward to watching the movie Peace One Day today; my dad rented it from Netflix and lent it to me last week. I've been meaning to watch it since then; today feels like the perfect day to give it a viewing.
(And because peace activists need to have fun, too, I am also very much looking forward to the season premiere of The Office tonight. Go Jim and Pam!)
Monday, September 18, 2006
Looking at the interview now, I wish I had named so many more musicians/bands as my favorites. I think my brain freezes a bit when I'm asked to name favorite books or albums or foods--I love so many; it's hard to boil all that love down to a handful of names. The artists I listed are definitely among my favorites (especially my beloved Talking Heads!), but I neglected to mention so many others--The Beatles, the Stones, Patsy Cline, Billie Holiday, Queen, Ella Fitzgerald, Feist, Tom Waits, Aterciopelados, David Bowie, Luscious Jackson, Le Tigre, Le Chic, De la Soul, Deee-lite, Led Zeppelin, Louis Prima, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Portishead, and so many that aren't at the tip of my brain at the moment.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
September 11, 2006 not only marked the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks; it also marked the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's original call for peaceful civil disobedience. It is time for us to listen to Gandhi anew. While our administration wants to use this anniversary to instill a fresh sense of vengeance in our hearts, Gandhi reminds us that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.I plan to sign up to be a Peacemaker, myself. If my posts inspire you to sign the Peace Pledge, please feel free to list me as the referring Peacemaker.
Our administration squandered the opportunities presented by 9/11 -- the opportunities to bring those who attacked us to justice, while at the same time pursuing true international dialogue, cross-cultural understanding and diplomacy. Now, with the November elections on the horizon, we have an opportunity to create a new post-9/11 America, an America where security doesn't mean intervention or force or an erosion of our rights. An America we can be proud of once again.
Last week, CODEPINK launched our Give Peace a Vote campaign. We hope you have had a chance to sign our Peace Pledge to let our candidates know the Peace Vote is a mighty force to be reckoned with.
Now you can step up your involvement. You can join Susan Sarandon, Jackson Browne, Willie & Annie Nelson, Michael Franti, Alice Walker, Anne Lamott, Steve Earle, Cornel West, Dolores Huerta, Vanessa Williams, and many others by becoming a Peacemaker. A Peacemaker commits to getting at least 100 people to sign the Peace Pledge. As a Peacemaker, you will carry on the noble tradition of Satyagraha, which Gandhi described as the "Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence." Our goal at CODEPINK is to gather 1,000 Peacemakers and 100,000 peace voters in time for the November elections.
There are many creative ways to inspire others to sign the Peace Pledge -- talk to your friends and family; host a Give Peace a Vote house party; bring sign up sheets to movie openings and concerts and vigils; the possibilities are endless. All the materials you need are available on our website.
From this day forward, we need to keep our focus on the November elections. Let us, like Gandhi, commit ourselves to promoting peace, and encouraging those around us to only support candidates who will further our call for peace.
Monday, September 11, 2006
On September 11, 1906, Mohandas Gandhi convened a meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, to mobilize his community to oppose racially degrading legislation. That evening, more than 3,000 people solemnly pledged to disobey the proposed law, despite the consequences and without the use of violence. Here began the model of nonviolent action for achieving social justice, as employed in the Civil Rights Movement in this country via Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
We will honor Gandhi’s devotion to nonviolent action, reminding ourselves and our community of our inherent right to peace, and of this powerful alternative to war and violence. We will help each other find the courage to work nonviolently towards achieving justice and peace in our own daily lives, in our local communities, and in the whole world.
September 11, 2006 -- 5:30pm to 7pm
Downtown Mall in Riverside, CA
Event begins with Peacewalk at 5:30 pm
Meet at the Martin Luther King Statue (near city hall at 9th St)
(signs, banners, and candles provided)
continuing to the Candlelight
Commemoration & Program
at the Gandhi Statue, Mission Inn Avenue at the
Inland Communities Fellowship of
and the Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP)**
the Mission Belles, Terry Boyles and John Rockwell of the Congregational Church, plus members of IC-FOR and Unitarian Universalists in Sing Alongs.
Speakers include, among others, Katherine Pitts of the Pasadena Mennonite Church, Jerry Hobby of the Riverside Community Center for Spiritual Living, Linda Dunn of the Nonviolent Peaceforce, and Marilyn Sequoia of IC-FOR. Participants will have an opportunity to speak briefly or to read the Peace Quotes that will be distributed.
ALL ARE INVITED…ALL ARE WELCOME
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
While our CODEPINK delegation was in Lebanon witnessing firsthand the pain and suffering caused by the conflict with Israel, US Ambassador John Bolton was at the United Nations trying to block a ceasefire.
Talking a leaf from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's 2003 criticism of France and Germany as "old Europe", Bolton called the French ceasefire initiative "old thinking". We at CODEPINK believe Bolton is the one who truly represents "old thinking"—his thinking that might makes right, that we need to go it alone, that compromise is a sign of weakness, are all sadly antiquated notions of power.
This week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on whether or not John Bolton will continue to represent the United States at the United Nations. Please call your senators TODAY- Wednesday, September 6- and urge them to oppose John Bolton's nomination as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
We are grateful that, despite Bolton's protest, the international community forced a ceasefire through the Security Council, and Italy and France took the lead to send peacekeepers to the border.
CODEPINK is delivering flowers to the French and Italian embassies to thank them for working so steadfastly toward peace.Their contributions of peacekeeping troops—2,450 from Italy and 2,000 from France—will help enforce the ceasefire along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Please send your own words of gratitude to let them know how much we appreciate their diplomatic efforts.
It is time for true diplomacy in our own country. We need to get John Bolton out of the UN and replace him with an ambassador who will acknowledge that we are part of an interdependent, international community. An ambassador who believes in the power of negotiation and international cooperation to create positive change in our world. That is certainly what we need right now to end the violence in Iraq and get our troops home.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Peppered with wry wit and Walt Whitman, Self Storage is a skillfully told treasure hunter's tale of compassion, coming of age, and, most importantly, transforming the life you've got into the life you want. In the American tradition of songs of oneself, Gayle Brandeis has written for her characters a standout song of personal growth accelerated by social awakening.It is so lovely to have Maria's blurb, since her book is all about Yes, and the word Yes is so central to Self Storage. Yes!
-Maria Dahvana Headley, Author of The Year of Yes
Friday, September 01, 2006
My poem Buttered Women was nominated for the Best of the Net anthology
I am officially a staff member of CODEPINK! According to the website, I am now the CODEPINK Communication Goddess(!), and will be helping out with weekly alerts and other writing-related campaigns. It is a true honor to be on board with such creative, kick-ass women.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006
The personal and political collide in Gayle Brandeis' complex and witty new novel, Self Storage. Like the flashlight Flan shines into storage lockers to find treasure, Brandeis' novel illuminates the way we define our loved ones, our neighbors, and ourselves.Amanda is such a wonderful writer (and wonderful person!); it's a real honor to receive her endorsement.
--Amanda Eyre Ward
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
In the end, what we crave is reality. The woman crying on the 83rd floor was real. Our countrymen died real deaths on a warm September morning, and then, to avenge them, even more have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. In our hearts, we know we're on the wrong road, the road to unreality, but the man says to stay the course. And now as November nears, congressmen who have supported the war, no questions asked, find it convenient to admit to having "questions" about it. "We are facing a difficult situation," they say. They are "troubled."
The woman who cried on the 83rd floor was more than troubled. She saw death. It is indecent for New York to stifle the voices of the people in the towers. The congressmen who deal so casually with life and death ought to sit down and listen to those phone calls.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Thursday, August 17, 2006
--There is a fish market nearby with an assortment of scallops and lobsters cooling on ice, but those odors have been overwhelmed by something else, something vile and pitiless. Hints of rotten mustard, a soupcon of ammonia, undertones of armpit. The scent evolves in your nostrils like an argument that escalates -- it starts off testy, then insults your mother.
--This is like honeyed rot marinated in hummus, as odious as a wet kiss from a wino.
--If migraines had an odor, they would smell like this.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Monday, August 14, 2006
Sunday, August 13, 2006
They wanted to know my name, the name of my newspaper, my religion, how much my computer was worth, did it have a device to signal the government or military, if I or anyone in my family drank alcohol, how many American reporters were in Baghdad, did I know reporters from other countries, and myriad other questions.I felt very invested in trying to help secure Jill Carroll's release in whatever teeny tiny way I could at the time, and am so happy and relieved that she is free and able to give voice to her experience. The link above leads to the first installment of what will be an 11-part series; I am eager to read the rest of it over the next couple of weeks.
Then, in a slightly gravelly voice, the interpreter explained the situation.
"You are our sister. We have no problem with you. Our problem is with your government. We just need to keep you for some time. We want women freed from Abu Ghraib prison. Maybe four or five women. We want to ask your government for this," the interpreter said. (At the time, it was reported that 10 Iraqi women were among 14,000 Iraqis being held by coalition forces on suspicion of insurgent activity.)
"You are to stay in this room. And this window, don't put one hand on this window," he continued. "I have a place underground. It is very dark and small, and cold, and if you put one hand on this window, we will put you there. Some of my friends said we should put you there, but I said, 'No she is a woman.' Women are very important in Islam."
Thursday, August 10, 2006
It is not an accident that so often an invading army’s first triumphant act is to sack and burn the libraries and museums. A people without access to its art and accumulated wisdom is indeed vanquished. It is significant that dictatorships make a practice of imprisoning dissident poets and novelists. Real artists—people who distill and communicate the truth, often at great personal cost—are the most dangerous figures in a repressive society. And that is why you are needed, desperately, now.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Saturday, August 05, 2006
I just finished reading my friend Ayun Halliday's delicious and hilarious book Dirty Sugar Cookies: Culinary Observations, Questionable Taste. Along with vegetarian fumblings, poistcoital breakfasts, and other motley adventures in eating, Ayun explores my favorite fruit in the world--mangosteens! That section of the book is available online for your reading and gustatory pleasure.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
After I dropped everyone off at the airport yesterday, I headed over to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA to protest Tony Blair's support of the war in Iraq (Blair was presiding over a lunch inside). I was glad to have a positive way to channel my heartbreak after saying goodbye to my lovely people.
It was a funny little protest. The hotel takes up an entire city block, and we were told that the sidewalk surrounding the hotel was private property, and we were not allowed to stand there. This led to a lot of protestors wandering around, not quite sure where to set up camp. I was dressed head to toe in hot pink, and looked around for other CODEPINK people to stand with. Eventually I found another pink woman who looked as lost as I felt, and we tromped around together, looking for more pinkness. Eventually, a cluster of people converged on the street behind the hotel, directly across from all the parked motorcade motorcycles. Only a small pink contingent turned up, but it was delightful to be with them--CODEPINK people know how to make protests fun. This particular protest was overall a bit more strident than fun--there were a lot of people yelling over a microphone, a lot of angry faces (which is understandable--the present world sitatuion does call for a healthy sense of outrage). I tend to prefer vigils like the Women in Black event we're planning for tonight, where participants try to embody peace rather than countering war with more aggression, or CODEPINK events where creativity and life-force and play offer an antidote for all the destruction in the world. But I was glad to be at this protest, too.
One of the coolest things about the event was the presence of Danza Azeteca Cuauhtemoc, an Aztec dance group, which consisted of at least three generations of dancers, from the very young to the beautiful white haired leaders. They drummed and danced and chanted in their elaborate costumes, and held signs calling for peace. Very inspiring. There were some comic--if disturbing--moments as well, when a couple of Bible thumpers came by to tell us the errors of our ways, and preach about how we need to wipe Islam off the face of the earth. When one of my CODEPINK friends asked the vitriol spouting man who Jesus would bomb, he looked at her and yelled "The Muslims!" without any trace of irony. Jesus would be so proud. Sheesh.
Another funny overheard moment--some people were walking by, and one of the protestors asked them if they liked Bush. A woman turned to him, said "I HAVE a bush and I like it!" and kept walking.
(Speaking of funny overheard moments, my friend Jordan is starting a weekly "Overheard around the World" feature on her blog. Be sure to send her your best eavesdropping treasures!)
At the protest, I was interviewed briefly by Harrison of Harrison On the Edge (a progressive radio talk show). Even though I felt a bit giddy and inarticulate, I was able to wax rhapsodic about CODEPINK for a while, which I was glad to be able to do.
The protest fizzled out before Blair left the building, so I didn't get to see the motorcade drive by. I'm not sure how effective our presence there was, but it is always a treat to be with other like-minded people, to know that we are not alone in our desire to bring some peace into this crazy world of ours.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
WOMEN IN BLACK call for a special vigil this Wednesday, August 2nd, in response to the recent outrageous attacks in the Middle East.
The Violence Must End
Join us in silence to meditate, pray and raise energy towards PEACE
WE STAND IN SILENCE, because words alone cannot express the tragedy that wars and hatred bring.
WE STAND IN BLACK, mourning for lives broken or lost through violence in the United States, Afghanistan, Palestine/Israel, Iraq and in all wars.
WE STAND IN WITNESS to the suffering of victims of violence all over the world.
WE STAND IN SOLIDARITY with people all over the world who struggle for justice and peace.
WE STAND CONVINCED that the world's citizens can learn the difference between justice and vengeance, and can call world leaders into accountability to employ nonviolent means to resolve conflicts.
WE STAND FOR JUSTICE. WE STAND FOR PEACE.
Riverside Women in Black is part of an international network of women standing in silent vigil, calling for peace, justice and non-violent solutions to conflict. Begun in 1988 by Israeli and Palestinian women, it has spread to conflict areas all over the world. Each group is autonomous, related to the others by the way women stand in silent vigil dressed in black.
Join us this Wednesday, August 2nd, from 7-8pm, at the Main Public Library, 3581 Mission Inn Ave., dressed in black clothes. Please keep silent during the vigil unless you are leafleting. Men in support of Women in Black are welcome.
For more information: please call (951) 237-6857
Monday, July 31, 2006
On top of all the beachy goodness, I got some great news last week--I was awarded a residency in October at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. I am very excited; it should be a fruitful, inspiring time. Another fun thing--my advance copies of Self Storage arrived! They look gorgeous. It's so cool to see the story as a real book. And it's so cool that my sister was with me when the copies arrived, since she was also with me when I got the news about the book deal last summer. What a treat to share these pivotal moments with her.
Another fun thing to share--thanks to my mom, all the women/girls of the family went to see Wicked on Saturday; such a transporting, electric show. The lead was played by the understudy, Maria Eberline, and she was incredible. While we were waiting in line for the restroom during intermission, we happened to meet Maria Eberline's mother. She had just found out that morning that her daughter was going to be stepping into the role of Elpheba that day (Maria found out at 1:30am, herself.) Maria's mom was half an hour late to the play because she had to cut one more person's hair to pull together enough money for a ticket (fortunately, when she arrived, someone walking by handed her an extra). Her excitement and pride were so lovely to witness. The whole show brought back the thrill of my own (very small in comparison) stage experience. It made me hunger for more.
I hunger for more time with my sister, too. I don't want to have to drive her and her beautiful family to the airport in a few hours. I may need to create a diversion to keep them here. Maybe if I burst into song...
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
I hope to see a lot of pelicans when I'm in Oceanside the rest of the week...
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Before they arrived, Elizabeth and her family spent 10 days in San Francisco (the town where she and her husband met.) They showed up at our house with some treats from the Ferry Building, including a vegetable I had never even heard of before, but I can now count as one of the best things I have ever tasted. Sea beans (also known as pickleweed) are a sea vegetable harvested off the Oregon Coast; you can see a picture here if you scroll down to the second row. Sea beans look like little succulents, green and firm and slender. They have a satsifying crunch between the teeth, a nice pop. But the best part is--they're salty! I am in love with salt. I am for all practical purposes a saltoholic. So to find a yummy presalted green vegetable is like heaven for me. So is having my sister around.
See you later, alligators!
Friday, July 21, 2006
a reconsideration of the experience, culture, and meaning of our nation's least-loved transit mode. Stigmatized as the transit of last resort-the realm of the poor, elderly, and infirm-the bus nonetheless moves millions of people every day. On the cutting edge in some cities, marginalized in others, the bus evokes a surprising range of emotions for people, planners, cities and artists. Get on the Bus will begin to illuminate the world of the bus as a ubiquitous but neglected arena of city life.
I wrote the poem that appears in the anthology--"on buses, and off"--many years ago, when bus travel was more a part of my life. I wish we had better pubic transportation in Riverside; on the rare occasion when I do take the bus now, I always seem to end up with some sort of disturbing story to tell.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Some pretentious Proustian said "I live the life of the mind" the other day. It was all I could do not to bop him with my parasol and say "mind this, fuckwit".
I despise that kind of intellectual pretension. Ya sure I read Beowulf and take a stab at Joyce's Wake once a month, and I've been known to blather on about the importance of the canon but don't think for one minute I "live the life of the mind". Nosirreeebobbypins.
A happily significant part of my life is engaged in the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, and the location of the best cupcake, not to mention the softest comfiest pillow and sandals that don't make me reach for the wheelchair.
There's not much intellectual rigor attached to those activities but it sure doesn't make them less interesting, important or fun than say..reading Proust.
People who get all holier than thou about what they read, and how above the fray they are are the worst sort of intellects. They're dishonest. The life of the mind is in no way disconnected from the corporeal world, and all you need to do to know this is stand in front of Jackson Pollock painting and feel the frisson of energy. You don't have to understand to feel it, but it's important to understand that not FEELING it means you don't understand it.
Life of the mind, my ass.
I am also grateful that art and writing can serve as acts of witness during such difficult times. Mazen Kerba, an artist and musician in Beirut, has been keeping a blog documenting his experience of the current conflict (incorporating his drawings and the music he has composed to go with the sound of bombs). While I and other readers appreciate having this window into Beirut life, Kerba is struggling with his own balance between witnessing and art...
anyways, music and drawing are the only things keeping me going these days. i recorded two hours of bombs + trumpet from my balcony yesterday night. some bombs were really close (what kind of mouthpiece do the israeli pilots use to have this sound?). the tension you get in your playing is incredible. also, i draw all time. i always said that i regret not being adult during the war to see if you can do something in these situations. now i feel bad to draw or play music while people are burning. i convince myself by saying it is my only way to resist. that i have to witness. that it is very important. but i am not really convinced. i try to be a fucking witness. to show a little bit what's happening here. in my own way. but having regards for what is a good drawing or a good music track drives me crazy. i cannot stop saying after a bomb: "yeah, this one was huge. i'll leave a long silence then make a small sound to balance the track." this is totally crazy!It may be crazy, but it makes sense that an artist would not want to let go of his craft even in the midst of such chaos. I hope Kerba will continue to share his art so that we can share in the lived human experience of this horrible war.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Closer to home, I am grateful that so far one of my favorite places in the desert has been spared. Last time we were in Pioneertown, I had recently been cast as Annie Oakley. We stayed in the room at the Pioneertown Motel where Barbara Stanwyck lived while she was filming her Annie Oakley movie, and walked down the street where Gail Davis played Annie Oakley in the eponymous tv series, and my daughter and I sang the songs that were still new to us then at the top of our lungs, trying to soak in all the residual Annie Oakley energy in the air. I think it helped. And now it makes me so sad to think of those historic streets in danger. It makes me sad to think of so much of our planet in danger. I feel so helpless in the face of all this fire.
The makers of a film centered around Arundhati Roy recently sent me one of her quotes, and that quote is giving me some sustenance now:
To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
It's hard to believe it hasn't even been a year since the hurricane; it's already left so many people's thoughts, it seems. I have been following New Orleans' author Poppy Z Brite's blog as she continues to cope with the aftermath of all of it. It's a good window into that broken region. Voices of Witness is currently putting together an oral history of Katrina survivors; you can read a few excerpts from the interviews on their website. It's so important to keep these stories (and this music!) alive.
Monday, July 10, 2006
The main goal of the Chicago Freedom Movement was to end racial segregation and create fair, open housing in Chicago. While progress has certainly been made in the last 40 years, I look at the way Katrina exposed housing issues in the South, and remember that there is still so much change that needs to happen. Writing this novel, I hope, will be a way of keeping that awareness alive.
At the hospital, I was able to tell Jack about giving the reading in his honor at Cody's. It was the last lucid conversation we had--his brain was so taken over by the tumor that most of his speech came out in surreal, often mind-blowing nonsequiturs (and actually the conversation about Cody's ended up turning into a strangely beautiful soliloquy about "animal participants". But he remembered the store well, and seemed touched by the dedication.) I will always associate Cody's with Jack. And now that the store is closing, I feel his loss all over again.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Becky, my singing coach, came up to me afterwards and told me to let her know within the week if I am serious about not wanting a lead part (on the application, when it asked what part I was going for, I wrote "None"). I am going to have to call her and let her know I can't do the show at all, as tempting as it may be. I have a novel to write. I need to keep my focus strong. But, as she observed, I've caught the theater bug. She said that now that I've accessed that new wild part of myself, I won't be able to turn it off, and she's right. It will be interesting to see where it will take me next, once I'm done writing this current novel-in-progress (and once I'm done promoting Self Storage, which is also going to keep me busy for a while). Call backs for Little Shop are next Friday--I will take Hannah and watch her with pride, and will do my best to keep from jumping back into the fray myself...
Friday, July 07, 2006
DZ: A lot of people talk about the idea of "All good politics is local," and you seem to promote that with the work you've been doing in your hometown.
AD: I come from Buffalo, and it's a very abandoned post-industrial city. It's definitely a small city that's a victim of "white flight," and suburban sprawl, and meanwhile it has this beautiful architecture heritage that's being devastated. Decade after decade, they've been tearing down half the city. So, saving buildings in Buffalo has been part of what Righteous Babe's work has been in recent years.
We took on this old 1870s sandstone cathedral that was going to be torn down. My manager and label president and good buddy Scott Fisher said, "Is it OK if I take some Righteous Babe money and hire an appraiser, an assessor to say, 'You don't have to tear this cathedral down, goddammit'?" We've done that with a few buildings in Buffalo, just personally invested in fighting the city demolition apparatus.
We saved this cathedral from demolition, and over the years we kept having connections with it, and our karma just seemed to be wrapped up with it, so we decided maybe this should become our new offices, and so it is. It's also a performance venue and an art gallery. We hooked up with this preeminent not-for-profit arts organization, called Hallwalls, that does avant-garde cutting-edge kind of galleries, theater, and art spaces that have been around for a few decades now. They're in part of the building; it's a real artistic hub that's in downtown Buffalo.
DZ: There was a book, "The Rise of the Creative Class," about artists being necessary for the vitality of a city's economy.
AD: Buffalo, for generations, has been a place that the young and dynamic evacuate as soon as they can. They head to New York or to Chicago because Buffalo can't sustain them. But if you're dissatisfied with your city, rather than leave it, change it! Start somethin'!
Not only is acting locally or getting involved in something in your community where it's at politically in terms of "changing the world," though -- it's fun. It's invigorating. We forget that. Even the act of registering to vote -- it's very simple, very easy, and then just taking a half hour out on Election Day and standing in that booth, it makes you feel better. This has been my experience. We feel so helpless and disempowered, but no matter how much faith you have in your vote or whether it's even going to be tallied, just the act of doing it, to be active in that half hour is a good feeling.
In New Orleans, you can go down to Habitat for Humanity and just show up and volunteer for a day and someone will hand you a hammer or a saw, and you can work for a day. For me, it lifts my heart. I think if people understood how much better they would feel with these small acts locally … I think we get a little tied up sometimes thinking that we have to change the world, but it's amazing how much we can just change our hearts and lift our hopes if we just make these small acts.
DZ: Is that how you recharge your batteries?
AD: For me, it's every night on stage, that's how my batteries are recharged. It's inspiring people through music and getting together with my community every night and being inspired by them. I have my own little subset of activism that I've turned into a job, and it's absolutely what keeps me going and feeling active -- and empowered.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
--Pennsylvania mushroom pick Amazon
--petticoat unhooking stories
--Becky's blog orgasm video
--penalty for faking one's death
I'm sure all of them were sadly disappointed!