Thursday, April 27, 2006

Blogging will probably be light around here for a while. I start teaching a monthlong intensive class at my alma mater next Monday--four days a week, three hours a day of Writing from the Senses. I have taught this as a one day class and as a once-a-week five week class before, and am excited to have the opportunity to explore the subject in a deeper way with a group of students.

I am hoping that I will be able to use some of the class writing time to work on my novel. My schedule has been so hectic lately--it's been a challenge to find time to write. I recently gave myself a 500-word a day writing goal; other than during NaNoWriMo, I've never given myself a daily word count before, so it feels a bit weird, but it also seems to be working. 500 words are easy enough to knock out, and it's keeping the novel moving forward, albeit at a very modest pace. After the class and the play are over, I should have more time to immerse myself fully in the world of my novel, but for now, I'm glad to at least take some brief trips there.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I am so bummed that I didn't know the Tactical Ice Cream Unit was in Riverside earlier this month:

The Tactical Ice Cream Unit (TICU) rolls through the city in an act of intervention that replaces cold stares with frosty treats and nourishing knowledge. Combining a number of successful activist strategies (Food-Not-Bombs, Copwatch, Indymedia, infoshops, etc) into one mega-mobile, the TICU is the Voltron-like alter-ego of the cops' mobile command center. Although the TICU appears to be a mild-mannered vending vehicle, it harbors a host of high-tech surveillance devices including a 12-camera video surveillance system, acoustic amplifiers, GPS, satellite internet, a media transmission studio capable of disseminating live audio/video, and of course, ice cream. With every free ice cream handed out, the sweet-toothed citizenry also receives printed information developed by local progressive groups. Thus, the TICU serves as a mobile nexus for community activities while providing frosty treats and food-for-thought.

I'll have to be sure to check out the People for a Better Tomorrow exhibit before it closes.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

My letter to the editor appeared in the LA Times today. I wrote it in response to Song of Ourselves, an article by Christopher Reynolds pitting Allen Ginsberg against Walt Whitman. I am a little bit sad the paper didn't include my bio line about how my forthcoming novel Self Storage is structured around Whitman's Song of Myself, but it's still nice to have my name linked to Whitman before the book comes out.

Friday, April 21, 2006

If you find yourself in the Redlands area next Wednesday, be sure to check out my husband Matt's trio Old Brown Shoe at The Performance Loft. Matt, Dave and Stephan make some of the yummiest music around.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A while back, I swooned over Kathryn Davis' novel The Thin Place. Shortly after I made that post, much to my dismay, I misplaced the book. It resurfaced recently, and I am swooning all over again. This paragraph blew me away (especially since I'm the mother of a very complex twelve year old girl)...

The minds of twelve-year old girls are wound round and round with golden chains, padlocked shut, and the key tossed out the car window on the way to the fast-food restaurant. This is probably a good thing, since what they keep in there isn't always very nice. Human sacrifices, cockeyed sexual adventures both sadistic and masochistic, also kitties with balls of yarn and puppies chewing on slippers and soft pink babies and disembowelings.

National Poetry Month has brought two brand new types of poetry to my attention: flarf and Fibonacci--they couldn't be more different; one celebrates randomness, the other celebrates form (a swirling, progressive form found in seashells and the seeds at the center of a sunflower.)

have to
try my hand
at Fibonacci
poetry one of these days, yes?

I received some amazing mash-ups in my inbox over the last couple of days. My friend Kate sent along some incredible photo-shopped animal-hybrids from (I'm posting two of the bird-dogs here), and my friend Victoria sent along the hilarious winners from the Washington Post's Style Invitational:

The Washington Post's Style Invitational once again asked readers to
take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or
changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's

1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the
subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running

7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

9. Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these
really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's
like, a serious bummer.

10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day
consuming only things that are good for you.

11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter
when they come at you rapidly.

13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after
you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

15. Caterpallor (n.): The colour you turn after finding half a grub in
the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an a**hole.
I love how both the pictures and these words help us see familiar things in fresh and surprising ways.

Monday, April 17, 2006

In honor of Passover, you'll find a gorgeous sestina about Jewish food by Joan Larkin over at McSweeney's.
I was excited to happen upon Mslexia, an online resource for women writers, based in the UK. In their centerpiece article, Three Cures For Mslexia, Debbie Taylor states their mission:
What woman writers need

(The) discrepancy between women’s literary potential and their actual achievement is the starting point for this magazine. And we have coined a new word - mslexia - to describe it.

Mslexia’s surface meaning is women’s writing (ms = woman, lexia = words). But its association with dyslexia is intentional. Dyslexia is a difficulty, more prevalent in men, with reading and spelling. Mslexia is a difficulty, more prevalent in women, with getting published. More specifically, mslexia is the complex set of conditions and expectations which prevents women, who as girls so outshine boys in verbal skills, from becoming successful authors.

The good news is that, like dyslexia, mslexia can be overcome. That’s what this magazine is about: exploring the causes of mslexia - and suggesting some cures. So what is it that men have, that women need, to become noted authors? Virginia Woolf’s famous prescription was ‘money and a room of one’s own’. Mslexia’s prescription, gleaned from historical, psychological and social research - and a few specially-commissioned surveys of our own - is slightly different. The three things that male writers have, that woman writers need, are: time, confidence and a fair reading.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

After weeks of freaking out and calling every university, high school, Elks lodge, and other potential stage venues to no avail, I am pleased to announce that we finally have a home for Annie Get Your Gun.

Here are the details:

Corona Civic Center Theater (our originally planned venue, which will now be beautifully refurbished in time for the show)
6th and Vicentia, Corona
Friday, June 23rd, 8:15pm
Saturday, June 24th, 10:30am and 2:00pm
Sunday, June 25th, 2:30pm and 6:00pm

I'm grateful that I have two more months to try to learn how to sing.

Please mark your calendars, and let me know if you'd like to purchase tickets in advance. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for kids in advance, $12 and $10 at the door.

The show is going to be a lot of fun--I hope to see you there!

Friday, April 14, 2006

It's my birthday! It's been a lovely day--my family let me sleep in this morning, and my parents took me and Matt to an absolutely scrumptious birthday lunch at the Ponte Winery in Temecula. It felt as if we were at a vinyard in Europe, not just 40 miles from home.

I stumbled upon a poem I wrote about my birthday about 10 years ago, and thought I'd share it here:

Happy Birthday

My birthday, April 14, is the day
before tax day. I never noticed
this as a child, never felt the menacing
cloud of numbers shunting around
my birth--I just saw yellow
marshmallow chicks in my mind,
jelly beans, buttery morning pastels.
Little Jewish girl, my birthday
was colored, hallowed, by Easter,
which landed on the day I was born
and the same day, seven years later.
I felt as if I had been hatched
from a lavender and sea green egg,
the soothing shards of it
still stuck to me like confetti.

Now I am learning the other colors
that tint the day of my birth,
darker, sharper, colors, colors
that have etched their way
into my body's palette--
the dark blood of birth,
the cold invisible air we enter into--
although on my birthday,
56 years ahead of me,
it was cold water many entered
as the Titanic struck an iceberg
and sent people drifting down
into the frigid deep,
full of penguins and whales.
I have heard that icebergs
can hold veins of color,
blues and greens, that they can glow
with that color like a lantern,
and I hope that's what people
could see through their fear
on my birthday, as their limbs
went numb and their lungs froze
in their chests--a flash of luminous
color lighting their watery trail
away from themselves.

Tragedies are attracted to April 14th, it seems--
that same day, 103 years before my birth,
Abraham Lincoln was shot.
This knowledge disturbs me,
because I always thought my father
was Lincoln reincarnated--
something about his eyes, his skin,
plus the fact that his initials
together--AIB--sound like honest ABE,
and it made my heart ache to think of him
dying on my birthday,
although who knows, maybe old Abe
sent out his ghost seed through my dad
to ensure someone would be born
the day he left he earth,
someone who loved theaters
as some sort of karmic retribution
(a slightly cocky thought, I suppose,
but one filled with promise,
and that's what birth is, isn't it--

You know, this was supposed to be a sad poem.
I really wanted this to be a sad poem,
full of pathos and shadow,
but it appears some other part of me
is winning out...
No matter how dark I try to get,
those holiday colors still line
the interior of my skull.

I had forgotten that I had written this poem, and so had forgotten that I had written the part about my dad and Abraham Lincoln. It's kind of a funny thing--the novel I'm writing right now features a girl who thinks her dad is Abraham Lincoln reincarnated. The storyline of the novel isn't autobiographical in any way, but that part is definitely taken directly from my life.

So weird to think of myself as 38. Inside, I still feel like that seven year old girl with an Easter birthday. I'm glad I was able to share part of the day with my parents--I'm very grateful that they brought me into the world!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Actions of the day:

Stop nuclear war with Iran

Ask for green cars today, and be sure to read Barbara Kingsolver's letter in support of the action. (Thanks to Dominique for the link.)

Help pass the Freedom of Choice Act

Inspiring link of the day:

Belarus Artists Fight for Freedom

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

My daughter Hannah's first commercial!
Today is National Drop Everything and Read Day and I think I'm going to do just that.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Every time I think of Jill Carroll, I feel a rush of happiness. It was a treat to read the thank you note from her family yesterday. They mention "We may never be certain which steps actually led to her release", but I have a theory (be it a completely subjective and emotional one that may have no connection to reality.) The day before Jill Carroll was set free, her twin sister Katie made a moving plea for her release. I know the power of sisters. I would do anything for my sister. And I'd like to think that maybe her captors have sisters, too, and maybe they were swayed by Katie Carroll's heartbroken message. It feels like a real possibility to me--that sister bond is such a deep one. Whatever led to her release, I'm so grateful Jill Carroll is free. I very much look forward to reading/hearing her full account of her experience when she is ready to share it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Yesterday, my family went to a taping of Game Show Marathon, a new CBS game show hosted by Ricki Lake that recreates vintage game shows--The Price is Right, Let's Make a Deal, all the ones I used to love to watch when I was a kid. Our attendance there raised funds for Stage Presence Studio of the Arts (our home away from home these days), but I have to say that even without any altruistic motives, I was excited to go. I am such a sucker for the game shows of my childhood. Yesterday, they faithfully recreated Match Game 73; just seeing the sparkly foam geometic shapes of the set and the orange carpet and the skinny microphone like the kind Gene Rayburn used to hold gave me all sorts of deja vu. The music, too--the chunky, brassy, wah-wah pedal-y, theme song went right for my solar plexus.

Lance Bass and Kathy Najimy were the contestants; the celebrity panel was made up of George Foreman, Kathy Griffin, Bruce Vilanch, Adrienne Curry, Adam Carolla, and Betty White (who I used to watch on the original Match Game.) There was a lot of mugging and joking and it was silly and fun (even though the constant retakes took some of the spontaneity out of the experience.) Then Lance Bass said "penis" and complete chaos erupted.

Let me say that Lance Bass has no capacity for metaphor. There was a question having to do with what a dentist says before making love. His answer was "brush your teeth" (which, admittedly, George Forman did match on his card. Kathy Griffin and Adam Carolla had both written "open wide". Bruce Vilanch wrote "Where's the cavity"? Betty White said "Rinse." Adrienne Curry tried to equate dental floss with underwear.) The whole "penis" brouhaha happened as a result of the question "Harry Potter has sure grown up. He spends all of his time in his room playing with his (blank)." Lance Bass said "penis!" quite gleefully. The producer immediately cut the show, and they had to bring in 20 different officials from the network, including the Standards and Practices people, to sort everything out. The producer later said that they did that because one of the celebrity panel had fed Lance Bass the answer, but I'm not so sure that was the real reason. Funny how a body word can cause such an uproar!

As the audience, we were such trained monkeys. We were told when to clap, when to chuckle, when to groan, when to cheer. I never had any doubt about the artifice of the tv world, but this really brought it home. Matt said it all made him feel a little dirty, to have to fake all that enthusiasm. Arin thought it was a wasted day. But I had a blast. And Hannah was so brave! When there were pauses in filming, such as during the penis imbroglio, the announcer came through the audience to see if anyone wanted to share their talents. Hannah got up and sang a song she wrote herself. And her friend Georgia got up and sang part of an Alicia Keyes song. I was so proud of them both. I think it was great for them, as aspiring performers, to have a peek behind the tv curtain. It was fun for me, too.

And, Lance Bass, next time someone asks you what Harry Potter's been playing with in his room, I suggest you say his "wand."

Update: Sorry about all the name misspellings before. I threw the post together before running out to get my hair dyed by the director of the show. I'm a redhead now! Actually, I'm more of a burgundy head. We still haven't replaced our lost camera, but if we get one soon, I'll post a pic.
On Wednesday, my mom took me and Hannah to a women's community seder at a temple in San Diego. It was a lovely three-generational experience, connecting with the heritage that we don't often enough acknowledge and celebrate. I really appreciated the feminist, social justice leanings of the haggadah. Here's an excerpt:

READER: If we speak truthfully about the pain, joys, and contraditions of our lives,
If we listen to others with sensitivity and compassion,
If we challenge the absence of women in traditional texts, chronicles of Jewish history, and in the leadership of many of our institutions, dayeinu.

ALL: If we continue to organize, march, and vote to affirm our values,
If we fight economic injustice, sexism, racism, and homophobia,
If we volunteer our time and money, dayeinu.

READER: If we break the silence about violence against women and children in the Jewish community and everywhere,
If we teach our students and children to pursure justice with all their strength,
If we care for the earth and its future as responsibly as we care for those we love,
If we create art, music, dance and literature, dayeinu.

ALL: If we realize our power to effect change,
If we bring holiness into our lives, homes and communities,
If we honor our visions more than our fears, dayeinu v'lo dayeinu.

ALL: It will and will not be enough.

(Note: Dayeinu means "it would have been enough")

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

My essay "Silverfishing" is currently up on the lovely (and newly book-contract-ed!) Jordan Rosenfeld's blog.

Even though I developed a fondness for the silverfish that share our home, I'm also happy to report that their numbers have been mysteriously and steadily decreasing over time...

Monday, April 03, 2006

I love Stephen Elliott. He has just founded a new political action committee, LitPAC.
LitPAC is about getting authors more involved in the political process. Through literary fundraisers like The Progressive Reading Series along with individual donations LitPAC intends to support at least 15 house candidates running in 2006 with direct gifts of up to $5,000. The more money we raise the more effective we can be.
Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, an Pashtun poet who was wrongfully detained in Guatanamo Bay for three years, is asking that the US military return the poems he penned during his imprisonment--25,000 lines of verse. I love that he was able to find freedom through his poetry:
Wearing an orange jumpsuit and trapped inside a mesh cage, the Pashtun poet crafted his escape through verse. "I would fly on the wings of my imagination," he recalled. "Through my poems I would travel the world, visiting different places. Although I was in a cage I was really free."
Inmates were forbidden pens or papers during Dost's first year in captivity. So he found a novel solution - polystyrene teacups. "I would scratch a few lines on to a cup with a spoon. If you held it up to the light you could read it," he said. "But when the guards collected the trash they threw them away."

It was only when prison authorities provided awkward rubbery pens - so soft they could not be used as weapons - that Dost wrote in earnest. His themes were love of his homeland, poetry and his children, and especially his hope of release.
I hope his words will be returned to him so he can release them into the world. It would be important for us to hear what happens behind those walls. I know it is unlikely, though--the military would never stand to be exposed in such a way. I just hope Dost will continue to write, and continue to share his story...
I have been trying to decide whether or not to respond to the anonymous comment left on my blog last night. Mostly, the comment made me laugh. Attack me for being boring, fine. I don't expect to enthrall everyone. But attack me for being female--that's not going to hold any water. That just exposes your own misogyny, Mr. Anonymous. You say that no one hears me--well, when you're anonymous, you're guaranteed that no one is going to hear you. But I really don't want to engage in this kind of mud-slinging with you. We're all just people, right? If you're bored by me, don't visit my blog. Easy as pie. And if you have questions for me, I'm happy to engage in civilized dialogue. I have strong opinions, but I'm always glad to know where other people are coming from. Our country is so polarized right now--if we can't speak about our differences, if we can only attack one another, how are we ever going to find a lasting peace, or even common ground?

It's great timing that just as I was thinking about this, Andi posted a fabulous piece about responding to such attacks after her mothering panel recently appeared on BookTV.

In this way you make a real conversation, and not just a personal attack. Because this is what it's all about -- Mother Talk, my book Mother Shock, the speaking we do with women's groups and book groups -- it's about having a real conversation, and moving past the notion that there is one side versus the other, or a right and wrong way to mother, and realizing that though we all have different experiences and values we are bringing to the discussion, there is common ground enough to work towards something far more real than idealistic dreaming or nasty accusations.