Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I hope you will read my friend Peggy Hong's breathtaking piece: Embracing the Other, a talk she gave this past Sunday at a Unitarian church in Milwaukee. Here is a taste:
I believe our task as evolving social beings is to make ourselves more comfortable with discomfort. I believe we should deliberately place ourselves in situations out of our comfort zone. Once that becomes comfortable, go to a new place and push the envelope further.

For instance, if you are white, place yourself in situations where you are the racial minority. Go to a black church, shop in a black or Latino neighborhood, ride the city bus, go to a foreign country and stay in a hostel or a 2-star hotel instead of a 5-star resort, work for an organization run by people of color, move into the central city where thousands of beautiful houses wait for refurbishing, teach for MPS.

But go not to convert, but to be converted. Go not to lead, but to follow. Go to educate yourself, not to educate others. Go in humility, not in pride. Go not to be loved, but to love.
Important, powerful words.
If you're in the area, I hope you can swing by!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When I was in college, I belonged to a briefly-lived guerilla theater group called Normal Jungles--we would go into public places and do strange little performance art happenings. I recall us crawling around on the floor of the Redlands Mall, whispering "Put your zucchinis on the porch" to people; eventually we met in a circle in the center of the mall, yelled "Smash all your avocados!" at the top of our lungs and then walked out of the mall as if nothing happened, leaving a lot of confused people in our wake. I am a huge fan of Improv Everywhere, which performs guerilla theater "missions" in public places, but on a much grander, yet more accessible, audience-friendly scale than our weird attempts at the avant garde. This particular performance involves fruit, too, so how I can I not love it? Forget about smashing your avocados--let's squish our fruits together!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Diane Ackerman's book, A Natural History of the Senses, is one of my favorite books of all time, so I was thrilled when the San Francisco Chronicle invited me to review her latest book, Dawn Light. You can read the review here.

Update: Just wanted to mention that I received the loveliest email from Diane Ackerman in response to this review. I had wondered if she'd have a chance to read the review, but never imagined I'd hear from her. It made my day and then some!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I love this quote from Michael Chabon about the parallels between writing and cooking:
As a cook, I came into this inheritance of different traditions, of the American tradition, my Jewish tradition, my mother's family and the family she grew up in. My cooking kind of emerged from both a written inheritance, actual recipes written down by my mother and grandmother, and also in the cookbooks that became important to me, and I also involve my own approach, my own changes in recipe.

I think in a way, that's sort of what you're engaged in doing as a writer, too. You come into this inheritance of things that have been done and the ways in which they have been done, and people who influence you sort of pass along what they think is important, and what they think you need to know how to do. But over time you begin to make changes, what you think are improvements or alterations, because you like the way it comes out better. In that sense, there's less a question of rejecting or accepting the past, less an anxiety of influence kind of thing, than there is an evolution of your own culinary style as applied to language and storytelling.

You tend to make the things you like to eat. For example, I don't care for fish terribly much, so I don't waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to prepare it. As a writer, I try to write books that I think I would love to read. You cook the foods you'd love to eat, you write the books you'd love to read.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

For the last few years, my dad has been filling up notebooks with what he calls his "wonders"--his musings about the animal world, the human world, the world of language and other amazements. As part of his 90th birthday celebration, the family decided to compile his wonders as a bound book. The Book of Wonders came out looking gorgeous (and it was so wonderful to see the surprise on his face when we presented it to him on Saturday. I wish I had a clearer image than this one to share! At least you can see the cover clearly below; the guy doing the limbo is my dad in 1969--the coolest cat ever. My mom is looking pretty groovy herself in her straw hat and sunglasses behind him.) You can order the book here and fill your own life with wonder(s).

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Some family kvelling...

Check out the video of the alternative high school program my brother-in-law Craig established in Toronto:

And my dad (who will be 90 in 10 days) recently published this letter to the editor in the North County Times:
I thought, when I started reading George Will's column in the September 10th NCTimes about California's problems, that I wouldn't have to grab my dictionary. He always has at least one "big"" word, usually more, that I and probably most people have never seen before. Now why does George do that? Is he just showing off? Not George. He's a rabid Chicago Cubs fan . So am I. Cubs fans have nothing to show off about. To give George his due, maybe he's trying to lift us to his vocabulary level.

At any rate, George did it again. This time, in explaining California's massive problems, he used the word "dystopia", I suppose I should understand that word. But I don't. So I reached for my Webster dictionary which defines dystopia as "an imaginary place which is depressingly wretched and whose people lead a fearful existence," Wow, this is horrible. Let's hope it's only imaginary.

George, I know you're being a bit melodramatic to illustrate your point that California is a lousy state. But, c'mon, surely you can find something a little positive to say about beautiful California.

Maybe a nice "big" word?

Buzz Brandeis

I feel very lucky to be part of such an engaged, passionate (and fun!) family.

Here's a fun way to be engaged, yourself: take the OMG GOP WTF?! quiz sponsored by CREDO mobile (a great progressive cell phone company). This week, every right answer will send 10 cents to CODEPINK.