Monday, December 31, 2007

inventory in a poem

"Te Deum"
by Charles Reznikoff

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

Happy New Year, dear friends close to me and dappled readers one shade beyond.

Friday, December 28, 2007

new year reality check

Reading the morning paper and feeling emotionally hungover over Bhutto's death (and entertaining once again the financially impossible idea of up and moving to either Firenze or Paris before the Apocalypse Blitz hits New York or San Francisco), I switched to a fluffy number in the NYT on how Americans are ringing in the new New Year. And I started reading the comments. Love this guy:

"I intend to drink my mortgage industry sorrows and await the next crisis to hit the financial world, the credit card debacle. Maybe I can charge a bunch of stuff and Bush will lower my interest rate since we Americans certainly don't know that a house worth 500K will not be at 1000 dollar payments a month no matter how may brokers tell you that."

— Rahim, Dallas, Texas

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


All my life, I have lacked two things: a camera and a sense of direction. This year, both deficits have been resolved.

One crazy sweet elf gave me a digital camera. Fantastic! I took pictures of snow. I took pictures of prime rib (it is not very photogenic). I took pictures of cookies, my shoes, angels (below), my hands, doorways, window sills, my obliging parents, my sleeping grandmother, of police at the Dunkin' Donuts (Bavarian cream, good call), of passing ambulances, electric snowflakes (also below), inflatable lawn art, the whole god damned Christmas shebang.

I took pictures of pictures, themselves already framed on the wall. I took pictures and deleted them, sent them places, took them four times over just to pick which I liked best. This is tremendous. I am quite sure, in fact, that no one has ever owned or used a camera before. Otherwise, it's all they'd talk about. I do believe I am the first to experience this rapture. What a holiday. All I can say is just wait till you too get to work with this new-fangled invention, this enthralling little box of light; it’s great, good funbut now onto the showstopping news.

That would be the sense of direction. Brothers and sisters of this new, well-met year, I have received a GPS for the Matrix. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, you have no idea my joy (unless you’ve been in the car with me, in which case, alas, you know how sorely I lack the ability to drive anywhere beyond my own bedroom). The miracle device’s name is Chelsea. (This makes a fine family for my imaginary admin Hillary and my new camera, now named Bill.) This fabulous little Chelsea beast can give me directions anywhere in North America and even covers greater U. S. territoriesso if I end up in my own car in Puerto Rico somehow, I'm set!

Chelsea is versatile as all good performers ought to beshe can direct me in Italian (rawr!), with a British accent, whatever my fancyshe’s absolutely bellissima, bloody brilliant. I tell her my destination and off we go, sure on our course. If I overshoot a turn (though it’s quite hard to mess up when she guides me with such sterling confidence and clarity), she patiently says “recalculating” and directs me back to the original destination by way of the next shortest, sensible route. She’s infinitely reliable, thanks to her satellite network. Hillary, you could learn a thing or two from your daughter’s efficient utility.

Look! Electric snowflakes fell (they were HUGE) at 48th and 5th!

Above: After the show at the Jazz Standard, I hung by the Rockefeller tree with the angelsthe tree, btw, had blue lights for Hannukah, did you notice? That was a first; better late than neverand anyway, angel and I pretended we were Nicholas Peyton blowin' it out in the horn section. (Though if I had it to do over again, I'd have angled the umbrella down, not up, and stood in as the fella on alto sax, Donald Harrison. As my father, who has become startlingly hip and jazzy in recent years, would say, man, that cat can blow. Check Harrison out. You'll be glad you did.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

somebody's stolen the savior

Christmas, post-dinner. Mom and I had energy to burn. Both fidgety and disinclined to read or otherwise operate productively in the world, we decided to pack up some gifts and bring them up to the baby Jesus at the local church for his big 2012th birthday. Things did not go quite as planned.

First off, our lord baby Jesus had been stolen. Awesome surprise. See for yourself:

But I had walked all that way with my frankincense and myrrh. So someone was going to pose for me in that frickin' manger. Mom, gamey and ever deferent to my bratty pleas, climbed on in. Again, awesome. Awesome, that is until she thought she heard it crack. That's what we've captured very flatteringly here. (For the record, it did not crack. And also for the record, we’d not had a sip of moonshine. Nothing.)

I made several friends along the way, including a nice gay man to whom I gave a holiday bouquet:

And a thirsty lamb:

And a mechanical bull that, to my disappointment, did not take quarters, after all.

Merry Christmas, folks. If you're damned if you do and damned if you don't, well then you might as well. Right? Next up, New Year's.

Monday, December 24, 2007


How about some fun with the scientific method?

Late December, temp in the twenties with wind chill. I am going for a run.

Experiment Marathon training continues, regardless of locale.

Hypothesis No big whoop: Running sixteen miles in New Jersey is not much harder than in California.

Analysis Incorrecto, Doktor Kennedito! I nearly died.

Conclusion I am a lily-livered, pansy-footed West Coaster incapable of exerting myself anywhere but in a Surfin' Safari video set.

Above: Laughing death in the face.

Monday, December 17, 2007

death penalty repeal

Feeling particularly proud of being from New Jersey right now.

(Looking at the map included in the story, I gotta say I think someone on the BBC's cartography team may have been hitting the Maker's Mark because Pennsylvania appears to be eating its way into Jersey's westerly midsection. So much for Trenton.)

beeg dawg, leetle bebe

You have never before in your whole ding-dang life—and I mean guaranteed-with-all-$359.26-in-my-savings-account neverseen cute like this. It could only get better if I got a unicorn in the frame. Happy holidays, errybotty.

you send me, an angel

When I manage to block out concerns like the melting Arctic ice shelves due north of me, Social Security, or U. S. foreign policy, I'm a pretty happy kid. But nowhere near as happy as Nina Storey. I sat this weekend crunched into the audience of an intimate San Francisco loft party (fifty of us maybe?) where Storey, a solid, giddy seraphim, sang for a few dreamy hours and, seeing her so fulfilled, I wondered if she was on Ecstasy. But no, talk with her later indicated that she's just like that.

Let me try to get you there: Etta James, Tori Amos, Norah Jones, and Koko Taylor all rolled into one in a smart, darling, effervescent package. Her subject matter runs from an NPR-inspired number on domestic violence to a heartfelt ode to the metal roller skate. She's all impossible charm and whimsy. She's got lungs like you would not believe, unswerving vocal control, and a vibrato that ranges, rages, and rattles cages. A human that manages to purr. I can't say her recordings do justice to her live performance. She's really all that in person. But a CD may do ya in a pinch. (I challenge you to play "Give Me a Reason" in the car and resist singing along. I find myself hollering along without even realizing it sometimes, missing exits, fleeting past stop signs, rolling off roads into the brush. And still, we sing.)

Here are some lame pictures. (I asked my imaginary admin Hillary to get me a camera, but she's busy Christmas shopping for herself.)

The ecstasy-cherub thing happening.

See Etta reference above.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

xmas dog treats

Sitting in the kitchen of an old County Cork farmhouse that's been in the family for generations, I must have stared at the one-pound block of butter on the table for days. I was transfixed. Butter came in such quantities? Amazing. In the States, we'd had sensible Land O'Lakes, conspicuously manufactured and neatly wrapped into thin, refined rectangular prisms.

The butter changed my life. This fascinating big hunk of heavensent fat alerted me to the inherent limitlessness of hedonism, a greedy reality that has never since left me, not once. Up to that point (I think I was around seven), I'd not only lacked a consciousness of food and its various local incarnations, but of where it came from in the very first place, what seasons brought which produce, how things like butter were even made.

And that, not really in any kind of linear thought progression that holds the conceptual hand of you, dear and ever-patient reader, brings me now to tins of biscuits. As phenomenally farmy as the bacon, butter, and bread were, the biscuits at said family farm were a tremendous disappointment to my young Wonder-bread palate. Likely packed with rolled oats, wheat germ, and other wholesome dust, the biscuits served in that heatless canister of a house delighted my grandparents and parents alike. Me, not so much. I rolled the mealy lumps around in my mouth and hardly took my eyes off the butter, which I just wanted to take, dip in sugar, and eat. (I had done this before with Land O'Lakes.)

Still, it is with some wistful reminiscence of those dreaded biscuits—and the kitchen with what stands in my mind now as an old Wedgewood and below it, Mick the meanest Jack Russell staring and growling at me after a long day's herding cows—that I present to you dog biscuits that (yes, I tried them) bear an uncanny, and therefore sentimental, resemblance to my greataunt's miniature oat bran ship anchors/biscuits.

They're easy to make. The dog will love them. Mick guarantees.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

it's official (again): we're doomed

Of the nearly two hundred thousand words at our disposal in the English language, only one would end up voted Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year. To the great disgrace of our nation and our future generations, we have elected to memorialize the banner year of 2007 with none other than "woot." Oh no, I'm not kidding. Word of the Year, my comrades. They even used it creatively in a sentence, with two zeroes in place of the middle letters, all text-msg-like: "W00T! I won the contest!"

I am bereft of words and of hope. Woot indeed.

Monday, December 10, 2007

michael vick goes to jail

I'll update this as I get more news, but Michael Vick, who should have gone to jail for five years, has been sentenced to twenty-three months in prison for neglect, abuse, and brutal killing of pit bulls in a dogfighting ring.

K, well there's more to come on this case. The hearing yesterday was limited to racketeering charges at the state level, I believe. Vick could still receive a federal sentence for neglect and abuse charges—and if I've got it right, he's just admitted he personally helped hang two of the victim dogs. So the question will be—if he is in fact sentenced to more time—whether they'll restrict him from serving it concurrently.

Here's a new piece from the Contra Costa Times.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

pip pip for shadowboxes

My coconspirator and I went to MOMA this weekend. We ended up—as one always does in such cavernous cabinets of wonder—visiting multiple floors of random art. I touched some of it and oooh boy, did I get my hand slapped! It was a pool of water that I touched, one that ended up setting off a reflecting pool of ripples up on the projected digital mirror on the wall. I really wanted to touch it again. I mean really really. In fact, standing right at the brink of the ankle-deep pool, what I wanted to do most after being corrected was jump in and splash the security guard and get a whole beach party started in that stuffy black room of art and ridiculous restraint. But I, as they say, digress. I digress tremendously. Because small artsy pools of temptation were not what we were there for. We were there for Joseph Cornell and his small, symmetrical shadowboxes that house angels, constellations, and teeny ivory pipes.

Here, as a point of reference, is Adam Gopnik on Cornell's work: "The art under inspection ... has ... old French hotel ads and stuffed birds and soap-bubble pipes hermetically sealed behind glass, evoking vanished Victorian worlds of Curiosity Shops and steamer trunks and natural-history-museum displays of long-refuted principles. They ought to have dated; they ought to date; they are, in a way, about being dated. And yet something keeps the visitor locked in place, looking, and turns his mind to the warmer, though still not quite satisfying, words of romantic praise: haunting, mysterious, dreamy, sublime.... "

Why does it always seem the artists I favor are characterized as provincial or dusty or quaint in effete intellectual circles? Cornell built little windows of imagination. Art. Period. I'm not sure why we need to speak of nostalgia in the diminutive. I think his art is beautiful and the simple measure of that effect is in the oblivion of my singular I, the checking of one overblown sense of self, even if just for a few seconds. For the record, I'm all for art without irony, complication, or ornamentation. Huzzah for steamer trunks of nostalgia, old chaps!

Simplicity is the highest art we've got.

my life

The holidays irritate some people. I get overtaken annually by an effusive sense of pollyanna love for everything and a passing capacity to surrender to the delusion that the world is snowy and pretty and witty and free. In other words, I am the raccoon. And life is that there kibble pellet being offered by the doughy hand of God. "Yes," I exclaim in Raccoonese, "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes to it all! Now pass the damn turkey and gravy and open your presents already!"

(That picture is from, by the way, my latest in an endless array of time-destroying diversions.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

it's the name, i think

I don't know why this makes me laugh so hard, but it just does.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

che magari!

Veronica Van Gogh is almost too inspired to be just human. What am I saying? Delete that "almost" and then I've got it spot-on. She's decidedly and delightfully from elsewhere. But fortunately, her art is here. Well, and in bus stops, on phone poles, in cafes, on park benches, probably in your purse. She's that sneakysharp.

get a look in the coffers first

The holidays seem as fine a time as any to provide a helpful reminder that your ho ho ho goodwill tithing may not land your spare change where you think it does. Donating in someone's name to PETA? Think again.

my three: grace, fate, and fury

Everyone has their saving graces. Without my three, I'd have ended up pushing a shopping cart and discussing plans for my imaginary kingdom with invisible elves over oil drum fires. Their birthdays happen to be right in a row. So happy big kazoo day to each of you, you smartest, twistiest, nuttiest men on the planet.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

thoughtful strangers, funnily

I used to be fussy about runs, only using trails and courses that steered clear of any actual neighborhoods. Since discovering, though, my preference has quickly become getting to know the place where I live better with each distance run.

During the twelve-miler through Berkeley yesterday, the following citizen assurance won Best in Show for my favorite sightseeing experience. It's a two-step dance. First, one thinks as she approaches the car, "Oh how awful." And if that someone is me, she imagines the worst for the passengers:

Then, in passing, she is met at the side window with a note (blurry, sorry) that makes her laugh out loud, stop for a second, and just take in how great some people can be:

What a considerate Berkeley resident. How much better this made the last leg of the route, knowing that, at least in that instance, the evidence looked so much worse than the event ... and how comforting to know that someone out there was aware enough to realize that I—or any random stranger taking in the sight of such a gnarled car—would benefit from witnessing the small, seemingly insignificant solace of miraculous survival.

Friday, November 30, 2007

the Maude Method(tm) workshop

Well it's time to take a break from the fiction writing, back to the world of reviews and easy essays. How mouth-open-while-swimming-in-the-ocean it's been. I've got two beautiful stories. Maybe I'll send them somewhere to publish them. In the meantime, I'm very happy to sit here and read them to my cat.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

down with distractions

x-ref: this is really happening dot com

like you mean it

Elizabeth Kennedy
1 Quibbler's Cove
Oakland, CA 94606

To: scribblers everywhere
Re: email signatures

Dear friends and collared greens,

Let's agree not to sign emails with "best" or "cheers" anymore. It drives us crazy, much like spoken sentences that end with a raised pitch (just make the statement already; lifting the intonation makes the listener think you may be asking your declarativea most impossible action).


Monday, November 26, 2007

hunka hunka

JR complained there are never any personal revelations posted on this here sandwich board. Okay, fine. Here's some dish: meet the men in my life. I am so in love with them, I can't even tell you.


And Frankie Sinatra!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

a holiday bookmark: read the marketing copy

So I'm making several sweet dishes that require a few more bitter or earthy things for balance and whatnot. Skillet rapini to the rescue. And beet salad with a tame homemade almond butter. Why the beet salad, you ask? Because it involves bomboloni, small bitey bits that are filled with gorgonzola and look like little edible knobs of heaven. Case closed, victory is ours. Good stuff. And healthy--you deep fry them! And so I'm looking at my little candy thermometer package as I gear up and get all the prep set. And the cardboard tells me that my thermometer is all of the following:


Well, well. I'm beyond delighted. Who knew when I was done with my doughy bits of cheesy delight that I could eat the thermometer too.

Fantastic. Like I says, I'm SO thankful for it all. I, for one, intend to enjoy this stuff, folks. It's all we've got.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"biggest bug ever"

I don't know how you feel about T. C. Boyle's writing. His stories are the itch that I scratch over and over. Then I'm stuck with that radiant prickle, that ugly heat, that regrettable, memorable fuss he injects under my skin with the sticky, showy abnormalities of his characters and the outrageous, exaggerated effects of their various deficits of body and spirit.

So I--of course--read that damn story (Sin Dolor) he just had in The New Yorker. I instantly regretted admitting to the chambers of my mind yet another tortured cast of Tom Waits-Diane Arbus mutant children, each more screwed by nature than the next, this one being a merry little narrative involving scorpions, skewers, heated blades, and a young boy who literally feels no pain. Predictably, the good doctor (see moral struggle in your writing manual) tries at once to exploit him and champion his cause.

And so it was one of those couldn't-have-written-it-better life developments that ratcheted up the Boylean hyperbole a mere day or two later. I opened up The New York Times and saw a story about a prehistoric sea scorpion that would have been seven feet long. Yes! Scorpions, like in the story, only monster huge. Epic scorpions, if you will.

Thank God Boyle did not read that before he submitted the story. Lord knows where the crazy bastard would have run with that one.

Monday, November 19, 2007

the two turkeys

Hail, gluttons across the land! Light the beacons and send word. You are not alone in this time of consumption and sloth!

I offer you a new tradition for your post-Thanksgiving day off. Rather than clothes shopping among the throngs (or as my good comrade calls shopping, outfiteering), stay home and celebrate Lord of the Leftovers. What is *that,* you ask? Well ...

It's easy. You eat whatever mountains of food you have left from the big day in whatever order you'd like in whatever quantity with whatever beverage you prefer, all while enjoying a Lord of the Rings marathon in the best company you can muster. It is preferable to be near a fire. And if you can work it out, it's best that it's raining outside. And hard.

For the advanced Hobbitians, role play is strongly encouraged. You can take turns being the Lord. I, for example, am Frodo when he's run out of drink and you are Samwise coming over and giving me your little bota full. Or I play Aragorn and you have to be the wind that is always blowing gently when I am on set. And so on. But if you're old-fashioned or uncomfortable with that, the plain Lord of the Leftovers routine is perfectly sufficient too. Don't feel inadequate if you can't go quite that performative distance just yet. We'll get you there eventually. We are very patient Hobbitses.

One last thing. You may even want to plan and name your menu accordingly. I, for example, will be making my new traditional dessert, Raspberry Fool of a Took. Get it? If not, you probably will not be invited to our Lord of the Leftovers. And you should go outfiteering instead.

progress report

Just broke the double digits in the marathon training this morning. MW blew through her first ten miler like it was a block jog. RP did an insane thirty-five push-ups this morning. It's so fun being surrounded by superheroes.

Ah, superheroes. I've been thinking a lot about which superhero I might be. And unfortunately, I think I found myself just this morning. I'll give you a moment to reflect upon all the golden heroes of your mental pantheon. Good. Done. I'm sure they're tremendous. Since this is, after all, my blog, we're going to talk about the one on my mind, the Greatest American Hero. The one who runs into walls and stuff. He came to me unbidden.

It was after our run this morning and we were nearly out the door of the Sunnyside Cafe when the theme song came blasting over the speakers. Natch, we stopped short. And we, yes we did, we started singing along, knew every word. With a belly full of bananas fosters french toast with rum raisin sludge from heaven, I felt more at home than I had in a long time. Punky Brewster bless that famed duo Mike Post and Stephen Geyer for their numero uno ditty, "Believe It Or Not." Here's a refresher:

Anyway, enough shenanigans. Practically speaking, this month of writing thing has been gnarly and the organizers of NANOWRIMO can kay my aye, but I do see the end of the month coming soon and so I am feeling sane about it. These last two weeks are big writing.

All in all, carpe diem never felt so good. But all that said, I would not mind having a private (handsome) chef or my own massage therapist, and my imaginary admin (Hillary, you've met) really could be doing a better job getting my laundry done.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

give a calendar for christmas

Click View Calendar Pages and check out the Miss Decembers. You will die of love.

Oh and let me just add this, which I just found: my heroes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

season of eats

**Make that February, not January**

Hello holiday gastronomers,

As you eat your way through the season's wild offerings, spare a teeny bit of room in January for my glimpse into the happy-belly goodness of local underground dinner parties. The full meal-deal story will be in The East Bay Monthly. Good eats and, as one of my students once said, gooder times. What a prospect I lay at your feet.

So come back to me then for the lowdown (don't worry; my imaginary admin—her name is Hillary, since you asked—will get on the horn here and remind you when the story's out). This is just a heads- and tummies-up to the bar: Kennedy promised to give you the goods (and the requisite secret password, d'accord) and indeed she will.

Cornucopiatiously yours,

Monday, November 12, 2007

though i walk through the valley of darkness, i stumble upon some shade-grown coffee beans ...

Okay, fine. I broke down. I got a latte. And it was heaven. Pure and simple. But if you were trying to keep up this insane pace of writing, race training, editing, fiddling, and general life-living, you'd be on coke *and* meth. I'm telling you. I'm the picture of virtue, all things considered.

So! While I'm here. NANOWRIMO is for effing crazy people. Effective this week, I am shifting the focus from quantity to quality, from novel to story, because otherwise I'm wasting too much time. Call me crazy, but I'm in it to win it and I need to produce something other than a cracked-out, hepped-up, 1667-word-a-day notebook full of spinouts and drive-at-all-costs uturns.

Mmm ... coffee.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

the clock, the executioner's song

Norman Mailer is dead. I am sick about it. Just sick. Having long sensed the imminent inevitability makes the twist of the blade no easier. Mailer was far and away the author I most loved to hate. I'd first encountered him when I was teaching literature at Lorton Penitentiary.

One of the books I assigned in the course was In the Belly of the Beast, the letters and acute existential ramblings of Jack Henry Abbott, a convict and aggressive self-educator. Anyone who follows the angling stream of literati chaos likely recalls how Abbott and Mailer struck up a correspondence, how Mailer championed Abbott's parole, and how Abbott subsequently stabbed a waiter within days of his release.

I sympathized for Mailer in that era, the sobering humility of choices that prove retrospectively so ill-advised. But the more I read of him, the more I learned about him, the more grandiose his ego, the more incendiary his style, the more of a blind-swing provocateur he seemed to me. And this, of course, brought out the lion in the grass in me. I have never missed an opportunity to stage derision, however humble my savanna may be.

But it all comes to nothing, I see again. The giants all fall. And the thud sets the earth shaking. And we wend our way—quiet, quiet—back to the shade another day. The sun beats down all around us. We skulk and sulk, are agitated and upset. And the invisible clock ticks again just a little louder from somewhere out of sight.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

this just in: some of us lack maps

The dear and delightful DC has unearthed this invaluable gem and I find myself once again unable to resist sharing. I don't know where he finds it. I really don't. But the thing just spirals out of control, devolving right-quick into the most incredible spectacle.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

the harpies alone are reason enough

So I have mostly honored the November radio-silence thing I had going. But it was my responsibility as a good citizen to get on here and tell you local folks that you would be a damnfool to miss out on Argonautika at the Berkeley Rep Theater.

I know, I know that genius is the too-thin butter on the too-stale toast, meaning it's assigned everywhere to everything, like the new ric-rac edging on Cheez-its. But let me tell you, pal, that Mary Zimmerman is for reals for reals frickinsharp. I have not liked a show this much since I discovered Froggy Went A'Courtin as a wee babe. And I LOVED me some Froggy.

It is a Scandanavian-Design set with recessed oven lights, replete with hilarious and operatic acting, goddesses in platforms and Barbie gowns (except Athena, who appeared in all ways to be a kickass dyke), all the standard delights of Greek mythological insanity, a satisfying smattering of pop culture references (wait till you hear the tune the ladies of Lemnos play in their boudoirs), and just about the prettiest darn ending a dazzle-ready girl like myself could ask for.

I am going to tell you again. Go see Argonautika. You will be better for it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

day one, check!

Well look at that. Tonight I started the novel I've been thinking about for, oh, six years. Of course wading into it was the equivalent of swimming into Class VI Alaskan rapids with the hopes of channeling them through a silly straw, but I'm alive in the chill in any event.

Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good.
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.

Aaand ... this orchid that has been massacred by tenacious ant colonies (plural), knocked by cats from a second-story balcony (repeatedly), and split and repotted by yours truly and her brutal tools has just started blooming on my first day writing this thing. When we look for indicators of universal support, it's nice to have such easily accessed signs.

And by the by, our mile time is now roundabout 9:30. I've got a 12k coming up this weekend. I'm feeling like setting a personal record.

"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense."

No such thing as impossible, only what's not yet happened. That earthquake the other day reminded me: time's only ever of the essence. I write now or I may never have written.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

beautiful, defined

We're talking about the word "beautiful." What does it mean and what are its obligations? How is it different from handsome? And who among us is which or neither? Here, another orchid spike starts to lean, slightly heavy with buds, a mere day or two from full flowering mojo. These plants are growing. We may choose to identify, distract, delude, console, or even destroy ourselves in the name of beauty, vanity, and achievement, but beauty is born in perfect form in our midst every day, a model we can't replicate:

Friday, October 26, 2007

harry potter and the order of the critics

I am having an absurdity rush very much like the one I had when someone told me he'd done his dissertation on the Simpsons. Now don't get me wrong. I had a rollicking good time reading the first four or five Harry Potter books. (I lost interest once the page count got into the Ulysses realm; candy ought not hit the counter with a thud.) Behold, friends in my interweb garden, the collection of critical essays on Harry himself. How did it take me all this time to find this peculiar gem? We should have expected as much. Finite incantatem! Time to read.

run time status

We ran six miles today at a ten-point-two-minute mile, jibber jabbering until we had to pull it out at the end for negative splits. Whew. Those silences really remind me I have a heart, I have lungs, that I live in eager physicality. I dipped into the mental jukebox for some driving force and what do you think I came back with but "Open All Night." Springsteen. Know it? A good one.

My marathon times have gone from 5:30 to 5 to 4:45 (each to the minute) and it looks like 4:30 is a reasonable Napa goal with my compadres pushing me along. Bruce would call that an "all-set cobra jet creepin' through the nighttime."

love, heartbreak, italy (and other synonyms)

Thank y'all for the lovely mails re: the writing (see last post). Could not wait until November to get started. The first morning, as we know all "first mornings" tend to be for those awake and sensitive, was spectacular. Hard work is the hottest live current we can contact without being killed in the conduction. I'm never sure once I start why I've avoided it.

Anyway, I'm tempted to leave you for the month with this next poem. I just finished the day's work and was on my way to go out and play when AGNI delivered their online wares. I had to look. Enjoy. This is probably not the last you'll hear from me, though, because I am going to see Joseph Cornell's shadowboxes at the MOMA. Deliriously excited about that and will probably have kindeegarten-variety enthusiasms to share.

"Cures for Love"
by Stacie Cassarino

When you give me back to the world
and the world throws me over, I read Ovid’s
“Cures for Love”: one, love is better
than doing nothing; two, divert the mind
with farming; three, wine promotes sex.
For months I obsess over farm tools, then go to Italy.
But this is supposed to be a sad story,
remember, written in Finnish because
there is no future, there is no forever.
Here is your name crossed out. If you could
now go away from my heart. I’m in Rome
where the gods are lying around at Trevi,
and only the head of the fish on my plate
can look me in the eyes and stay there.
What would Ovid say about this?
The light inside the Pantheon makes me cry
inexplicably. The letter I imagine writing: it is blank.
We are stars as well as dust here. A man
throws fire, the doctor is cutting
my mother’s neck, I’ve lost my way.
Can there really not be any concrete
evidence of love? But this burning sky,
my hands like local relics. Someone
is coming near, someone is vanishing,
I can’t tell which I want
to be real. Now there are bells, now
there is singing, it’s forgiveness
we want. We want to press against
strangers & we want it to be rough.
How much would you pay for joy?
Grandma says nothing is worth
dying for, and in my dreams I can bring her
back to life anytime she decides to leave.
Love is that powerful. Just look at my eyes
saying reaper, spade, sickle. The wine in Rome
has never tasted so lovely. Even this table
you’re leaning on may not be there, someone says.
Even the Forum is all in ruins, and the people
are not sure if history has written them
out from under the rubble.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

nanoo, nanoo, nanowrimo

I'm skipping the cranberry, turkey, and sweet potatoes to hole up and draft a novel. It's not optional. I have the bandwidth now. Tomorrow buses may swerve and hit me. Hitchcockian starlings may descend and poke my eyes out. I may end up loopy like Mozart or on the tracks like Gaudi at the very next possible moment. Like ... now! So what am I waiting for exactly? Enough laziness. Andiamo, Betta!

I am lucky to have the ideas, community, blinky garlands of words, the whole shebang. So I've signed up and gotten the below letter back from the support system I'm going to use to stay focused. It's a big, ridiculous, sprinty writing party called NaNoWriMo.

You know this has to mean that it will be a blackout period for the blog. In t-minus six days, Betta done gone fishin' for a brief writer's holiday. Mayhaps sooner while I shop around for a desk chair (Yeah, because Hemingway? He had it all wrong with this standing at the desk thing). I'll flip the shingle back over first dawn of December. Come up and see me at that time, wouldja?

Lookie look:


Dear eeegenie,

Well, you did it. You've gone and pledged your November to the pursuit of the month-long novel. Whether this is your first or ninth NaNoWriMo, we know you're going to have a great time, and we're thrilled to have you writing with us.

petition hawk with clipboard and lollies

I've been getting notices from all sorts of small magazines for what actually feels like years regarding this issue: postage rates have essentially increased for the little guys, not the high-volume, "turn 'em and burn 'em" media conglomerates. It's one of those depressingly bold maneuvers that benefits the moment's Carnegies, Rockefellers, Gateses, and Turners, while driving the boot into the back of the good kids. Stomp, grind, kick, dead. So take a look at this and see if you feel inclined to sign my petition. I'll give the first among you a lollipop and a "free-press hero" sticker. (It'll catch on.)

From The New York Review of Books:

On July 15, the postal rates for many of this nation's small magazines increased by 20 to 30 percent, due to a decision made by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) that turns against more than 200 years of postal policy.

We believe this issue to be of such importance to small intellectual publications on both the right and left that we felt it imperative to alert our readers.

This rate increase has the effect of shifting costs from the large publishers, such as Time Warner, to smaller publications, such as The New York Review, Commentary, The National Review, and The Nation. These unfair and onerous rate hikes threaten the future of many smaller, independent publications.

Congressional hearings have been scheduled for next Tuesday, October 30. Prior to that, we are requesting that all concerned readers sign a congressional email petition that can be found here:

Free Press, working with a wide variety of small publishers, is hoping to collect well over 100,000 signatures by the end of this week in order to get the attention of the committee members prior to the hearing.

We hope you will join in this effort. These new postal rates threaten the existence of the small independent magazines and journals that are so important to a free press and a vibrant democracy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

title envy

* AMENDMENT to this post *
New titles you've mailed to me so far: World Bridger, Information Czarina, Word Smith (let's make that two words, maybe with a comma between: a greeting AND a generalist's title), Market Probe (not sure about that one!), and the very best: Your Boss. I am indubitably getting cards printed up that say Elizabeth Kennedy, Your Boss and giving them to anyone I come across who needs a good, strong hand. Watch out! I'm coming to a town near you. Delicious.
* * * * *

C. just got a job at Dreamworks as a Render Wrangler on the graveyard shift. Yet again, I have no idea what that means. But when she speaks the official title to me, I feel a covetous wave of interest, as if I've spent the preceding decades married to a lifeless dud when all of a flutter, a stunning looker grazes past me with taunting attentions. Wow, I realize, my title has the sex appeal of a cold stone. I want what she has.

So. Lettuce problem solve, rancheros. Today marks the death of Project Editor Kennedy. Homilies and eulogies to follow. In the meantime, please call me the Word's Mercenary. No. The Sentence Swashbuckler. No, no! Closer: the O-town Manual of Style. That one's not bad.

But some sneaky moment down the line, I'll think of better and return to this post and quietly edit it (for all my many, mighty rereaders; that's you, Mom!) to make it appear that my title genius spontaneously combustiblogged right here into the It Title. (Hey, help a hustler out and email me ideas. Cmon, you don't think Render Wrangler was a groupthink product? Totally. Was so. Uh huh.)

And while we're playing these little make-believe divertissement ... from here on out, you are no longer visiting me on the second floor corner office on MLK Way. You are venturing up, up, up to the Eagle's Nest. Code word coconuts. Fly, free bird, fly.

Yeehaw, Wrangler. Now we're raising dust.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

metarename addendum

My brother replied to the moony adulations regarding his big brains (see last post) and said I'm one of the two bestest blogs out there (it's okay that he didn't say that before I sang his song; that's what it is like being a little sister; one must pursue the praise she seeks through whatever means necessary). The other blog of greatness, though I doubt they have produced such odes to their siblings, is this one. How did I miss Fakesteve Jobs all these years?

as is probably known ...

So I was on the phone the other day and the subject of my family came up. I have a brother, three years older and three inches taller than I am. (Okay, taller than that, but not that much taller.) And reasonably, my new associate asked me, as lots of folks do in the sort of getting to know that has advanced beyond cocktail chat, what my brother does for a living. Mah no! This question vexes me. I really can't say just what he does.

He's explained it, much like my Georgetown economics professor explained the sigma-algebra of measurable subsets involved in axiomatization of probability theory in stochastic processes. Nod, nod, blink, blink. (An absolute emptiness echoes between my ears.) All I know is he has done whatever he does since 1998. And that his role has to do with kernels of something (data? bytes? maybe corn? bytes of corn?) at Sun Microsystems. So I decided to Google him. The guy's everywhere. He's a technical superhero behind the curtain, speaking what passes word by word for English, but shatters into impressively prohibitive non-English when strung all together. See below for a sampling of his advice on the incomprehensible:

>> Hi,
>> I am curious if it is possible to manually configure the sub mirrors in a \ mirrored jumpstart profile? Normally we are allowed to create a profile and \ assign the mirror such as the following:
>> filesys mirror:d0 c0t0d0s0 c0t1d0s0 1024 /
>> But what if I wanted to assign my own sub mirrors instead of allowing them \ to be selected automatically, because as is probably known the numbers are not \ logical. For example:
>> d10 1 1 /dev/dsk/c0t0d0s0
>> d20 1 1 /dev/dsk/c0t1d0s0
>> d0 -m d10
>I'm not aware of a way to do what you're asking from within a
>jumpstart profile. That said, you could use the metarename
>command to change the component names after the fact if they
>aren't to your liking.

Monday, October 22, 2007

outed wizards, oh my!

How much do I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Dumbledore is gay? Now the Christians who've condemned the Harry Potter book as pagan witchcraft will really have cause for clutching their rosaries to their virtuous, saved, better hearts. This will end up in the history books in the same paragraph as Ellen, the Teletubbies, and Senator Craig. Quite a paragraph, that.

(And by the way, when did J. K. Rowling become our old pal Jo Rowling? Just wondering. And what in the world is going on with Ellen and her dog insanity pleas? I wish she would just recover some of her private life and do what Mariah did: take some mani-pedi time and make a comeback with a quality movie like Glitter.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

rock it, blister sister

Massive congratulations going to Lia today for her finishing time in the Nike Women's Marathon. Four hours and twenty-nine minutes. Go, big bird! You amaze!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

i, elizamacbeth

It is my mother's most singular disappointment that I love me a good tragedy. She wonders, as much as I wince to think she believes it reflects upon her, how I ever became so sturm und drang.

But I just went and saw Gone Baby Gone and I feel all the more certain that the tragic is where it's at. Affleck's invented a mesmerizing world: a little Arbus, a little Eastwood, with some Todd Field—and sure, why not?—brutish characters cut so convincingly with real, weary, unlikeable watchability, that we catch the Shakespearean glitter of misery extinguishing its carrier.

The conclusion exceeds its ending and echoes off-time. I need from my movie, my book, my music the sense not only that I've left the work with my sights sharpened, but with the charge of responsibility, the alarm of a life shown for what it is, a series of moral hostage exchanges, of complex challenges to our most provincial convictions. Maybe it's the wabi sabi idea, the simple imperfection in the complex plan, but I like to think of it as a kind of fluid strategic assymetry, or as the most tenuous pause that compromises the whole moral imperative. We have no right answers, ever.

The movie is tricky, not quite big house aping indie, not quite indie finessing the Hollywood flourishes. It's got a humble feel, a real bead. Affleck gets my neighbors out there on the East Coast cold. He gets the working class. He gets boozers, the righteous, the lost. He gets so many small things really right from table tops to smacktalk. Can't complain. Won't complain. Loved it. Break my heart like that any time. I'll even pay you for it.

Friday, October 19, 2007

do you know why i pulled you over, ma'am?

Yes, I fought the law.

And the law won.

(So much for the Best Day Ever.)

best day ever!

One of our authors, a raw-foodist celeb of sorts—he prefers to be called Avocado—signs off all his emails, "Have the best day ever!" Historically having been something of a humbuggist, I rolled my eyes at this at first. But why not?

I'm mindful of much of what's awful in the world and I do my fair bit to remedy, or at the least attend to and address, it. Given that, I feel more free license than ever in my day-to-day to celebrate Jack Gilbert's "music despite everything." Here's a Szymborska poem. Enjoy it. Maybe even make it part of your Best Day Ever!

Miracle Fair

The commonplace miracle:
that so many common miracles take place.

The usual miracle:
invisible dogs barking
in the dead of night.

One of many miracles:
a small and airy cloud
is able to upstage the massive moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder is reflected in the water
and is reversed from left to right
and grows from crown to root
and never hits bottom
though the water isn't deep.

A run-of-the-mill miracle:
winds mild to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

A miracle in the first place:
cows will be cows.

Next but not least:
just this cherry orchard
from just this cherry pit.

A miracle minus top hat and tails:
fluttering white doves.

A miracle (what else can you call it):
the sun rose today at three fourteen a.m.
and will set tonight at one past eight.

A miracle that's lost on us:
the hand actually has fewer than six fingers
but still it's got more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the inescapable earth.

An extra miracle, extra and ordinary:
the unthinkable
can be thought.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

psst, easy money

So I am nearing completion of my midterm for the Copyediting II class I'm taking through the UC Berkeley (coursework sponsored by the good chieftains of the North Atlantic Books tribe). And I am grateful for the help stretching and looking—for the first time—into what have long been my own editing blindspots. The opportunity is, of course, edifying and challenging and all that good sugar sugar cocoa.

So, uhm, psst. Hey, you. Yeah, you. Take this envelope. This one here. Can I pay you this cash to take this test? It's kinda hard.

Just kidding, teacher! Kidding!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

trump pays for "readers"

Here's how I imagine it came about:

Publicity Intern: Man, you couldn't pay me to attend a Trump book signing.

Publicist: Mervyn, by God, you're a genius! (Publicist gets on the horn with Trump's people.) Okay, I just thought of something great. Let's pay people to come to the book signing!

And so it is, my friends. A new era in what we abashedly call the book business.

Monday, October 15, 2007

maybe i'll have a block of chocolate instead

The running is great. Don't get me wrong. At lunch, we just clocked a 9:21-minute mile for our little three-plus-mile loop. And that works fine by me. But here's the thing. On an ever-quest to lift my virtue into the astronomical realms and make a bid for seraphimity, I'm working to keep better hydrated, and have thus sworn off coffee in the afternoons. I will not go for the Late Lattes anymore.

But oy, look at it:

It's just so very pretty.

I may as well be addicted to heroin. If I had the choice to go back into a burning building for a kid or to sip a fresh latte, I'd waver. It is like someone keeps slapping me on the inside of my skull. Latte. Latte. Latte time, stupid! Go get it. Now. It's a screeching alarm.

And now I refuse to yield. Bastard coffee. Beelzebubbian coffee. Black hellwaters of Sumatran ambrosia washing through the unstimulated attics of my mind. Diuretic tormenter of my pure and otherwise hydrous soul! Oh, the pain of love deferred.

I did anticipate the difficulty. I'm not a total dodo. I made a plan that seemed smart in the filtered sweet shade of dawn (with my one permitted cup of home-brewed morning coffee at hand). I decided to pack myself a healthy alternative, a nifty little snack that would not only replace the 2pm chemical boost, but also function in some wholesome sort of way once in the mysterious bubbles and bends of my belly.

Well, brothers and sisters, eff that. Let me, as the kids (used to) say, drop some neurochemical science for the benefit of all: a banana and a cool glass of water do not adequately substitute for a hot, frothy latte with just the right bit of raw sugar. No, no, no.

So sure, the running is great. And I love that you can't catch me. And look at me, look at my skin—I'm sunny and fabulously hydrated! I'm practically a noontime lake. But however joyous and hot-flames-fast all this water nonsense may be making me, I still want a god damned cup of coffee.

Help me, Rhonda! (Unless of course you're a barista, in which case you should exercise your right to refuse service to my desperate soul. Don't help me. Don't!)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

backstreet birds

Being a volunteer in animal rescue, I see all sorts of ridiculous pet pix, stories, and video clips cross my desk. And I do a fine job, an admirable job even, of resisting the need to post every one of them here, of insisting to you that this will be the most hilarious, charming, sweet, blah, blah, blah thing you've ever seen.

But seeing as I've just gone dancing and cringily witnessed the lack of rhythm most humans exhibit, I have to confess a certain appreciation for the bird's panache. If you're disinterested in stupid animal videos, don't click. If, on the other hand, this blog represents a guilty timesinky pleasure for you (what else?), why not click through and stick around for the most fabulous part of all, the outrageous, flashy headbanger bow at the end?


Friday, October 12, 2007

loving this clip

Lessing reacts to Nobel Prize in Lit news.

Oh, and Gore won the Peace Prize. Very good.

deborah barrett

Just as I've gotten back in touch with you, JWL, an artist whose work you printed appeared in the pages of Agni. Deborah Barrett's name etched itself on the back of my mind the moment I saw her work at your shop.

What is it that I find so spooky about her pieces? She's done some collages in the past, too, things that I thought took their meaning and significance from a kind of disjointedness. But these are different, controlled.

p.s. It's raining. The smell of dirt and watergorgeous, alive, alive.

heaven, here it is again

If I had to die tomorrow, I'd hope it'd rain like it rains today. The sound of rain is the only thing that cleans off the mental slateno mistakes in Darfur, Afghanistan, Iraq, no neglect in East Oakland, no unhappy people, no suffering, nothing undone, no failures, no letdowns, no better thing to be doing, no love I've lost crowding my mind. It's just fleeting, momentary entitlementclear, crisp solitude, a perfected reading day with coffee, a blanket, and a window.

As a kid, I sat at the sliding glass doors overlooking the stretched green of my childhood yard in Waldwick, New Jersey. My mother sat with me. I remember it being quiet, rare for me in those days. I was a talker, a rambler, a shameless liar, always inventing what I now see were unbelievable stories. We waited for the lightning, just scanned the sky past the trees, and at the strike's instant, we counted as loudly as we could until the thunder came. The thunder always arrived eventually. I knew I could count on it.

Ah, heaven. Here it is again, a pattern I can count on.

... Hmm. An amendment to this post. Writing about revelry despite all the devastation reminded me of one of Jack Gilbert's greatest poems, its wry treatment of God and the fallen, how evenly he manages to present life as Lethe and Elysium in one:

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

sleeper in the envelope

Boy oh boy, Haruki Murakami just cannot catch this one break. I thought for sure he'd get the Nobel Prize this year.

But that's not really why I'm writing. I'm writing because the committee has just recognized Doris Lessing. I've never read her through. Does that make me a bad feminist? Perhaps. I remember reading a confession Jonathan Franzen published somewhere that he'd tried, but failed multiple times, to read The Golden Notebook. And while the old chestnut may be that misery loves company, this commonality made me feel even worse. It's not an underdog thing, no book-not-championed crusades here. Lessing clearly has a following that endures to date (yes, a Nobel Prize makes that much obvious).

I think it has something to do with an independent catalog of important books that I try to keep outside the bounds of the Hundred Best Books lists that predictably feature so many men doing their age-old, mainstream displays of peacock plumage and four-star words. It's an old guilt, my inevitable tension, the desire and distaste for privilege and power in narratives that lull me with their uncanny reflection of what is. Who knows. The harder I look at issues of politics and art, the more I find myself resembling Janus, shifting from one view to the next, a revolving door of perception, forwards, backwards, dizzy, dizzy, dizzy.

I know fundamentally I resist the notion of what I should read as much as I defer to it. Ever contrary, I regularly name Saul Bellow as one of my favorite authors. A reader could not really find literary work with more androcentric misogyny unless she hit up Roth or Mailer for a love story. And I stand behind my choice there. I'm always at the ready to discuss the tricky business of drawing the lines among authors, their views, and their stories.

But, yes, life is complicated and residual obligations from undergrad coursework in feminist methodology and pedagogy prove stubborn. I suppose I have long felt politically responsible to know the book, particularly if the ranks take amnesty in Franzen's example and relax away from it. But here's the news: the prize has adjusted this reality. Post-Nobel, obligation is a much weaker bond between Ms. Lessing and me. She is glowing now in the radiant, hot, magnetic sheen of an internationally touted prize. I'd say that that eases the pressure off me. Masses will take it back up, read her on beaches and in book clubs. I foresee a movie adaptation. So yes, you all go and read it, good respondents to the recognitions, readers in the prize wake. Tell me what you think. Do report back.

And now I am at liberty to state guilt-free that The Golden Notebook has not compelled me to stay after I've slipped between its covers. I will go read what I want. Come to think of it, I've yet to read Murakami's latest.

so not about Foster, Kidman

Okay, here's a quote from a recent Salon article (interesting) on women and the major film industry:


On Friday of last week, movie business reporter Nikki Finke wrote on Deadline Hollywood that Warner Bros. president of production Jeff Robinov had issued a company edict: "We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead." According to Finke's sources, Robinov's decree came in the wake of underperformance by two summer movies, The Invasion and The Brave One, which featured Nicole Kidman and Jodie Foster, respectively, in starring roles.


I have a better idea. How about continuing to feature plenty of women in lead roles, but skipping the dodobird movies? Both of those films were so badly written. Cliche, formulaic, rote, void of depth or (cringe, but it's true) artistry—unfortunately for audiences, all these words apply in both cases. And as for the cult classic revival The Invasion, you can add just plain grody to the list.

All that said, however acidly the film turned the stomach, I've got to hand it to Nicole Kidman, singular among all actresses for her ability to look the part of the dignified defier even as she's sprayed with alien vomit around every conceivable corner. And Jodie Foster acted the paint off the brick walls of The Brave One and, to my considerable astonishment, managed to pull off many redemptive moments in what otherwise amounted to an unforgivable abomination of a movie, better for a model of the core cinematic elements for Film 101 than an elegant innovation against those elements.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

sigh into it:

Irises from my author
and clouds outside my office window

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

litgarden, steady as she knows

Litquake is rolling and roiling again, the big annual literary festival of the Bay Area for eight years strong. I appreciate this kind of community. And I'm attending select events with some smart comrades. But I've also climbed to a certain solitary lookout, a place from which I don't need so much to integrate with the local literatiDave Eggers, Gail Tsukiyama, Josh Kornbluth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Daniel Handler, Beth Lisick, Peter Plate. I've seen and heard these authors read multiple times throughout their circuit careers. And I am equally content, deeply so, just to make my mushroom risotto, wait for the rain, and sink my heart into a quiet reading of Svoboda's Tin God.

Having the space and energy to spend time aloneas alone and awake as I have ever beenis a profound luxury. Engaging a written work makes different demands than film, dance, visual art, or music, and I feel it's resonant in inimitable, vital ways.

I couldn't replicate my pleasures for you here; to start with, I can't put Tin God up online, nor can I sit you down this instant with a cloth napkin and a hot meal (though I always make extra and you'd find yourself welcome). But I can give you a gift you will not get at Litquake, a chance to read what you otherwise may not, a work by a tremendous poet you won't find on this year's panels, but should. It's by Steven Rood, copied here from my kitchen wall where it's nailed up, written in huge red letters on butcher paper:


Why would we want to get drunk,
staggering around and forgetting our loneliness,
if, in the fourteen billion years of this universe,
we have only this time to experience it?

Why would we want to numb up and watch TV,
if, in June only of each year, a particular
lily, the Calochortus tiburonensis, blooms
inconspicuously on one mountain
made of hot serpentine rock?

Why would we voluntarily give up
witnessing its nectaries glisten under fine
hairs in the flower's throat?

Why would we let ourselves become zombies,
who resemble us almost perfectly,
except for consciousness and delight?

Why would we not choose to transform
our suffering into Lamentations and Psalms?
Or into Schubert's E flat trio?

Why would we not become gardeners
if we can still remember the flower
that first made us swallow hard?


A friend and dear author of mine once hassled me for a hermitty stage I went through. She said, "Elizabeth, we all do this. We love and hate each other. You're not unique in that." Though I didn't like being told I was not a mold-cracking malcontent, I knew she was right. And ultimately, after the post above, I rumbled along with everyone else at Litquake. How could I not? To start with, look at this shot of the Bay Bridge views that I took while driving in to the Lesser Evil readings. Not a bad rush hour. Can the sky please stay this way forever?

See you at the Litcrawl. Of course.

run emc2

Yeah, we read about the poor conditions at the Chicago Marathon, but the Ferocious Five began training yesterday for the Napa Valley Marathon anyway. I have to say I loved this bit from the AP article on Chicago:


Helicopters with bullhorns blared out instructions for runners to stop. Some refused to heed the warnings and kept running.

"Runners are a very unique breed and they're very determined and they want to push themselves because of all the time they put in preparing for the race," Platt said.


It's necessary for some of us. One of the major justifications for deciding to start running ridiculous distances again is the chance to devote the time to poetry, reciting it (in my mind) like my grandfather did (aloud) for me when I was a kid. Over and over and over. So yippie tay yay, here we go. It's the only way to live! And it's pretty good to be so extremely alive, ain' it?

Friday, October 05, 2007

shot through the heart: road trip!

What I like, or one of the things I like, about motoring is the sense
it gives one of lighting accidentally, like a voyager who touches
another planet with the tip of his toe, upon scenes which would have
gone on, have always gone on, will go on, unrecorded, save for this
chance glimpse. Then it seems to me I am allowed to see the heart of
the world uncovered for a moment.

-The Diary of Va Woolf

over & out

Thursday, October 04, 2007

psst, God seekers: check Sephora shelves

No surer way to assure you'll be ignored than to wear dirty, scarred up Blundstones and a "been playing in mud drifts again" outfit into a Sephora, one of those floodlit megaretail beauty shops. Ignored, that is, EXCEPT if carrying a camera.

In that case, it's all eyes (well-shadowed, lusciously lashed) on EK. The shimmering ladies working the floor, omnipresent like scented Oompa Loompas with up-dos, dodged around every corner to discern whether we'd "found everything we were looking for." (They followed so hot on our heels that we had to snap shots very fast, so pls forgive the blurriness in advance.)

My compadre and I entered the store on a lark, en route to finding skirts for me (I'm feeling skirty, why not?) and a gift for a road tripping friend nearing her Floridian destination. After relaxing into the olfactory fatigue from so much chemical perfume, we began browsing. The conclusion: Sephora is the domain of the devil.

1. First of all, can we please agree that Keats has no place showing up in a moisturizer display? Heavens to mergatroid, this just made me moan. These bastards trademarked the most famous, contentious line from all of Western poetry. Effing eff!

2. I'm not squeamish about pain. I get it. I like it. Hell, I'm a marathoner (Napa Valley, March, watch for a future post). I seek it out, much to the chagrin of those who would just as soon think about unicorns and rainbows in my company. But even for me, beauty ideals taking figurative cues from acute, painful animal attacks, that's messed up. (I, eons ago, was stung on the tongue by a bee, so the idea of bees anywhere near my mouth is especially repellant to me.)

3. God is all these things and it would appear God is also perfumed firming body emulsion.

4. This is the one that made me mad. I wonder what Fatboy Slim, who borrowed his oxymoronic name from Bumble Bee Slim of Chicago blues fame, would think of having his name adapted to a stupid caffeine cream for the body-conscious, brainwashed masses waiting to be suckered into snake oil purchases. I was tempted to buy all the boxes of this stuff, just to get it off the shelves. But they'd just ship more.

And one last thing. While we're talking about ads that bug, this guy's truck has been parked outside my bedroom window for days now. I have a nice view. I fall asleep looking out at it every single night. And now, there's this to add to the picture. If this were the representation of my plumbing solutions, I'd just as soon dehydrate.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

vick dogs redeemed

I have been ricocheting around my apartment in dizzy bliss after learning that, thanks in part to the heroic 24/7 evaluation efforts of BADRAP's own helmsfolk Tim and Donna, forty-eight of the forty-nine Vick dogs evaluated will either be sent to a sanctuary or our way for rehab and placement. ASPCA and CNN tell the story.

Still feeling doubtful that an abused animal can find it in her heart to learn trust, be socialized, and step up as a face-smushable candidate for a worthy home? Check out Sophie's story or just watch the BADRAP website as the available dogs arrive and prove their mettle, resilience, and unthinkable capacity for forgiveness. We just finished with the last Katrina adoption this past month. New lease for deserving dogs. Eyes on the future!

(Want more of the scary fighting dog Sophie? Cute one, cute two.)

Keep up with BADRAP.

Monday, October 01, 2007

songbird mantra

Never know when we'll run into our own spotless plate glass.

Poor birdie.

belt out a monday shanty, me hearties

Forget Japanese and Italian. I'm in for sailorspeak. Say this aloud: yesterday I lounged portside while Skipper R. piloted her twenty-nine-foot sloop through the slot using nineteen-knot apparent wind. Well sink me and scupper that, sea dogs!

I've learned:

1. Standing up in a moving sailboat is not as easy as sitting in one.

2. All bags ought to be latched prior to shoving off lest pens, post-its, and dubloons go rolling across the floor.

2. One ought never refer to "shadows of sharks below the water" or the movie Open Water while very far out on the Bay.

3. Love is not all you need. Ocean chi is all you need. No wonder all those cigarette smoking, Miller swilling, docksider wearing salty dogs live to ninety despite their habits. Ocean chi. Get some!

And now, a poem:

The Fish
Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled and barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
—the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly—
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
—It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
—if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels—until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

lars = kinetic art (and eye = very parenthetical)

Met a neighbor late last night who gave me a painting his father had given him. The seascape was painted by a Vietnam veteran. All blues and control, very intense, probably more so in my mind because I now know who painted it. It's become the defining work in my art corridor (though someday I will get the resin buckhead coat rack); did I mention the painting's about five feet wide? Yep yep. I will get a picture up tomorrow.

In other art news, I finished the second in the Repair series of three shadow boxes. The first is called Save the City. It features Jesus, a power plant, live wires, a bottle of salt (for wounds/physical), and a bottle of wine (for wounds/psychic). The glass magnifying his injured rib is bound with bandage threads. ("I got God on my side. Who's that? Hell, I dunno." -Ditty Bops)

This next one is called Treehouse Futures. Overly personal this one, close to my heart. It's about salvaging for all it's worth. One of the owl's eggs has turned to a stone with the word "focus" etched into it.

After the 2nd Grand Intergalactic Messy Elizabethan (Art) Expo (GIMEE), Lars left me a lego sculpture. It has levers. I haven't got a picture of that yet. And then he helped me clean up. That, on the other hand, I do have on film (in pixels, I guess, technically). I have included it below for your edification to illustrate for all young grasshoppers with brooms that this is the way cooked-in kitchens should be tidied:

(For the record, if I were a scientist, I'd clone Lars. Again and again and then again.)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I, wild, ruinous

I thought of you this morning, Sasha. I was randomly reading poetry, whiling my hours as recklessly as I do, and after a whole carafe of hot-down-to-cool coffee, I found an old gem submerged. It was Atwood. Remember how sorry you were for me that I'd gone that far through life without reading her? That made me love you. Where are you and yours now?

Well here is Atwood again in any case, now a touchstone.

This poem is brilliant brilliant cynical cruel and, as my Great Aunt Etty once said when I noted that this one gray could only be found in Galway waters, "spot-on, dear."

Siren Song

This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see the beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who has heard it
is dead, and the others can't remember.

Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?

I don't enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical

with these two feathery maniacs,
I don't enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.

my bedside

I don't own a TV. Never have in my life, come to think of it. So living solo again, I catch Top Chef as I can, where I can, how I can. Generally iTunes and comrades come through, but I've got a stopgap: I picked up Kitchen Confidential. Am I happy I did? Well, it was a fun read, but I did have to work hard to shoulder past the bits of obligatory misogyny, the typical saltpeter of toughguy pyrotechnics:

While I'm onto my recent reads ... I had hopes for this book, with which I was unfamiliar till I spotted it on a shelf. Stilted, not very insightful:

This book made my heart ache. I kept getting the feeling as I read The Road that I was suddenly so grateful for all the words Coetzee left out of his slim dystopias. Because McCarthy seems to have picked them all up and gathered them here. And they sting.

A wacky snack, this next one. Good for fans of Hempel, Lutz, Slavin:

And like most folks observing an absence, I picked up Liam Rector's latest. It's also sent me back to Don Hall's poetry. Without, in particular. Such beautiful poems in there.

to beat the ban

It's Banned Books Week over at the American Library Association (ALA). I talked a little in my graduate lecture about the importance of offense, including references to the various complaints registered lodged with the ALA.

We lost a good champion of free speech this year, so it's even more important to take up the task and at the very least check out this list of the most challenged titles of the year. (You'll have to click through a spam filter jump page. Sorry about that.) Maybe pick a few of them up.

interweb double u-turn

So I've been spending more and more time with pointyheaded web nerds (meant in the very best way). This company I'm keeping has caused veritably vertical spikes in the quality of my aural life. I remain starry-eyed and wide-eared with the massive additions recently made to my iTunes. These changes only involved the slightest back alley trades. Find yourself an external hard drive and shazaam, a gigaswap just like that. Now I listen at all hours to new and pretty bands, marvel at the seakelp-sway-in-the-ocean sounds of singer-songwriters in every letter (D: Decemberists! Ditty Bops! the Duhks! the Divine Chants of Ganesh!). Excellent. But I see that I probably should have just stopped there, much like a $500 win at a blackjack table.

Because I am the type well-advised to steer clear of Targets and Z Galleries (I really need that gigantic resin buckhead for a coat rack) for fear of the stupid things I might buy for no good reason at all, the natural next step in my internet timesinkathon was the enablement of silly purchases. It was noted that I could and should buy my very own domain, not for the $25,000 bid Network Solutions suggested when I first researched (I'm worth more, in my opinion), but a .org for a scandalously low $5.99.

So! Dear web traveler, watch this. Now that I (being extremely broke) have spent this valuable little fistful of dollars on, you, lucky you, can go to your address bar, type it in, and ... come right back here. Free ride for you! Wasn't that fun? You're welcome. (I should have bought a latte and listened to the Es instead.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

widget liberation movement

I like the writing, the moodiness, and the finicky fixtures of Wes Anderson films, so am necessarily watching the reviews of The Darjeeling Limited as they roll in.

A. O. Scott is my James Wood of film criticism. He's precise, incisive. He slices and dices. Delightful and sharp words, even serrated when called for. The Darjeeling review is no exception to his smart takes. That said ...

And forgive the untoward intimations in advance, but they're pretty incontestable.

I selected the "email this page" linko to share the remarkably positive review when I spied with my little eye a blue widget (a nanobillboard) on the upper right corner of the page. Article tools sponsored by:

Hay zeus! For reals?

Do I even need to explain my objections? No, of course not. And I don't mean to be provincial. I hav spent my time in the cooling shade of the money tree. I understand. But to put the button right there on the page with the actual review of the movie? Couldn't Darjeeling Limited rotate sponsorship of the tools on, say, an article on Doctors without Borders or Ed Jew or somesuch?

Alas, sometimes the inferno of interests is unavoidably visible to those rosily warmed by its intoxicating emissions. Not cool after all. It's getting hot in here. Quick, take off all your widgets!