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.)