Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I haven't gotten sick very often lately. I chalk that up to the yoga I do regularly. But last night my stomach just went crazy, and I am not sure how I am going to get out of the house to the market to buy Lomotil so I can go to work this afternoon. Yoga class, the only one I will have managed to get to this week because of doctor's appointments I have to take my mom to, seems out of the question. Even if I get there without having to go to the bathroom urgently, I don't see how a vigorous 1 1/2 hour yoga class could be good for me in this condition, so I will do restorative yoga at home.
Yesterday, I was supposed to have gone to Costa Mesa for yoga class in the morning, but I got mixed up and went to Costa Mesa, where there was no yoga class I wanted to go to. So I went home and did yoga there. Even yesterday my stomach was messed up. I think eating rich food late in the evening is not good for my IBS. I have no temperature, and definitely have to work this afternoon. Yuck.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Just Like Home, Only Better

I have been feeling good lately because Passover is my favorite holiday, and I was invited to Michelle's house for seder last night. Michelle is a sometime reader of this blog, so if she is visiting, I thank her again enthusiastically for inducing a feeling of well-being with her wonderful food, company, and fellow-feeling about the holiday.
There are all different ways to do Passover, and I can say that I have done many of them. I have been to Orthodox seders as a child that lasted till midnight and were all in Hebrew (dull), Chassidic seders as a young woman where I was sent to the kitchen to peel onions when I wanted to engage in Torah commentary with the men (maddening), seders of all stripes that I myself organized (Jewish Palestinian seders, Jewish black seders, seders where I was the only Jewish person, seders with lots of kids (fun)). For a few years I did a seder almost every day, between home and all the political groups I belonged to.
But in the past years, since Jeremy has grown up and refused to take part, and Richard has balked, sedered out from a lifetime of these long evenings outside of his own tradition, I've been at loose seder ends. So every year, like Elijah, I scout around for an open door, a place left empty for me to occupy, potluck dish in hand.
That is why I am so happy about going to Michelle's house. Michelle leads the Torah group at the synagogue that I am part of, and I thank her for that all year long by going to the meetings and trying to take part as whole-heartedly as I can, no matter what else is happening in my life.
I have known Michelle and her family for a long time. Her sons are a bit older than mine, and when I was a graduate student at UCI for many years we saw them around the neighborhood. But this is the first time I have been to her house.
Last year I was invited to an extremely wealthy person's house for seder, and I felt uncomfortable. Though she was a professor at the University, she really didn't care about the seder and that was plain by the way the family merely tolerated the ancient words and rituals. They were not interested in discussing them, in singing the songs, in luxuriating in the ancient questions.
But last night, in a group composed of Michelle and her husband, their good friends, Indian professors who live down the street and are very close friends of the family, and an elderly father of another neighbor without a seder to attend, I truly felt as if I were home, with a group that appreciated the holiday and the ritual in the same sort of curious, interested way I do, who truly loved all of it, the food, the waiting for the food, the songs.
And it didn't hurt that the food was first rate--a vegetable soup with matzo balls that was the equal of any soup I've ever eaten, a rack of lamb (such a profusion of lamb I've never seen!)--perfectly cooked, roasted fingerling potatoes so hot they scorched the roof of my mouth (and I've finally seen how purple a purple potato can be!), roasted brussel sprouts with pine nuts, and my melange of roasted vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, red onions, butternut squash, asparagus, garlic, and multicolored peppers), which were unfortunately unevenly roasted. Then we had macaroons and macerated strawberries with whipped cream available if we wanted it and tea. Wonderful!
The house was full of animals, a lovely dog who visited me repeatedly during the meal, a curious abyssinian cat who knocked everything down off the mantel, including my purse, and another, shyer cat, who never came to investigate the new visitor.
I thank Michelle for her invitation this year and her standing invitation to come whenever I want for seder.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Clockwork Orange

Last night I showed another film in the series of adapted movies. No one showed. However, I showed it anyhow, and I was impressed by the film, which has aged extremely well, probably because it is set in a mish-mash of a dystopia, which makes the echoes of the period's actual clothing and decor seem more natural and less dated.
It made me realize how much I admire Kubrick as a director, and I wondered if I could manage to teach that film, which is sure to shock and offend students who will object to being made to watch it over and over in order to write about it. I would feel almost like those torturers in the prison who subject the main character to torture by forcing him to watch movies. Yet I find the violence and other offensive behavior in the film entirely justified by what it is saying. I would love to teach it in a class I would call "Crime and Punishment." Perhaps Dostoevski's work by that name would be in the class also, as would material about the Milgram experiments. It would be interesting. It's just that I don't know if people would be able to stomach it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Hike That Didn't Happen

I signed up for a wilderness writing workshop hike this morning to the most lovely of the locations from last year--Fremont Station. I thought it was last week, but noted it wasn't, and even though the choir performed last night at a trifecta of a service (the AME church choir, a representative of the mosque in town, and us, with the choir singing a suitably peaceable song)and I got out late, I got up at 5:30 and made my way up toward Irvine Park. Only it wasn't where I thought it was. I ended up calling Richard, who told me I was on the wrong road! One more street up Jamboree, there was the correct turn. So I found the entrance, paid my fee, and asked the people at the booth where parking lot 15 was.
Now I am not noted for my sense of direction. I get lost going around the block, and that is almost not an exaggeration! So I followed their directions. The ones I got from the workshop leader were on the floor of the car, where they had fallen, out of reach. I kept on the bumpy path, seeing the numbers of the parking lots climb... 9, 10, 13, 16. Nothing between 13 and 16! Parking lot 15 was nowhere to be seen. I drove around the place 4 times, and then asked again, also asking if they could contact the workshop leader, but they didn't have her number. Neither did I. So I gave up, and went to yoga class in Costa Mesa.
When I told my classmate at yoga what happened, she said that showed good mental health. I didn't let frustration stop me; I reconfigured my plans, and went on with the day.
That's true. And oh, I stopped at Steinmart, where a giant sale was going on. When I couldn't find my coupons ($10. off till noon today!), the community of shoppers provided some. It restored my faith in human beings!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Yoga Poem is up on Qarrtsiluni!

Go and check it out. Though I don't think I did a great job of reading it, it is there with a sound file!

Yoga Essay

I decided to send a short essay about the writing of the yoga series to the Iyengar newsletter. Here it is, below.

I am a yoga student and a writer. These are both activities that occupy me for some part of every day, but despite efforts to connect them, until this past December, I was unable to do it. I would look forlornly out of the studio window at the waving palm trees and think that surely this, as much as any of the other activities that took up my day, could be the subject for poetry, but nothing emerged from the hazy slate of my mind, as stubbornly unproductive as an unplugged computer or a cracked crystal ball.
This pattern continued, the two poles of my life occupying their own, utterly separate spheres, until my teacher, Denise Thibault, taught several classes in a row based on Mr. Iyengar’s Emotional Stability Sequence, which had an immediate, profound effect on me.
I should say that I originally began doing yoga about two decades or more ago to help me deal with my fractured neurology. My family exhibits a spectacular array of neurological conditions, from Tourette Syndrome and OCD to bipolar disorder, ADHD, learning disabilities, and depression. My own little share of this neurological bonanza is occupied by GAD, generalized anxiety disorder, a disability that kept me from driving till late in my 40s and otherwise hampered my physical as well as mental well-being.
Regular yoga, along with cognitive behavioral therapy and mild medication, had quelled the worst effects of this disorder. Though I still don’t drive on freeways, my life proceeds on a much smoother, less fearful course than ever before, and my physical health is excellent.
But this particular series, even foreshortened as it was into 1 ½ hour classes, had a definite effect, inducing a further calm and sense of well-being I had only rarely experienced. I was suffused with gratitude and energy, a warm feeling, as though I was standing before a blazing bonfire, enough to fuel a poem.
That afternoon, a fortuitous summons beckoned: an online journal in which I had several times published, Qarrtsiluni, was planning an issue on the theme of health. Maybe I could write a poem about yoga for this issue? That is what began a flurry of writing the like of which I had never before experienced.
I looked up the particulars of the sequence, which contains 15 asanas, many of them variations on shoulder stand, and stared at the diagrams for a while. Then I wrote “Salamba Sirsasana—Headstand,” which I submitted to the journal, where it was accepted but has not yet appeared. The itch did not abate. I was not finished with this project.
The poems poured out over a two month period so that by the end, I was producing several a week, a feat unheard of in my snail-paced past. I followed up on the events in my blog, Shadow Knows (http://, where my few followers checked in daily for the latest updates, revisions, and ruminations on the series.
The lines, the images flowed effortlessly, emerging from the same fount that fuels the asanas themselves. I felt as Keats described himself: like an explorer facing an immense and long-sought sea. It was as though it had been there all the time, waiting for me to turn a corner one day, when it would be revealed, all at once.
I hope to publish this series as a collection, but that will require the aid of an able artist who can accompany the poems with fluid renderings of the asanas’ shape for those unfamiliar with yoga. On my blog, I used photographs from the Internet, but I want something less detailed and realistic for the book.
It is with this in mind that I turn to you, the Iyengar community, hoping that someone wants to join me in this endeavor. I cannot promises riches—poetry is not lucrative—but I think that with the help of these drawings, the series will attract some attention that can benefit the artist as well the writer. And most of all, I will be able to thank Mr. Iyengar by giving him this collection to thank him for the gift he has given to me and to all of us.
Since I cannot offer you “Headstand,” as it is already due to be published elsewhere, here is another one of the series—“Uttanasana—Standing Forward Bend.”
Uttanasana—Standing Forward Bend

Diving down and down
toward the distant floor,
I approach the knees’
locked gates, peering
into the darkened space
between, almost at my
destination. Grasping
the heels, the ropy
tendons, I belly forward.
Chest presses thighs,
buttocks rising and rising.
I am an explorer,
entering the ancient city,
descending into another world.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Whatever Happened To the Yoga Poems?

The other day, Lou asked what happened to the yoga poems. I am still trying to find an artist to take on the task of doing illustrations for them. Until then, it seems, no one aside from a few yoga aficionados understands what I am trying to do with them. When I read them to an audience that usually enjoys my poems, it was to blank stares. Very few people, except for those I know do yoga, commented on them. The rest were puzzled. It is frustrating. However, I have sent them out to a contest anyway, and to numerous journals. Except for the headstand poem (everyone knows what headstand is!), which will be published one of these days by Qarrtsiluni, probably as the last poem in their Health issue (currently running), no one has taken one of these poems individually. I will keep trying to send them out singly and collectively and to find an artist.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Just recorded the new poem for Qarrtsiluni. It is odd how pronounced my Philadelphia accent sounds to me when I listen to it. I thought that accent was long gone. I guess I don't listen to myself too often.

Happy Writerly News

Of our few select blog readers, two have had good news about their writing lately. Reb has been included in a new anthology of Latino writers, and is receiving much attention for the work contained therein. She is also at work on an anthology of Orange County writing--writing about the region, that is. I include a link below for the first.
Marly is always busy writing and receiving accolades for her work, not sought. People seek her out at this point. She even has her own Wikipedia page! I include a link to that page:
I cannot keep up with all her book, prize, and publication news, so I include a link to her blog here. Hope you don't mind, Marly.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Back to Work With a Vengence!

The new week of work as usual started off with a bang with my parents' driver calling to tell me I had mentioned an appointment for some kind of scan for dad this Monday. It's mysterious. I can't find any evidence of it at all. Supposedly, I told her to put it on her calendar, but didn't put it on mine, and UCI seems to have no record of it in their system. First thing this morning, I began calling all over to find out if anyone knew what it was, and didn't learn anything.
Then the vet says that my cat has to go to the dentist this coming Friday, and has to be anesthetized this time. In the past, because he's such a sweet cat, he's been merely held down and had his teeth brushed, but this time, the gums are pretty bad, so he has to be put out to have the cleaning done. I have to starve him, and I'm sure he'll yowl all night and wake us both.
That day I also have to take my mom for a CT scan of her brain and chest to Hoag, so I will be busy and stressed. And next week there will be drafts that the students seem ill prepared to write.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jewish Film Festival, etc.

This morning I took myself and my gift of a ticket over to the last film in the Jewish film festival. It was a film from Kazakastan that I never would have seen otherwise; I think it was called Stalin's Gift. Strictly speaking, it wasn't really about a Jewish theme, but the main character was a Jewish child about 5 or 6 years old whose parents were sent to the gulag by Stalin. Obviously, it was set in the late 40s, and followed the events around the celebration of Stalin's birthday that year, 1949. The boy was shipped via cattle train to the far north, and his grandfather, his only guardian at that point, died, leaving him in a state of shock. The others on the train saved him by passing him off as corpse in his state of catatonia, where he was unloaded and saved by an old Khazak nomad, a brain-injured war veteran, who brought him back to life with love and care.
There was an arresting scene where the Moslem railroad worker and his friend take the boy to a shaman, who changes the boy's name to confuse the demons. Interestingly, this is the same custom familiar to Eastern European Jewish peasants. The shaman blows the freshly laid egg of a black hen into the boy's mouth, as he lies half conscious, and brings him back to life.
The interesting thing about the film was that it used Soviet Realist storytelling techniques to tell an anti-Soviet story, with the bad guys being the Stalinist officials. There were all the stock characters familiar to us from 19th century Russian lit (Dostoevski, for instance), the holy simpleton, the "loose woman" with a heart of gold, who actually had no choice but to save herself by using her body, in this instance, yet the film was actually very moving, mostly because of the first rate casting and acting in the major parts. I found the film-making spotty though. There were gorgeous images--the sight of the golden hillsides of the region and a tree under which the boy's grandfather and the other dead were buried, covered with shreds of torn fabric like strange flowers, and rather effective symbolic motifs--the lost goat kid wandering the streets of Jerusalem and then the same image in Kazakistan. But the film cut back and forth from present to past in such confusing ways that some people didn't realize the older man returning to the scene many years later was the boy, all grown up. It turned out that Stalin's gift of the title was the explosion of a nuclear bomb as part of an unannounced test, destroying, one gathers, the people we had gotten to know. The only reason the boy survives is that the elderly war veteran sends him away before this happens to live with his relatives in Odessa.
Overall, it is worth renting, if you ever get a chance to see it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another Qarrtsiluni acceptance!

Just got word that "The World Is A Sound," the new poem, was accepted to the "New Classics" Issue of Qarrtsiluni!!
Well, I showed my fifth movie in the series to the resounding success of... one viewer besides R and me. But it was wonderful to see the film on the big screen again. I had forgotten, though I know it almost by heart, how great Blade Runner is! I got The Final Cut, and did notice a few, though not very many, differences from the version I have buried somewhere in the house. This was a NetFlix copy.
Before we watched the film, we ate at the new restaurant, Sushilishous (sp?), across the street from the college. Since there's work being done on the road, it was tough figuring out how to get in and out, but we managed. The restaurant is fun, and reminds me of Yogurtland, as Monster Munching said, with its weird names for the sushi rolls and the bright, meaningless words plastered all over, colors too. But it was fun, and the food was tasty. A good evening all the way around.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Listening to the Universe

I scowled at my uncle for not listening to messages that were "coincidentally" sent when he most needed to hear them. Today I got an email from an old friend who used to be in the choir. She sent a video of an Israeli official from U.N. Watch making a speech in the U.N. . These were arguments I knew well and have heard before--all the Arab nations and others express such sympathy for the Palestinians, but the only people who get criticized for such policies are the Israelis, not the others who have committed outright genocide. And when inter-fighting among the powers ruling the Palestinians kills innocents, no one says a word. All of this is true. I need to remember it and not hold Jews to standards no one else lives up to. Yet I want to believe that we really are a light unto the nations. I want us to hold ourselves to better standards than other nations do. Perhaps this is not realistic.

Slightly After-the-Fact Torah

I haven't commented on our Torah discussions for a little while. Though the meeting was Tuesday night, I can tell you what the group has been up to. I think partially I needed to mull over my deep disturbance about the parshot (sp?) we've been looking at.
The last few books of Numbers seem to be the root of several things about modern day Judaism that concern me. One of these is the history of Zionism, which tends to be all about excluding others and pushing them out of the land of Israel, despite the fact that they too have been there for thousands of years.
My parents were pioneers in Israel after WWII. My mother and her sisters came over from South Africa to help build the holy land into a home land for the Jews, and, at the same time, my father and his older brother came over. His brother stayed and returned only to work and earn money for his retirement, which he spent in Israel up to his and his wife's deaths, relatively recently. Their children were born in Israel, and, like him, returned to the US to work, but two of them soon came back to Israel to stay, and their children, whom I have not met, were born there.
I have never been to Israel, and though of course I am curious, I didn't especially want to go because of the stories my parents would tell me, about how, when the settlers began building kibbutzim, there were Arab houses full of things, food on the table, and the people just gone. Where could they have gone? At a very early age, I realized that those people didn't just run away when they heard Jews were coming. It took threats, and perhaps more, to achieve that result. And of course, I imagined myself into their position and asked my parents what right we had to take everything away from them. Of course they want to fight for their land; it is as much theirs as ours--perhaps more because we weren't there for so long, and perhaps, if the stories about being captive in Egypt are any example, since they are apparently fiction, perhaps we were never there at all, and this land just randomly chosen to be our hereditary holy land.
The sections of the Torah we have been reading lately include God's instructions to ruthlessly destroy every remnant (except virgin girls, who could then be made into breeders for the Jews) of the people then inhabiting the holy land. Peaceful coexistence was never a possibility. And people like Phineas, who skewered assimilationists in a bloody episode, were held up as examples. What does that make me, married to a non-Jew? Would I have been skewered too?
I don't like that racism or exclusionary strain in Judaism. It is what I rejected when I turned away from my cousins' insistence that non-Jews don't matter, and that American society has nothing to offer us as Jews. As far as they are concerned, we should return to Israel and stay there.
Also, the books we have been reading discuss Moses' last orders to the people of Israel, and the irony of these commands struck me hard. Remembering that Moses fled to the land of the Middianites when he killed a man in Egypt and lived there for 40 years, that he was married to a Middianite woman, and advised by her wise father Jethro, and that Moses' wife Zipporah saved Moses' life by circumsing their son, and was apparently sent away for her trouble, it was a shock to hear him order, with God standing behind him speaking in his ear of course, that all the Middianites should be killed, and that all their sons killed. How ironic is that? How are we supposed to feel about it, when this is the very story enshrined at the center of Judaism in the Passover story? Is it less unjust because Jews were the ones with the power?
I know my feelings are not unique among those in my community, but I still keep mum about them most of the time. But finding these things enshrined in the Torah shocked me, though I guess I knew that they were there, somewhere.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday in the afternoon

I ended up taking my parents to a charity consignment store right off Crown Highway. Everything was 50% off, and we bought lots of things, including (me) a lurid green purse, to celebrate the season. Then we drove down to Laguna, ate at Scandia Bakery, and went across the street to the beach to hang out and play with the parrots a fellow on the beach had. I think he was expecting a tip for telling us about them, but I didn't oblige. There were lots of people who posed with them for pictures who paid up though, so I didn't feel bad. I had just laid out big money for ice cream cones across the street and had no cash to speak of left.
Though there were the usual squabbles between my dad and I over driving, everything went pretty smoothly and it was a great day. We even got a choice spot on Forrest Ave. practically in front of the bakery! Lucky us.

Thursday and the week is dwindling

I have enjoyed my week of break so much that I am sorry to see it quickly coming to an end. Today I will take my parents somewhere, perhaps the Sherman Gardens in Corona Del Mar, and then go to ropes yoga class in Laguna Beach late this afternoon. It is possible, vaguely, that I will go to Liz's house and make dumplings from my new Asian Dumpling cookbook, as I thought we'd manage sometime this week, or else that's way too ambitious. Even if I don't, there are things I need to do, from taking the cat to the vet to other errands. It's nice at least to have time that is not already pre-committed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beautiful Wednesday!

Today I went out of town with Liz to San Diego and paid a visit to my favorite place hereabouts--the San Diego Zoo. We picked an excellent day to go because the animals were all up and about, and there were many volunteers telling us all about them.
First we visited the koalas, and they were just about all up! The babies were pulling eucalyptus leaves off the trees, while keeping a close hold with one arm to mom. Meanwhile, the docent told us all about them, how the leaves were toxic, and how they don't impart very much nutrition, and this is why the animals don't generally move around very much. A peacock perched high in a tree and screamed his head off, willing us all to look up as he fluffed out his feathers and sat proudly on his perch.
Then we visited the gorillas, watching baby Frank sleep, looking just like a young child as he curled on the grass. And then we went to the children's zoo, where a keeper told us all about the strange African pangolin, a scaly anteater sort of creature that the zoo had acquired (with his mate)because the pair was taken away from someone who had them illegally. He was very odd. Though I wanted to stroke him, to feel the scales like fingernails on his back and the absurdly soft-looking fur on his belly, I couldn't. And we stood in the dark trying to catch sight of the kiwi as it wandered about its darkened enclosure. I never really saw it, but Liz said she did. We sat for a while at one of the aviaries, watching a tropical bird take a bath in a waterfall, and stood amazed as a keeper threw food in the air that was immediately snatched up by the birds swirling around our heads.
When we finished at the zoo, around 3, we went to Old Town and ate, and then to an outlet shopping mall in Carsbad. We came home tired, but satisfied. What a wonderful day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Revision Already

Here is a revision of the poem. I am going to send it to Qarrtsiluni for their new edition, which consists of retellings of old stories.
The World is a Sound: A New Creation Myth

From the bulbous innards of trombones
and from the sinuous caverns of bass fiddles.
From the lithe length of the flute and the
apologetic slant of the harp, treading
on everyone’s toes, the orchestra
plays the world. Who could doubt
that the ocean first flowed
from the French horns’ golden bell
as from the golden spigots of a tub,
or the sun, rudely cracking the shell
of primordial blackness as blank as slate,
as it has done every day since,
from the cymbal’s first blow?
No doubt at all that this
is the sound of the first day:
the conductor scraping his baton
on the podium, the guys in percussion
drumming their fingers on the pages,
whispering, impatient for the day to begin

Orchestra Poem

Here is an afterthought from the concert the other night.
The World is a Sound
From the bulbous innards of trombones
and from the sinuous caverns of bass fiddles.
From the lithe length of the flute and the
apologetic slant of the bass fiddle, treading
on everyone’s toes, the orchestra
plays the world. This no doubt
is the sound of the first day:
the conductor scraping his baton
on the podium, the guys in percussion
drumming their fingers on the pages,
impatient for the day to begin.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Lately I have been reading quite a bit. In addition to the things I am thinking of teaching, such as Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, I have been reading Lisa See's new novel, Shanghai Girls (wonderful!) and am now reading Chabon's book about being a father. It is endearing. He stayed with us when he first came to UCI, and I found him really warm and easy to talk to. He is charming and as intelligent as he seems to be in his books. I like the book so far. I am also reading Solaris, by Stanislaus Lem. I will be showing the film in a few weeks, and have read the book before, but I am thinking about substituting it for Oates' story next fall if I decide to teach the adaptation class again. If I do, the class will have to be substantially different in form. Otherwise, it might just be a film class, either in Kubrick or Altman. Either one will provide lots of interesting, rich films to watch, discuss, and write about. One option for the paper could be an adaptation essay, but that will only be one way to go.
I just bought the cats a new food, which is 100% protein. Wow it was expensive ($52.00+ tax for 15 lbs)! But they love it, and it doesn't make them sick. I will vary the two foods so they won't get the same thing all the time. I think it has fewer calories than the other food, which is good for Whistler.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More from Me

I went to an Immune strengthening yoga workshop today at Denise's Orange studio. The day was hot and lovely, even more so than yesterday, by the time I got in the car at noon. I was looking forward to it though because Richard has that miserable coughing thing and coughed on me all night long. I don't want to catch it. I'm hoping that the work I did today will discourage those microbes from taking over and making me ill. In the past, I have tended to have weak lungs and could not treat coughs with serious medications because I am allergic to codeine and any number of antibiotics.
The workshop consisted of many of the same postures I do routinely, but the secret is that each must be held for 5, 10, 15 minutes for the various asanas. The ten minute head stand left me dizzy and woozy, and Denise said she shorted us 5 minutes on it! I don't think I would have made it. Then the 15 minute shoulder stand, with all kinds of variations, was tough. I gave up just before she told us to get out of it because my stomach felt as if it had been macrameed (sp?). But by the time we got to the final pose, a long long savasana on a bolster with an eyebag over my eyes, balanced on a black Halloween napkin to thwart germs, knocked me right out. I lapsed into snoring before too long, and only woke myself up a few minutes before she told us to get out of the pose. I am glad she didn't frown on my falling asleep. Some teachers would have.


Yesterday, my blog sister Lou wrote about her 10 year old grandson's experience at a birthday party for a neighboring friend of his. The parents brought a truck full of video games to their house and let the kids play their fill. Apparently, some of these games were obscenely violent and reflected repulsive attitudes toward human life (such as total lack of respect for it). One taught us all a lesson we would rather not have learned (especially the child) by featuring a form of necrophilia/rape/power-sexuality none of us had ever thought about before called "tea bagging."
When I read about this, I realized that the behavior we have seen in New Orleans after Katrina and elsewhere, where a number of people raped, murdered, looted, and went wild committing crimes, is not an anomaly, but a potentiality for many if not most of us.
The world we live in has a thin veneer of "civilization" with frightening things beneath, like the magma just under the surface of a dormant volcano.

Insidious Creep

I notice that the price of gas is creeping up slowly and surely toward the $4.00 mark. The gas powers that be let us forget about the last time this happen, getting all complacent and gas hungry again. Like lobsters in a pot, we have gotten back into the habit (or at least I have) of driving hither and yon, and now we will hurt cutting back steeply to avoid high gas payments. Time to shop on the Internet again.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gorgeous Day at the Beach

I managed to get out of bed early and took my parents to the farmer's market in Irvine this morning to buy fish and some other things, then shot over to Laguna for an 11:30 yoga class. It was cold and cloudy in the morning, and only beginning to clear up when I arrived at the class. But by the time I got out, at about 1, it was gorgeous and balmy, and the streets were full of people standing around, chatting, looking at the ocean and blocking traffic. I didn't mind. It was lovely to loll around waiting for people to cross the street, watching the v-formations of pelicans fly so low overhead as I waited. But even they couldn't beat the egret I passed this morning on my way up Trabuco, with its feet so low to the ground they almost touched the hood of my car as it flew over.
I came home and cooked up the purple potatoes and corvina (fish) I bought at the farmer's market in butter, garlic, and lemon juice, with pink Hawaiian sea salt and fresh pepper. Yum.

The Concert

For some reason that I cannot say, I have not been to many concerts or followed any particular kind of music. It isn't that I don't like music; I very much enjoy singing in the choir and have an intuitive understanding of how music is supposed to work in some respects, although I cannot seem to learn to read music. I like listening to music sometimes also, but not for any extended period of time.
Last night we went to UCI's senior recital concert. I think the tickets were being given out free, and the house was full. Before the concert began, the conductor led a discussion... or, I should say, treated us to a musically-themed monologue about how he put the concert together. Being so ignorant that I didn't even know where to start in asking questions, I simply sat back and listened.
This guy was a natural teacher. His students probably are continually amazed by the constant stream of interesting stuff, funny and irreverent, that comes out of his mouth. He is from Jamaica, but it must have been a long time since he came over because he had no discernible accent whatsoever. He discussed everything from his talking cat, who, he insists, calls him "Man" because that's all she knows how to say, to his favorite musician (Brahms), and why he likes him so much.
Once the musicians came onto the stage, I was interested to note the etiquette, the cacaphony of tuning up that preceded the music, the amazing dexterity of all the musicians, whose two hands knew exactly what to do, although they were called upon to work in opposing ways. I recognized a number of these students from the Writing Center at IVC, where many of them have passed through, having apparently taken writing classes at the college at one time or another.
I confess that I did doze off a couple of times, but I would like to go back to some more concerts again soon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Day of Break

Today has been a beautiful day. I've gone to yoga class, to the farmer's market, shopping, and finished up some things that have languished over the past few months.
Now what I'd like to do during this break, besides go to the zoo and tonight to a concert with R, is to try out that new Asian Dumpling cookbook I bought a couple of months ago, perhaps as a sort of dumpling party with friends, who would all try to produce the recipes in that book. They look so good, and I love dumplings! I have never been good at presentation though, crimping edges, neatly making little packages of food that don't leak or get distorted in the cooking. This is the time to try it again, with a book that has detailed and clear instructions and photos. Anyone up for this?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Starting Off the Break with A Bang

After work today at 1, spring break began with me. After grading papers for a while, I went to ropes yoga class in Laguna, where I met R & M for supper after class. Meanwhile, Richard went to play billiards, and he is still there! The yoga class was exciting. We started with ropes headstand, which is tough for me to get into because I am so much shorter than everyone else that the ropes do not come to the same places on me that they go on everyone else, so I must stand up on my tiptoes on blocks and then climb up the wall and hang upside down in the ropes. We also do an interesting forward bend or downward dog sort of thing with our legs up on the wall while our hands touched chairs. It was rather tough to get into also.
Then I changed my clothes and went to eat fish and calamari tacos and a cup of tea with muffin. I'm quite full. I might have heartburn all night, but I enjoyed myself!
Tomorrow, more yoga and shopping at the farmer's market.

Summer Class

I will be teaching both summer sessions again this year--Writing 1, like last year. Those classes brought me some good students when I taught Writing 2 during the rest of the year. This year I've got a new curriculum that I'm calling Transformations. It contains narratives about... what else? Transformations! I got the idea from Marly's anthology, The Beastly Bride, and thought about teaching it, but instead decided to go with my three-text usual, including 2 short literary works (it is after all a 6 week class, though it happens 4 days per week during that period) and a film. That seems to go over pretty well.
The first work is Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, then District 9, then The Metamorphosis (Kafka). I've taught the last of these a number of times, and am ready to go with it. I have never taught the others, but I spent some time rereading and researching Stevenson yesterday, and I will do that for District 9 soon.
I find that students like Metamorphosis, particularly since I emphasize its oddball humor, and they identify with the character. District 9 should be interesting, and coming from a South African background (my mother was born in Capetown and my uncle and aunt were in the ANC with Mandela, were arrested and tortured and sentenced to death; if they hadn't fled, they would have been executed), I probably am more qualified than most to talk about it.
Should be an interesting class!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Empty House--Haunted

Though my guest has left, the shadow still lies about the place. I feel bad for begrudging my self and my sympathy to him, and it is much the way I feel when I long to flee my responsibilities to my parents, with a sense that I am being swallowed alive.
This was what made me leave Philadelphia, as quickly as I could, as if I were saving my life by the act. And I truly believe that I did, and was advised as much by a doctor I consulted as a teenager, a psychiatrist who ran a public clinic, and who turned out to be a very interesting fellow, who had studied with Jung himself. He was a Quaker and a peace activist, and assured me that I was quite sane; my family, however, was not.
On this visit, my uncle let fly that he looked upon my work with my parents as unfortunate, that it would have been better for them to have died than to be reduced to their present state.
Considering my father's unaccustomed good mood and enthusiasm, which was a very rare thing in the old days, before he had medication to control his own dark moods and rage, that thought surprised me a good deal, though I had to admit that their lives were certainly quite limited and reduced, inevitably, on the account of age and infirmity. But I couldn't get out of my head that perhaps I had not after all done them a favor, and that my care for them had more than a little of selfishness about it.
I have tried to put that out of my mind, but it's hard to shake.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Break is coming

Next week is spring break. I don't have anything special planned. I had hoped that my friend Linda from Philadelphia would be able to come out here and spend some time with me now that I have an empty room she could stay in. But she can't, so I don't have anything special to do. Probably I will get down to the zoo, my special place, in San Diego to spend a day. And most likely I will shop a bit and walk down the beach. But I'm not going to be taking any trips to speak of. And that's okay. Because a vacation is just about having some time to call my own, to breathe and to catch up on things, perhaps hitting the consignment stores for that furniture I'm looking for. Perhaps answering that letter that's been sitting on the table to my cousin in Israel. And doing lunch with friends and with my son.
It's nice not to have plans, actually. It frees me up.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Family Angst

My uncle has gone home. While he was always my favorite uncle by far when I was a child, I find it hard to be around this guy for more than a little while. He is so extremely depressed, and on one level, there's a very good reason for it. His wife killed herself. He found her. But this is not the first episode of extreme depression he has had. Many years ago, he was suicidal, and would call me up on a regular basis and demand that I talk him out of suicide. I guess he found me convincing because he didn't do it, but I dreaded hearing his voice on the phone, and had the impulse to flee whenever he was around.
Many years passed. He didn't call, didn't demand that I justify life to him. He was helpful to me in many many ways, carrying bags of rotten trash from the site of my parents' home in Philadelphia to the dump in Maryland near his home. I don't know how he and his son kept from retching all those many hours. He advised me on a regular basis on how to invest my parents' money or what vitamins/foods/juices to give my father for his kidneys or heart.
Yet this weekend, with him staying at my house, I felt as if I was being smothered with a heavy blanket of gloom. I felt the request, though it remained unspoken, to justify life and thus keep him alive.
Richard retreated to the bedroom and mostly stayed away, and I don't blame him. I would too, if I could have.
I have learned over the years that I cannot rescue anyone, and I don't want to try. It is not my responsibility, and I do not have the training or the knowledge to counsel him. But if I told him overtly that he drives people away with his depression and that is why people won't visit him, why the women on J-Date don't want to go out with him, not his looks, which are actually quite fine for 80 years old, he might go home and do himself in.
Ai. Relationships. What a hassle.

On our Own Again

My uncle just left for my parents' house. He's taking them out to breakfast at MacDonald's.That's another thing: he's quite cheap because he's trying to save money for my mentally handicapped cousin. She has Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. It is a very difficult position to be in.
I put everything straight and started a load of wash. Soon I will go off to work at the Center.
I went to a big furniture consignment place in Laguna Niguel yesterday and decided I need never worry about finding furniture again. They didn't have the kind of bed I wanted, but I left my name and phone number, asking that I be called if they get a queen sized storage bed, or at least a platform bed. Their furniture was really nice. I will probably buy a few pieces when I finally buy a bed and have it delivered. It won't even need much assembling.
I found that Big Lots also has good quality furniture, but no platform beds right now.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Film Series

Last night I showed the great film Double Indemnity, by Billy Wilder, in the film series. No one but us (and Liz) came to the showing. But we still enjoyed the film. It's nice to see it on a big screen. If only I could hear better, I would catch all the great lines, though.
It has been quite difficult having my uncle at the house... not because it's hard to be a hostess, but because he is so very very depressed that it is oppressive to be around him, as he goes around in circles, knowing he is depressed but unwilling or unable to do anything about it.
He is trying to go on dating services online, but once women read his profile, they don't want to be around him, probably for the same reason it's hard for the rest of us to be around him.
Every time I talk to him, I realize there is nothing anyone can do to help another person if that person isn't ready to be helped or willing to help himself.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Some News About Mom

Mom's sudden dip in cognitive abilities was so abrupt that I knew something was not right, in a different sense from the degenerative condition I was aware she had. It turned out that a bladder infection had caused her sudden decrease in awareness. Once it was treated, she came back to her old self. First she started complaining, then she remembered my uncle, and then she stopped hallucinating in quite the constant way she had been. Now we can take her places again. If she stops complaining about her neck and back. Today we will take her with us when we go out to eat at an all you can eat soup and salad place with Jeremy. He lives next door to it, but cannot afford to go because it is expensive, relatively speaking. We will treat, and everyone will go.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A bit of cooking

I have not felt like cooking lately. There is too much going on in my life. But last night I threw together dinner at the last moment--Thai vegetarian dumplings, brown rice, scallion pancakes, and a stirfry made out of those large trumpet mushrooms, about 6 inches long, baby bok choy, yellow bell peppers, garlic, and scallions, topped with vegetarian oyster sauce, made out of mushrooms. It was delicious. I have had those ingredients in my crisper for a while, and needed to use them. Yum.
Maybe I will be inspired to do some more real cooking soon?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


This afternoon, my uncle arrives from Maryland for a visit. He generally comes a few times a year, since he is pretty much alone and has no particular responsibilities. He is my father's half-brother, and they are very closing, speaking every day on the phone. Although he is very very depressed and will not go to a psychiatrist for medication, which he has needed pretty much all of his life but especially now, since his wife killed herself some 4 years ago, I enjoy seeing him because he is essentially a nice person and also because he helps me immeasurably when he is here.
For example, tomorrow we will take both of my parents to UCI for doctor's appointments and procedures, something I would have a hard time doing without him. In fact, I scheduled my father's ultrasound and my mother's appointment for the same time, so he could take my dad to the scan and I could take my mother to the appointment simultaneously.
I don't know exactly where he is going to sleep though. He didn't want to sleep on the sofa bed, an old flabby futon, because it is out in the living room, and I never bought an airbed, which I had been thinking of doing, because of the cats. The good airbeds, ones likely not to be scratched to bits by the cats, and with a built in air pump, are very expensive, and I would have had to order one via the Internet. By the time I did the research, it was too late to do that, so he is either going to sleep on the couch or take the mattress off the futon and drag it into Jeremy's old room and put it on the floor.
To tell the truth, I was nervous about him sleeping in the cats' room (that's how I think of it now) because of Shadow, who cannot be cured of her habit of defecating on the floor several times per day. Though, thankfully, the bout of diarrhea the cats were suffering all last week has ended, it is bad enough without that for a guest. I'm sure that's how Shadow, otherwise a sweet, lovely, affectionate little cat, ended up in rescue, and the vet says there is nothing we can do about it now.
I am hoping I can get to my yoga classes this weekend. For at least one of them, I hope to drag him with me, if he's willing, but I do not want to skip class. He can visit with Jeremy or with my parents while I am in class, or stay home with Richard.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Torah Musings

Last night the Torah group met again. As I was driving home, very sleepy and relaxed, I looked up into a dark dark sky and was startled to see the full moon, seemingly much closer and larger than I have ever seen it before. It looked like a gigantic golden hole punched into the darkness, exposing the light underneath.
We have come almost to the end of Numbers, almost to the end of the Israelites long, circuitous journey through the wilderness, around in circles most likely. The stories now come in small spurts, cushioned in swaths of repeated instructions for ritual, unlike in Genesis and Exodus, where they could spread out and unabashedly exist for their own sake. Of these, the most interesting is the story of Zelophehad's daughters, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They may be the closest thing the tradition has to civil disobedience.
Unsurprisingly, the ancient Hebrew inheritance law did not allow for women to inherit their family holdings. Instead, their brothers, husbands, uncles, etc. would take the land and other belongings and be responsible for housing and feeding these women at their own discretion. Unmarried or widowed women were the most vulnerable members of the society, and differed from the customs of other peoples of the area, who were more equitable in their views on gender and inheritance. So this story of five unmarried women who demand (yes, demand, not ask) to inherit their father's land because he had no sons is intriguing and interesting.
This came at the time when the people remaining from the various plagues were about to enter the land of Canaan, and a census was being taken. Generally, the census included only men, but these sisters were among the few women mentioned. The tradition says that their father, who, according to the sisters, was not among the various rebellions against Moses' rule and God's as well, since the two were virtually synonymous during the long trek to the holy land, may have been a wood-bearer who broke the law of the sabbath and was killed for this transgression. Yet the women dared to speak up. And they were not skewered, slaughtered, silenced, but instead, unaccountably, celebrated in Torah by having their story repeated three times in its various books. And more amazingly,upon being told of their demands, God instantly made a new law that women like these, in families with no sons, would inherit their family lands. Not only does this mark an important stride forward for women in the tradition, but a step away from the Mosaic handing down of the law toward humans using precedent to decide on their own what justice is.
It is actually not the first time that the underdog wins out in the Jewish tradition. Think of Jacob, stealing his brother's blessing and other examples where the tradition flouts primogeniture, the traditional mark of power. Those early patriarchs and matriarchs sometimes as well are more like Odysseus with their wily, deceitful ways than perfect paragons of piety. And notably, the people who have dealings with God were never afraid to speak up or even speak back to him, objecting against plans to slaughter all the people for various infractions. And generally, their objections are taken seriously, and quell God's anger. It's a tradition where rational argument wins out, and meditative planning takes precedence over rage.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Earth Moved

There have been some whopper earthquakes lately, and naturally that appalls all of us, but no one more, most likely, than the vulnerable citizens of California, who know that one of these days, that shaking is likely to be coming to their own stomping grounds, even though like all other residents of this state, I try not to think about it. I heard today that the Chile earthquake, the second largest one ever, actually shortened earth's day slightly. That's pretty awe inspiring, isn't it?

Monday, March 1, 2010

First paper set returned

Today, very belatedly, I gave back the first paper set to the students. Predictably, some were not very happy with their grades. I told them about my rule of not speaking to students about their papers until 24 hours and a thorough reviewing of the papers have occurred. I expect some of them will drop, as they will be indignant that they got these grades. That always happens. If they were listening and paying attention to what I have been saying and the models I have been discussing these past weeks, even today, they will know why they got the grades they did.
It wasn't a bad set of papers. There was an A, an A-, two B+s, a B, and a B-. The majority of the grades were in the C range though. Despite the many days and hours I spent discussing the assignment, they still had trouble understanding they were supposed to be writing a definition argument. For some reason, students seem to find that extremely difficult.
Finally we are on to the film, and the topic of adaptation. I was looking forward to it, but it's the first time I've discussed the topic in my classes, so it's totally new for me, as for them.
On the personal scene, I took my dad out yesterday to Costco. He didn't think we should bring mom, since she was too out of it and might get hurt, and in any case, wouldn't get much from the experience.
It was very simple to zip from one place to another when I didn't have to worry about her, and he had a great time trying samples and looking at the products. My dad has always loved to shop.
We brought home a rotisserie chicken and some about-to-bloom daffodils for mom, and she was happy. I don't think she ever noticed we were gone.
Today my dad went to the Center by himself. We'll see how that went.