Sunday, July 31, 2011

Crepes for Breakfast

I bought some of those ready made crepes and decided some sliced berries with brandy would be just the thing. I just sliced them, tossed them in a bit of the brandy, and folded them into the crepe. Warmed the thing in the microwave, berries and all, for 30 seconds, and dropped a spoonful of pomegranate yogurt on top and powdered sugar. Next time I'll add some sliced almonds and lemon zest. I didn't want whipped cream. Yogurt was good.

Burmese Lessons

I have been so befuddled with everything roiling around in my head that I have not been able to focus on a book enough to read it, never mind writing. But I am reading a memoir called Burmese Lessons, by Karen Connelly, about time she spent in Burma investigating the human rights situation there. She got involved with a man and ended up staying there for some time. I've only gotten part way through, but it is riveting reading. It is hard for us to get our heads around just how enslaved those people's government has made them. Like North Korea, they do not have the most basic things and are hungry and deprived in every possible way, but it has made them more determined, I think, to be free. If the world would not support their oppressors, the military government that runs that country so very ineptly, they would manage it.
Interestingly, reading about the self-censorship that goes on there, one begins to realize that we too censor ourselves, if not on a national level, in organizations, where tacitly, unchallenged policies that oppress and squelch self-expression go unchallenged. And we are far less conscious of it than these individuals. Certainly, the extent to which they suffer the consequences of the laws and policies they live with is far far greater than anything we experience.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I realized this afternoon in yoga class that it is the 31st of July. It would have been my dad's 95th birthday, had he still been with us. Happy birthday dad, wherever you are.

More drawings by Nina

Nina is almost finished with the drawings. She just has one more to do that she is having a bit of trouble with--savasana, the corpse pose, which I would have thought would be the easiest, but as Bob is always telling us, relaxing is the most difficult thing to do. I guess it's appropriate that drawing someone who is relaxed is the most difficult thing of all.

Friday, July 29, 2011


I've been teaching Octavia Butler's short story, "Bloodchild," which is a curious thing, like all of her work. I've taught it a number of times before, mostly in the context of my modern slavery class, but this time, it's in a class about child narrators/protagonists. Of course, the child protagonist in this story adds one more stomach-turning twist to the thing, in a story in which there are ready a number of elements designed to make us slightly queasy.
There is really hardly anything written about this story or most of her other work--not even Kindred, her first novel, which I am surprised has not been turned into a film. But it too has those elements, lurking in the background, so that the character who is taken back into time ends up falling in love with her own great, great, grandfather, the slave owner who has tormented her and made her act as a pimp to get her great, great grandmother to sleep with him and start the line that will lead to her.
I thought perhaps I should be the one to write about her work, and take these taboo issues on. I think the only way to do it would be to examine those elements in several of the books, especially the trilogy she wrote in which humans and aliens interbreed and become an entirely new species.
I will probably not have the time to do it, but it would be interesting, and perhaps would garner a bit of attention from the lit departments of local Universities if I could pull it off and get it published.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Despite the recent possible good news, I am bone tired. This summer's class has been a pleasure, and has not stressed me unduly, but everything else has. I need a good vacation. My friend Linda says she will visit from Philadelphia. Even though I might have to start at the new school toward the end of her visit, I think I can get a little rest just hanging out with her. I hope so, anyhow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I put in exactly one application for an advertised opening, and now I have an interview scheduled for next Weds. It's for fall classes at a local community college. Although I had thought it might be nice to take off for fall and do a little writing, etc., I would not turn down classes, just to get my foot in the door. Perhaps next summer I'll take off, and one never knows when classes are NOT going to be offered or whether the interview will go well. So it's a good thing!

More Ideas; No Shortage of Them

I was talking to one of my biggest fans, my cousin (relatively distant, blood-wise, but close as far as family feeling goes) in Chicago, Bebe. She likes my writing a lot, and has read some of my yoga poems to her Focusing workshops. I've gotten fan mail from at least one of her students in those workshops.
She invited me to come out to Chicago and hang out in museums, etc. . I have never really spent time in Chicago, so I think that's a good idea. The only thing is that I'd like to combine it with a reading tour. The anthology of pieces on raising disabled kids is coming out this November. Though I'd freeze my butt, I'd love to go there and do readings from that anthology, the reading anthology, and maybe the yoga poetry anthology, if it's out by then (I may be having a poem in that anthology, though the submissions had long been closed when I found out about it). Of course, I'll also try to get together with writers in CA to do readings from the disabled children anthology. I think it will sell well because parents are desperate for any information they can get. I know; I was too when J was small.
So that gives me something to look forward to.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Heck of a Yoga Class

This morning I went to Elizabeth's challenging yoga class in Costa Mesa. She did all of my least favorite asanas, the ones that find me fruitlessly kicking without any action whatsoever. It is true that these are the poses that scare me most--handstand and pinchemeyerasana (sp?), related poses that require strong arms and shoulders I don't have. And then backbends on the ropes to the floor and an asana I don't know the name of in which one puts her shin up the wall. It always causes the most terrible toe and leg cramps for me! But I did pretty well... only hollered once.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Film Paper

The second paper for the class was supposed to have been due tomorrow. However, the drafts were kind of iffy. I put it off for one day. Let's hope I can pull an elephant out of my sleeve and explain what these drafts were missing so they can do better. We have to go on to "Bloodchild." We've got two weeks to produce an essay.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I might as well add that I have been wondering whether old Ganesh, who resides on my hearth, a gift from my yoga teacher, has worked his will on my life. Ganesh is the Hindu bringer of obstacles. He also, not incidentally, dispels these, but not until he brings them first. Hm.

Day at the Beach

Today I cast drafts and preparation for the final weeks of the semester aside and went to the beach with Liz and Robin for a girl's day out at the Sawdust Arts Festival.
We had a smashing time.
Despite our qualms, given the great crush of tourists who have descended on Laguna at this time of year, all intent upon going to the arts festivals and covering every inch of sidewalk, road, and beach, we were able to find a place to park along PCH and ate wonderful mostly vegan tacos (blackened phish and blackened mushroom and tofu, and an anomalous calimari taco) and to walk across town to the festival instead of trying to board a free shuttle to get there. It was an absolutely beautiful day, not hot and not cold. The marine layer had blown or burned away, and I burned too; forgot to put my sunscreen on or even to bring a hat! But I'm okay, if a bit burny.
The arts festival was fun. We listened to live music, spoke to the craftspeople, including a friend, photographer John Genesta, Robin's cousin by marriage. His wife, a jewelry maker, was not there today, unfortunately. I had often exchanged emails with her, and a vain promise to get together, so today I wanted to try to make that happen. Maybe another time.
Liz bought a toe ring to help her keep her phalanges in line during yoga practice and I bought a small print to hang on the bathroom wall at home.
We talked, and laughed, and had a wonderful day. I hope we can do it again soon.

Kafka Rules

These days I am thinking a lot about Kafka's parables, particularly this one:
Kafka's "Before the Law"

Frank Kafka, "Before the Law," in Nahum N. Glatzer (ed.), The Complete Stories and Parables 3-4 (New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1971)(Willa & Edwin Muir trans.):

BEFORE THE LAW stands a doorkeeper on guard. To this doorkeeper there comes a man from the country and prays for admittance to the Law. But the doorkeeper says that he cannot grant admittance at the moment. The man thinks it over and then asks if he will be allowed in later. "It is possible," says the doorkeeper, "but not at the moment." Since the gate stands open, as usual, and the doorkeeper steps to one side, the man stoops to peer through the gateway into the interior. Observing that, the doorkeeper laughs and says: "If you are so drawn to it, just try to go in despite my veto. But take note: I am powerful. And I am only the least of the doorkeepers. From hall to hall there is one doorkeeper after another, each more powerful than the last. The third doorkeeper is already so terrible that even I cannot bear to look at him." These are difficulties the man from the country has not expected; the Law, he thinks, should surely be accessible at all times and to everyone, but as he now takes a closer look at the doorkeeper in his fur coat, with his big sharp nose and long, thin, black Tartar beard, he decides that it is better to wait until he gets permission to enter. The doorkeeper gives him a stool and lets him sit down at one side of the door. There he sits for days and years. He makes many attempts to be admitted, and wearies the doorkeeper by his importunity. The doorkeeper frequently has little interviews with him, asking him questions about his home and many other things, but the questions are put indifferently, as great lords put them, and always finish with the statement that he cannot be let in yet. The man, who has furnished himself with many things for his journey, sacrifices all he has, however valuable, to bribe the doorkeeper. The doorkeeper accepts everything, but always with the remark: "I am only taking it to keep you from thinking you have omitted anything." During these many years the man fixes his attention almost continuously on the doorkeeper. He forgets the other doorkeepers, and this first one seems to him the sole obstacle preventing access to the Law. He curses his bad luck, in his early years boldly and loudly; later, as he grows old, he only grumbles to himself. He becomes childish, and since in his yearlong contemplation of the doorkeeper he has come to know even the fleas in his fur collar, he begs the fleas as well to help him and to change the doorkeeper's mind. At length his eyesight begins to fail, and he does not know whether the world is really darker or whether his eyes are only deceiving him. Yet in his darkness, he is now aware of a radiance that streams inextinguishably from the gateway of the Law. Now he has not very long to live. Before he dies, all his experiences in these long years gather themselves in his head to one point, a question he has not yet asked the doorkeeper. He waves him nearer, since he can no longer raise his stiffening body. The doorkeeper has to bend low towards him, for the difference in height between them has altered much to the man's disadvantage. "What do you want to know now?" asks the doorkeeper; "you are insatiable." "Everyone strives to reach the Law," says the man, "so how does it happen that for all these many years no one but myself has ever begged for admittance?" The doorkeeper recognizes that the man has reached his end, and to let his failing senses catch the words, roars in his ear: "No one else could ever be admitted here, since this gate was made only for you. I am now going to shut it."

This one speaks to me right now. I am feeling that I have been sitting politely outside the door to the world of writers and writing, waiting to be invited inside.
Now that I am boldly sallying forth, without waiting for an invitation, it seems that I should have done it long ago. Instead, I have been beating my head against the wall fruitlessly, obsessing over my teaching.
One must earn money, and I do love teaching, but I am feeling that I have been too invested. I need to keep things in perspective, and value my writing more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's Up!

Qarrtsiluni has finally published my poem "My Memory Palace" in their current issue on Imprisonment. The link can be found here:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

News from the Sinkhole

The state of California is not too great right now (and I mean state in both senses). The University had to cut a lot of money from its budget. LARC, the department where R works, is being dissolved, it seems. He still needs to go to school this weekend and give out brochures for non-existent programs that will not be offered. Figure that one out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Midsummer Blitz

It was one of those incredibly busy days in the Writing Center this morning, where I had only a one hour shift, yet every second of it taken up talking to different students. In that one hour, I saw maybe five. perhaps six students, all of them writing a fun assignment about a dish that reminded them of happy family memories or their home countries.
Since there are students who come from many different cultural backgrounds and they all have their unique food cultures to draw on, there were a number of different dishes represented here. I read a paper about a Filipino dish, balut, a fertilized duck egg, hawked on the street and at market stalls. The dish looks like an ordinary boiled egg on the outside, a bit over sized for those of us used to hen eggs, but once broken open, reveals a boiled duck fetus in broth. The embryo has to be caught at the perfect stage of development, before it has bones, lest the experience be unpleasant for the diner.
There was also a lovely draft about Chinese hot pot (2 different versions!) and a paper about chocolate covered strawberries. One paper discussed the finer points of Armenian shish kabob, and another, by a student with the fetching first name "Aladdin," was about steak. He was the only student to write about a dish that evoked BAD memories, and I advised him to chose another food, since the prompt didn't call for such a topic.
I love reading and writing about food and watching programs on cooking and eating, so this was a fun and interesting morning.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Another Wrinkle

One of the things that old acquaintance of mine, Jesse, discussed with me was an anthology he just had a piece in--The Poetry of Yoga. I don't know how, but I missed hearing about it when the thing was open for submissions, but he suggested I send a note to them anyhow, and I did, referring them to Qarrtsiluni, where they could look at the headstand poem. They wrote back, saying they were impressed, and asking me to send more. I sent the whole manuscript and told them they could publish what they chose in the next volume of the anthology.

3 D--no spoilers!

I am not one to savor the novelty of new technology simply for its own sake. So I haven't been to see a 3 D film (before yesterday at least) since the blessed advent of OmniMax, with its room high screens and pulsating pictures that made my head hurt.
The expense of these short documentaries (mostly) and the fact that they were causing probable damage to my eyes or brain made me wary of them finally, and not just me because the phenomenon didn't last long, except in science museums and planetariums. But it morphed into something far more ubiquitous: 3D movies of all sorts.
I didn't go to see any of them, not even Werner Herzog's extravaganza in a prehistoric cave, though in all probability, I'd have liked that one. But yesterday I impatiently visited my local multiplex for the first time to see the finale of Harry Potter. I donned the round Potterish glasses, and found that they didn't make my eyes hurt. But wondrously, they turned the world into a completely different place, at least the world of the 3D previews and the feature. I found the use of 3D completely justified in the film, which was far more than technology, but full of the satisfaction of a story well ended, just as in the book.
Some of the Potter franchise had not been so satisfying, aesthetically at least. I followed them out of enthusiasm for the books, but found them drab and unimaginative. Of course, it was a daunting task to take on the depressing later books, where the narrative bogged down, as it sagged a bit in the original books as well. The seams showed just a bit at the jagged edge there, where later, in the finale, the threads would be found to tie off into a seamless edge.
I hope that now that the series is finished, more wonderful fantasy will arise, if only in an effort to please the audience, bereft of its Potter riches in the form of new films and books. I am sure that it will, and lots of dreadful efforts as well. It will be interesting to see.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Open Vistas

The thing about possibilities is that they are promising and terrifying. As my job comes to a close, I don't know what will arise, when I least expect it or when I make it happen, or when it comes from behind and knocks me on my ass from behind. I guess we'll have to wait and see. Security is an illusion anyhow, especially when you're in the business I've been in for so many years, as a part-time instructor. Time I packed my bag and took myself on to other pastures, other opportunities.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Approach

My cousin is going to tell her brother that we need someone to make an app out of the chapbook. He is a Hollywood film editor, now residing in Seattle, who used to work for BBC in his native London. He could do this in his sleep. Wouldn't it be nice to keep it all in the family, making use of the family genes and serving the family needs? My cousin Nina could plug her band and her fabrics, which she probably sells online as well as in her Paris boutique. I could sell my writing. My cousin Andy could create a built in promotion for his services as film maker and app maker. Everyone would be happy. I sure hope he has time to do this and is willing to take it on.

What's Next?

It is rather bracing to have one's entire future open before her and not be quite sure which road to take. I have seldom in my life in recent years been used to this sort of freedom. While it is somewhat frightening, rather like the open blackness of a night sky in the desert or some other place far from city lights, it holds many new experiences I must embrace, some of which I cannot even imagine at present. Some are bound to be positive. All will teach me something, like the rest of my checkered past.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

The lead on the chapbook has not panned out. I don't think we could do it by ourselves, so we're back to the traditional way of doing this thing: self-publishing, most likely. I will have to find out how much it will cost, and think realistically whether we can recoup the cost, which we must if I am to take it on.

Changes in the Air

I got tired of the traditional, fruitless path of poetry publication, and contacted an old friend with more commercial ideas. He liked the yoga chapbook and envisioned it as a IPad app. If his partners agree, perhaps this is where the book is headed. I don't even have an IPad or IPhone; I wouldn't be able to read my own book! In fact, lots of people who might want to wouldn't be able to. I would want there to be a simultaneous run of print books, if this outfit is interested. It wouldn't have all the bells and whistles the app would have though. He was talking about interviews, yoga videos, etc. I am too old and moldy to star in them. I would have to ask my teacher Isabella, with her young and lithe yoga body, to star. But Bob and Denise could do interviews. They are such characters and have such stories to tell, they alone might make the thing.
All I want from this is to get the book out there, to have readers, to do readings, and perhaps get a job based on the notice I get from it... . And of course, opportunities for publishing the full manuscript and future work.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Disappointing My Friends

I'm an obsessive cuss. When others were off protesting and doing political actions when I was an undergraduate, I was reading, writing, doing my homework, holing up to soak in as much of my classes as I could. I loved every second of them, after a horrible high school career of miserable boredom and persecution.
I continue in the same vein. Though I'm just teaching comp, I prepare as though my life depended on it, getting as involved in the subject matter as I did when I was writing my dissertation, perhaps more so. I suppose I just got into the habit, and cannot imagine teaching or doing much of anything with one eye shut, not caring about the result. This makes it hard for me to have a life or to teach full time either because there aren't enough hours in the day.
But I was realizing that the students aren't like I was. They mostly don't care. I need to let go somewhat, and get a life. It will be better for everyone.
To my few long suffering friends, I apologize. I promise that when I'm ready to play, I'll do that in the same obsessive way!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Loosen Up

I am feeling summer slipping by while I agonize over students who don't care. I want to find time between the preps and grading to enjoy the sweetness of the season, despite everything. This is the best thing I can do for myself and probably, indirectly, for them as well.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Paper 1 is in!

The first paper set is in. There aren't too many of them. Lots of students decided that the summer class, squeezed as it is into 8 intense weeks, is too much, particularly since so many unwisely are taking several classes at once. The summer never lets up; there are assignments every day because every week is two weeks of regular class. I try to make it as simple as I can, within the limits of the form, but let's face it: it isn't simple.
I will probably grade half the papers of the remaining students today. Let's see how they go.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Good News!

After reading Marly's post this past week of poems she had published in a journal, Victorian Violet Press, I decided to send some of mine along, just in case they might be interested, and they answered pronto, taking two of the three poems. Happily, one of them, "Savasana," is part of the yoga chapbook! The other, "Still Life," is another image-laden poem. By scanning the journal, I surmised this is the sort of thing they might like. Hooray! When they come out in October, I shall post a link here. Thanks again, Marly!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vicarious Travels

I just got a wonderful long letter from my teacher, Denise, whose picture you will find in this blog in a few places, telling all her students about her trip of a lifetime to India. She goes to India a couple of times of year and has for some time, but this time, she did some things she had always wanted to do, such as taking a long train trip, not first class, but the way the Indians do it. It was 29 hours from Pune to Varanisi, where she bathed in the Ganges and spent quite a bit of time living with an Indian family.
One part of the journey involved a harrowing trip to the Indian style potty, garbed in a pair of wide Indian pants and flowing scarf that fell into the toilet as she was trying to use it, jostled as she was by the train.
She took back to Pune a souvenir of Ganges water to give away as gifts, but she made the mistake of putting it in a Coke bottle, and someone drank it. Luckily, that person was an Indian, used to the water, or this could have had harrowing consequences!
I wish I could have been there! This, and all the wonderful yoga at the Institute of course, where Denise got to study with her teacher, Geeta, Mr. Iyengar's daughter, sound like an amazing experience.
When you meet someone as full of life and with so much to give as Denise, you feel lucky to be in her presence. She really is a very special person.

Monday, July 4, 2011

An Idea--Have I told you this before?

Lately any look in the mirror is a reminder that I am not half as young as I feel. I find myself forgetting as much as I ever knew, with names, occasions, etc. that should have been memorable disappearing almost immediately as they appear.
I had an idea a few weeks back for an anthology of NPR-related pieces. I have already written at least one, and lots of blog entries of course, inspired by NPR stories. If I knew how to get this project started, I would go for it, right after this class finishes up.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Flag Frenzy

Public radio has been focused a lot lately in its timely fashion on the history of the flag and Americans' seemingly unique obsession with waving it, wrapping themselves in it, and identifying with it every characteristic they view as American.
I wonder why the flag has grown so important to Americans that any perceived slight of it constitutes a breach tantamount to treason. Perhaps it is only our equally characteristic tendentious tendency to take up sides and polarize, in a tug of wills that ends up with everyone on their asses looking like a fool.
Maybe it is just because I am the child of a person not born in the States that I have always viewed this attitude as suspect, but I have always stood apart from it and viewed it ironically. At the same time, I am nothing if not an American, who cannot imagine life in a place where free speech is not permitted. If people want to behave like asses, I will graciously tolerate it, if they equally allow me to take the chance of behaving in an asinine way myself.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Inukshuks et al

I just read Marly's blog, in which one of her faithful readers mentioned the concept of an inukshuk, an Eskimo word that describes rock formations or constructions that look like a person. They are an effort to proclaim one's existence in a natural world that sometimes seems devoid of humanity or indifferent to it. As a city person, I have never had this problem. The world I live in reeks of humanity. It is the natural world that has almost no presence in it. And the danger and indifference is all too human, not that of the natural world, which seems to be buried in garbage and overwhelmed by our temporary and temporal shrines and headlines.

Summer Arrives; Break out the Ice

Summer is here, and we have no air conditioner in this place. On one hand, the cool white walls and ceiling fans, as well as cross breezes from the two screen doors downstairs, help us out, as do the tile and laminate floors. But at night, it is tough to sleep. I had lots of heat dreams last night, strange amalgamations of stuff, not coherent at all, leaving the flavor of overheated anxiety.
I'm about to enter a new phase in my working existence, in which anything truly might happen, if I keep my eyes out for opportunities and invent them as well. It's a little daunting, and I suppose the change in the weather heralds this emotional and actual change as well.