Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Yesterday was quite a day, what with getting soaked in the process of changing my license plate and getting all the books finally as well as my copies of The Hollins Critic featuring my essay on Lev Grossman's novels. I was in an altered state of consciousness with all of that going on, as well as learning that my book would be carried by some pretty terrific places around here.
After I finished writing the blog though, I was getting ready to leave for choir and stepped outside to take out the trash, since the boy had not done it and it was flowing all over the floor. I didn't take my key, but told myself strenuously to be careful not to lock myself out as it was cold and rainy outside and I had to leave. But of course, I did lock myself out.
To get out of the rain I went over to a neighbor's house to hang out until someone came home, but he insisted on opening a window and letting me back into the house! I will be careful from now on to take a key with me whenever I take out the trash.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rainy Day Adventures

When a person goes to the DMV around here, s/he knows it is not likely to be a pleasant experience. But I have been putting off returning the handicapped plates on my car, once needed for ferrying around my parents, since their deaths in June of 2010. At first, I tried calling, but couldn't get through. Finally, last Friday, I simply decided to make an appointment and go in to take care of this. In all this time, I have never parked in a handicapped spot because I really dislike people who are not handicapped who take advantage of those spaces. There were too many times when my parents were with me and I needed such a spot and some able-bodied person took it up; I would never be that kind of person. But I didn't reckon it would be such a difficult job to give the plates back and put new ones on.
It doesn't rain that often in this part of the country, but when it does, it often rains hard and fast. Sometimes I have known flash floods to come up and overwhelm people, animals, cars, sweeping them away in a matter of a minute. It's raining almost that hard out there today, and it is cold and windy too, as it hasn't been most of the winter.
I took an umbrella, but that broke with the first hard gusts, and I was left wet and cold, without a screw driver (why didn't I think of that?), squatting in the dirty DMV parking lot trying to get the plate off and put the new ones back on with a coin while my shoes filled up with cold rainwater.
I had to laugh. Any other day, it would have been a breeze to put the plate back on, the warm sunshine on my back. Being a wimp, I thought about driving home without putting them back on, instead propping one of the plates up in the back windshield. But I didn't want to add to the day's problems by getting pulled over and ticketed by the cops. So I looked around me.
Luckily, there was a discount store in this center, Big Lots, where things like umbrellas and screwdrivers and the like are sold.
I walked into the store, my hands blackened with grime from the old plates, and asked a person shopping in a likely looking aisle whether this was where I could find the screwdrivers.
He looked me up and down. I am a woman of a "certain age," so I am not used to being looked at in that way anymore. So when he tried to pick me up in the hardware aisle, I laughed out loud. "You're so cute," he said. "Thanks," I replied, all business. "So what kind of screwdriver should I get to put a license plate on my car?"
I made it home, only to find that my books had arrived, as the publisher had promised. It's been an okay day after all!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Family complaint

Deafness has always run in my mother's family. Practically all of us have trouble hearing. I have had hearing aids for a long time, and especially wore them to teach, so I could hear my students. Most of the time though, I got away without them. I think those days are over. My yoga teacher, Denise, has long complained that I don't follow instructions. Odd because I strain to hear and follow every word. Guess I can't hear a lot of them at all, so last night and today in her class I wore the hearing aids. Result? Much better, according to her. I frankly had no idea she was saying things I couldn't hear. When people turn their backs and speak, it is often lost to me entirely. It's time to admit it and accept the technological boost.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thanks Red Box

I love movies. In the past, I used to go to as many as two a week, if there were movies I wanted to see. In the past year or so though, not only have I not had the money to carry on this practice, but there have not been sufficient films showing that I wanted to see. I am a fussy film watcher, just as I am a fussy reader, but while I might pick up books at a whim, and put them down just as fast, I have never been that way about films. I peruse reviews carefully, making sure the reviewers are people whose opinions I respect, and sometimes even then do not go see the film until it shows up at the discount movie theater or on video or cable.
But this year, some films I wanted to see escaped the theater before I got around to seeing them, so last week, I got two of them on Red Box. I had always assumed that the films on Red Box would not be ones I would be interested in seeing at all, since I prefer indie films, little oddities that would be unlikely to land up there. But this time there were a couple more popular films I was curious about--Moneyball and The Help.
I stood in a long line as a father and daughter dawdled over their choices, at last choosing three films. I wasn't sure how to use the gizmo, so the person behind me helped me find the films I wanted and figure out how to submit my information and card and get the DVDs.
I had twenty-four hours to watch the films, and since this new computer doesn't have a CD or DVD drive, it would have to be on the main t.v., which is usually occupied on weekends by guys watching ball games, whether they be basketball, football, golf, or some other sport. So I had to squeeze in my movie watching between tournaments of various kinds, though I suppose I could have asked them to set up our other DVD player to work on Jeremy's television set. It has only basic cable, but that doesn't matter for watching movies.
The first half hour or so of Moneyball was rather slow. Perhaps that is because though I have watched my share of Jeremy's club baseball and varsity baseball games, I have a limited understanding of the game's finer points. So perhaps it was just going over my head. But this picked up, and I began to enjoy the characters in the film. It also helped that R liked the film a lot, and it piqued his interest in the real life person on whom the film's main character was based.
I watched The Help in bits and pieces, before and after Sunday yoga class. At first it seemed hopelessly stereotyped and oversimplified to me, and I still think the characters were too stereotyped to be satisfying, but it was fun to watch, anyhow. I don't think it ought to get an academy award or anything though. The Academy tends to give things awards just to make a political point, and that's too bad, especially when it pushes out more accomplished films. But the whole discussion surrounding the film's nomination is an important one, and made me realize just how few roles there are for women, black or white, of a certain age.
I most certainly will be visiting Red Box again when there is a film I want to see. In fact, there may be one or two I have missed that I can still go back and catch. It's cheaper than going to the movies at a theater, especially now that gas is headed for $5.00 per gallon! So I have the feeling that the line will be growing in the coming months and weeks. I will be ready for that.

Re-Issue, Balance

My chapbook, Balance, has already been re-issued because of attribution problems. The book unfortunately seemed to be published by CreateSpace ONLY, so that people thought it was a self-published work when it wasn't. It didn't have the publisher's name on it at all. So White Violet Press had it re-issued. There is no difference in content, but the ISBN number is different, and the pages are a slightly different color (as per my request). Here is the information:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

What's Playing at Shul?

My synagogue is such a warm, welcoming community. I have belonged for many years now, and know not all, but many members by name. Once a month we have a musical service, synaplex, with a full evening of events for everyone--dinner, music, entertainment for kids, a guest speaker, and goodies.
The music, performed by extremely gifted people who happen to belong to our synagogue or are hired on a regular basis, is always wonderful too. I leave that service smiling, even though sometimes I do not arrive in a particularly good frame of mind.
Often, the speakers are of extremely high quality and interest. Last night, Valerie Plame, the former CIA agent outed by Bush and his cronies, spoke about her book detailing this experience. She was extremely articulate and appealing,in some ways glamorous, but not in a Bond way. Though the CIA is hardly my favorite organization, speaking generally, I found her likeable and accessible. She has made me question my presuppositions about the organization and intelligence operators because she clearly intended to use her position as a way to protect the public and the U.S. at large. She had investigated the trafficking of nuclear materials, trying to keep these out of the hands of people likely to use them in illicit ways. Since leaving the organization, she has become involved in an effort to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide.
I didn't get a chance to speak with her after the presentation. The place was mobbed, and as always, it was quite late and Liz and I were tired and needed to go home. But I left feeling I had learned something and had a wonderful evening!
I took a copy of Balance with me to show friends at synagogue, many of whom had already ordered the book. Many inspected it with interest, but it became plain that poetry is an alien beast for most people, who seemed to think that because it sat in the middle of the page and was broken into lines rather than being a block of prose, it must be obscure and too "deep" to understand. Only a few people there actually read and identified real, concrete images they could envision in their own imaginations. An uphill battle.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Good news!

Just inspected the galleys of Balance, and find it ready to go! The books should be here quite soon, and will go out to their pre-ordered homes at that time. I'm hoping some of the people I show it to will consent to let me read and even wish to carry the book in their stores/studios.
Also, in the writing department, my review of David Landrum's White Violet chapbook, The Impossibility of Epithalamia, will be published soon in Switchback!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

First Time Writer Blog

Visit my Red Room page to read my blog there on how I became a writer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New PayPal button

Because my first customer to buy Balance on PayPal was my cousin in Australia, I suddenly remembered I should make the site available for people outside of the U.S., with adjustable shipping costs for those people. So here is my corrected button, with international payment and shipping options. You will notice a slight change in shipment charges. For those in the U.S. buying only one or two books, it costs less. For those buying more than 2, it will cost more.

Post Valentine's Day

I came downstairs this morning to find that my son had bought me a bouquet of red and white mums and thoughtfully put it in a vase! I'm sure his girl friend suggested it. But since he works at a grocery store, it might have been his own idea. What a nice day-after present!
Last night we tried out (belatedly) a newish Vietnamese joint at Diamond Jamboree. It is called the Pho Saigon Pearl, and it is located in the spot formerly occupied by the out-of-place Greek restaurant in this center, which is located approximately at Alton and Jamboree in Irvine. I had been intending to get there for a while, but only got around to it now.
The place made a pleasant impression, even from across the parking lot, with its aesthetically pleasing sign, and the room was also easy on the eyes, not the overly fussy, tchotchke laden place that Asian restaurants sometimes are (for example, I can think of one where the food is wonderful, but the decor busy as the 405, with year-round Christmas lights draped around laughing Buddhas, and stuff hanging off the ceiling.
The menu was even better, with excellent choices by the dozen. It took a few minutes of thinking to decide which of the 20 or so configurations each of pho, rice dishes, bun, and side dishes we would opt for. Richard went for the seafood pho, which came packed with the usual chunks of squid, fishballs, shrimp, Krab, etc. The broth was sturdy, not the kind of weak and tepid dishwater one often gets in such places. My lemon grass chicken was very good, sliced thin, which helped to distribute the tasty sauce/spices better than the usual chunks. The shredded beets and daikon made an attractive confetti on the plate, and they were also tasty with the meal.
Spring rolls arrived a bit belatedly, accompanying the meal rather than as an appetizer. However, they were tightly packed and perfectly rolled, a lovely accompaniment to the rest of the meal, with a rich and spicy peanut sauce for dipping.
For dessert, I ordered an iced lychee drink, which made the perfect ending to the meal.
And best of all, the price was reasonable, unlike most of the other places at this center. Parking is always a challenge, but I think I now know the secret to getting a spot at this always-busy center. For the past two times I visited, I've parked in the same spot, one others apparently scorn, but which I regard as fine. I won't say where it is, only that it isn't as impossible as it seems to park at this place, even at prime dinner hour on the busiest restaurant day of the year.
Visit the Pearl soon, if you are local. If not, peruse the website just for fun! phosaigonpearl

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's a grey day out there, cold in the waning days of winter here. This is a big week for me, with the launch day of Balance coming up this week or next! To celebrate, http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifmy good friend Marly Youmans has feted me and the book by allowing me to do a guest post on her site, The Lydian Stones. At the moment there are a few errors I made, sending the wrong drawing to go along with my poem "Supta Virasana: Reclining Hero's Pose," from the chapbook, and failing to give a link to Blake's etching of "Tyger," which was the subject of my post. Here's the link, with those caveats:http://thelydianstones.blogspot.com/2012/02/nester-chooses-blake.html

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Gift

It seems that my chapbook, Balance, will be officially released tomorrow evening. What a great date to have on the book!! I am excited, and look forward to taking it around, trying to get people to stock it and to allow me to do readings. Visit again in a week or so to see what I've managed to round up!
Meanwhile, may you have a warm and wonderful V-Day!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Horning in on the Natural World

Today on NPR I heard something that crystallized where we stand in a world we have sought and obtained some control over the natural world. Okay, it is nice not to be as vulnerable as we used to be to weather, fire, predators, and the like, but think what the implications of this really are.
Somewhere (I didn't catch the location), there is a rare variety of warbler that inhabits a particular woodland, and that place only. It was declining rapidly, so the Forest Service did some research some years back and found that cowbirds, those parasitic creatures that lay eggs in other bird's nest and push out the eggs of the bird who made the nest in the first place, were to blame for the decline. So the forest service began smothering cowbirds in large numbers.
That helped a little. The population of the warblers didn't fall, but it didn't rise either. So the Forest Service realized that the problem was with the ecosystem itself. The warbler lived in a forest that would naturally burn yearly, causing new trees to come up following the fires. But humans had been so effective in preventing forest fires that now there were old trees only in the forest. So the warblers declined.
The Forest Service, sure in its ability to play God, or at least Nature, lit a "controlled burn," but it had been so many years since there had been a fire that there was a lot of fuel there. Thousands of acres burned, and a person died, causing local residents to turn against the Forest Service.
But odd thing... it worked. After the trees began to grow back, the warblers flourished! However, the Forest Service now has to keep killing cowbirds and burning the forest in a controlled way indefinitely in order to preserve the species and the ecosystem.
The people living in the area asked whether it was all worth it. Was a species worth a man's life? It isn't such an easy question to answer, is it?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Barbara Lake

Every day when I go to my email box, there are thousands of emails, mostly old ones I have not erased, though I am trying to erase more every day. I just can't keep up with it. Many among these are from the hiking club I belong to, telling me about new and different hikes I could go on. Most are too hard for me. Until today, I wouldn't go on anything harder than Advanced beginner or transition to intermediate hikes. Today, because I couldn't find a rating on this particular hike, I went on a fully Intermediate hike, probably Intermediate plus! It had some killer hills, and I have particular trouble with hills. Just going distances doesn't trouble me, but I get discouraged and out of breath on hills with my short legs. I made it, but I wasn't sure I was going to. I felt rather miserable. It might have been better had I been wearing shorts. But I think I will stick to easier hikes from now on!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Another movie

This past weekend, I went to another wonderful movie. Interestingly, it was also made originally in 3-D, although I didn't see it in that format. It was Wim Wenders' film, Pina, about the German choreographer. I have never been one to attend avant garde dance performances, but of course I knew a little about Pina Bausch (sp?). This movie though put me inside the performances, up on the stage, among the dancers. It allowed me a perspective on those dancers it would have been impossible to have sitting in the audience in a theatre or concert hall.
The dances were so incredibly honest about relationships and gender roles. They were stunning. In one particularly striking one, a woman was chained to a wall, hurling herself over and over toward an open doorway, just out of reach. In Pina's version of Rite of Spring, women responded in a horrified way to the only spot of color, a menstrual red scrap of fabric, in a monochromatic world. There were several dances where men performed a sort of dance, like a male crane or bowerbird, before a whole room of bored looking females of different kinds.
If you get the opportunity to see this film, go for it. It isn't long, but leaves you thinking for much longer than the time it takes to watch the film. Isn't that what we would like from every film we watch?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Temple Lunch

Just came back from the Buddhist temple up near L.A. . It's an incredibly impressive place, up on a hill, ringed by mountains. The New Year decorations were still up, inflatable dragons and child-Buddhas, doing various things like building snowmen, reading, searching the web, and whatnot. The temple works every angle, collecting money for snacks (amazing cakes filled with custard or red beans), food (the much vaunted vegetarian lunch, which was quite tasty), a gallery of Buddhist art, and a gold wishing tree, where one can pay a few bucks to buy red money to throw into a phony gold tree while making a wish (suggested wishes include world peace and personal wealth). There were places to take your picture pretending to be a Chinese peasant, and fun for the whole family, generally. While it was not the most sublime artistic experience, it was certainly fun and interesting, and the congregation was very helpful, explaining what was on our plates, how to bow properly before the Buddha, and what prayer to say while we were doing it. They were certainly friendly, though we were some of the only Caucasians in that joint.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Another Thing

My Red Room page has been changed back to its proper name: Red Room
Go visit, if you haven't.

Go Visit "The Hive" at Qarrtsiluni

At last, my poem, "The Hive," a parody of a poem you will recognize, has appeared in Qarrtsiluni's Imitation issue. Go have a read!
In case you don't recognize it, or just want a refresher, here is Emily Dickinson's "I heard a fly buzz...":

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died
By Emily Dickinson
I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –

With Blue – uncertain – stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –

Long Live Bookstores

This morning on Facebook I received a beautiful link from a poet friend affixing gorgeous photos of bookstores all over the world, in places like Portugal and China. These were mostly large, some as big as airports, it seems, and featured period or space station modern decor. The Chinese one was evidently inspired by Harry Potter!
I will affix the link here in case you didn't get a chance to look at these places:
Is it just in the U.S. that bookstores are declining in favor of online stores and e-texts? Although I far prefer reading hard copy books, with their own particular smell and heft, at the same time, our new house is too small and full of windows to hold more bookshelves. We do not have space for many of the books we already own. I probably have no choice but to switch to e-texts and keep using the library to read new books.
Now that I have a book coming out and am looking for places to do a reading, I find the lack of bookstores particularly vexing. There are practically no stores carrying new books left, except Barnes and Noble, of course. In L.A. there are some, but it is too far away and too difficult to get to for us in Orange County to frequent them.
I take hope from these photographs. Perhaps people in the U.S. will someday demand places like this? After all, movie theaters were once palaces, with handpainted ceilings and murals, luxurious curtains, etc. Then they became practically closets, tiny boxes in twenty-plexes where owners could squeeze in as many movies and make as much money as possible. Now though, luxury is again making its appearance--haute cuisine, living room type furniture, etc, and the prices to go along with this. Not that I am attending movies at these places, but the interest is apparently there, so why couldn't this happen to bookstores too?