Friday, April 30, 2010

slide ranch part II

Some late pictures from last weekend at Slide Ranch.

It's almost disgustingly pretty.

All that washed-out California wood.

And I found that there is nothing more strangely touching than a small child, very still, petting a chicken with utmost solemnity.

Also, dead shark!


And a final cliché (I just couldn't help myself).

just another reason why I love my home

bless that John. The man sure can make a fluffy biscuit.  

Good mushroom gravy, too.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I am no kind of super cyclist, and have no pretensions to anything but to be the most modest and lackadaisical of pedalers-about-town. My housemate Tim recently proposed that I join him volunteering at Slide Ranch, that it was in Marin, that we'd bike there. I foolishly thought Marin meant Marin Headlands, just over the Golden Gate. No doubt this is because I, having no ambitions as a biker, truffle about under the entirely baseless and plainly stupid assumption that no one else does, either. I didn't even look at the proposed route until 8am Saturday morning as we were about to leave. A long and hilly and windy way along Highway 1. I thought he had to be joking. He wasn't joking. There wasn't another way to get there. If you haven't driven that way lately, allow me to remind you there is no shoulder or bike lane. Allow me to remind you the hills go on for decades.

I'll skip the part about me huffing and puffing for close to four hours and stopping ALL THE TIME. It wasn't very glamorous and I am not a secret genius cyclist. I ride an old mountain bike my Mom gave me. I'm happy it has so many gears. But we did get there eventually. (And Tim is basically the best cheerleader ever, in the best possible way). And it looked like paradise.

I ate everything I could see and then sat in a yurt for three and a half hours and taught children how to card wool and spin it into yarn. I am such a sucker for kids. Top prize goes to a three-year-old named Leo who couldn't card wool but liked to pick it up and show it to me. We would agree that it was nice. We would agree that it was pretty. I asked him if he knew what animal wool came from. He got very excited and said "SEEP!" No sh's for him.

There was a potluck dinner and I ate about 2.5 plates of food, drank two beers, and went to sleep at 7:30. The sun hadn't even finished setting yet, but I curled up in my sleeping bag and fell asleep with the moon in my face, framed by grasses. 

The next morning, we woke up early, ate trail mix for breakfast, and biked back. We stopped at Cibo in Saulsalito for a ridiculously tasty brunch. And Blue Bottle Coffee. Oh, yum.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

writing & publishing the novel

On Sunday, I heard novelists a bang-up group of novelists & literary folks discussing the art and practicality of all things novelistic. Pretty great.

Easily my favorite bits from the evening were Roberts saying "...when you're writing your first book, you're not just writing the book, you're writing yourself as a writer," and Alarcón saying "No one knows what the fuck sells or why." It would have been an appropriate moment to snort, were I the kind of person who laughs by snorting. Instead I am the kind who guffaws. So, that happened.

Monday, April 19, 2010

well, are you?

You totally want/need one. Deep breath. It's okay. They're now available for purchase. Written by Ryan Lewis, designed by Anna Hurley. And the proceeds support 826 chapters across the country. Mmhmm.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

from heroism to pathos

while I'm still excited about scanning things, I thought I'd share this:
(please click on the picture to enlarge. please?) 

If you can't read my scrawl, the note at the bottom says: "these notes were on the board when I arrived at my classical Indian singing class this evening. They're from the classical Indian theory class which immediately precedes it."

I would love to take the theory class, too, but I don't reliably leave work early enough for a seven o'clock class. I got my teacher to explain some of it to me anyway, though.

Ian McEwan

was at least as charming as I'd hoped he'd be, if not more so. I was in the fourth row. City Arts & Lectures flat-rate pricing is kind of a ridiculously good deal.

He kept talking about "awarding" the protagonist of his most recent novel a Nobel prize. As in, "and that was why I decided I had to award him a Nobel prize," which is so quaint, and bizarre, and wonderful.  He also referred to English comedic literature as having a proud tradition of "hapless heroes to whom things happen." I was eating it all up with a spoon.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I almost fell off my bike on my way to work. Too much laughter for reliable pedaling!

Update: They seem incredibly sincere. Oh dear.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

no place like it

I went back to Orangevale for Easter. I got to eat this:

admire these:

and laugh at the contrast between my father's and my mother's reading material (left to right, respectively).

Monday, April 5, 2010

sacred and divine

And on March 29th, we had Wu Zeitan, the only woman in ancient China to assume the role of emperor in her own right (Sacred and Divine Empress Regnant being her full title). I can't imagine the moxie she must have had – any woman who was the first to say, nope, I'm not ruling for my son, I'm doing it for myself. Confounding. Cheers to that!

bell hooks is for everybody

bell hooks (March 28) is amazing because she makes me question everything. Especially my favorite things, like calling myself a feminist (She prefers, for worthy and complex reasons, the phrase, "I advocate feminism"). So smart. Such a beautiful writer.

In addition to attacking racially- and gender- and class-based oppression, hooks has also written broadly on subjects such as love and art theory and criticism. Neat, right? She's so entirely worth reading. She takes the academia out of theory like nobody's business. By which I mean she is damn smart and can talk to anybody. Anybody can read her writing and think about her ideas. She's criticized academic feminism as self-defeating. Oh! And she also published a book whose title I quote regularly: Feminism is for everybody.

what to say

about Edna. Man. She's meant so much to me in my life. Of course, she preferred to go by Vincent. Yes, I'm talking about Edna St. Vincent Millay, American poet and liver-of-life extraordinaire. I don't go in for biographies much, well, actually, pretty much ever – but boy oh boy, when I was seventeen did I eat up Nancy Milford's 500-plus page Savage Beauty.

There's a lot in Vincent that I think appeals to teenage Margarets everywhere:
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet know its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.
for one, and:
My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.
for another. Gimme that lustful bohemian undefined sexuality any day. Did I mention that she was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry? 

illuminating the sex industry

That's the tag of $pread Magazine, which is written by and for sex workers and those who support their rights. And so the woman of the day for March 26th is actually three women, the founders: Rachel Aimee, Rebecca Lynn, and Raven Strega. Am I advocating sex work? No. Am I pretending that if I ignore it, it'll go away? Hell no. Sex workers are one of the most maligned and despised groups of people out in the world (across the board! feminists, get it together!), and I think it's pretty amazing that in a climate of dying print media, this new (5-year-old) publication is relevant and necessary enough to flourish. Want to know more? You too can become a subscriber.

hoist the flag

Aruna Asaf Ali, March 25th's woman of the day, was an Indian independence activist.   Active in the Congress party, she raised the Congress flag in defiance of British orders, which is considered the beginning of the the Quit India movement (i.e., English, get out!), and was later a socialist. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ruth Brown redux

I've gushed about Ruth Brown here before, so suffice it to say that she was March 24th's woman of the day, and that I still totally have a crush on her. Kindly view:
What a voice. What a performer. Yeesh. I've got goosepimples. But when she isn't busy breaking my heart, she makes me tap my feet:
Oh, what a dream.

brushstrokes and biceps

Artemesia Gentileschi (March 23) was an Italian Renaissance painter. How many other Italian Renaissance painters do you know who were also female? Right. That again. 

She was raped by one of her painting tutors, and during her trial was literally tortured. As a way of making sure she was telling the truth. The rapist? Questioned. But ultimately found guilty and required to serve one year in jail. Artemesia went on to be an extraordinary painter. 

Just look at the arms on her Judith:
 Now check out Caravaggio's: 
Or how about this one by Francesco del Cario?

Some people seem lest interested than others in offering up realistic depictions of female violence, I would suggest. And this during the Renaissance, when the study and realistic depiction of the human form, especially musculature, was supposedly in its heyday.


I think it's interesting how there is a very short list of women rulers (of any country, any time period) that we ever hear about. If you've spent time around my apartment and have needed to measure something, you may have had occasion to borrow my Great Women Rulers ruler (No, this is not a joke. When you are a person like me, you don't even need to find these things for yourself after a (very short) while. People find them and give them to you.). Sure, it lists Queen Elisabeth I, Nefertiti, Catherine the Great, and Amina. I'd never heard of her either, and, quite frankly, there's not a ton of information available. But she was a Nigerian princess who may or may not have later become a queen, but who many seem to agree expanded her kingdom and was a good ruler. (Women in the military also being something we don't much like to talk about, unless of course they died young and tragically, a la Joan of Arc). And so, while I'd like to apologize to her for not knowing her better, Amina Sukhera is March 22's women of the day.


Somebody had to be the first woman doctor in the U.S., but I for one am glad it was somebody as generally awesome as Elizabeth Blackwell, March 21's woman of the day. She was active in the anti-slavery movement, taught herself a lot about medicine, and went to Geneva College where she graduated first in her class. Once she had her degree, though, she was banned from practicing in most hospitals in the U.S. (you know, because she was a woman).

Sooo...she went to Paris, worked as a doctor, lost an eye, got a glass one, came back to New York, founded a hospital, trained women to be Civil War nurses (for the Union), went to England, got another medical degree, co-founded a women's medical college in London with Florence Nightingale, and...yeah. Totally a bad idea to let women into the medical profession! Look at all those things she did! Ugh. She was a suffragist, too.

strong voice

Hrotsvitha! A German abbess (whose name means "strong voice") who wrote poetry and plays is more than enough to get me excited about the Middle Ages. Why don't they ever teach you the fun stuff when you're younger? I had to wait for Theatre 401 to get to her. Plus she wrote about ladies. Oh, and some scholars think she was the first playwright in Western culture since antiquity. Yes. March 20.

It must be nice to have a long name

And on March 19th, we have the pleasure of meeting Peruvian educator and poet Lucila de María del Perpetuo Socorro Godoy Alcayaga, better known by her pseudonym, Gabriela Mistral. Poetry in translation is a damn difficult thing. Nonetheless, I'd like to recommend the following:
To See Him Again 
Never, never again?
Not on nights filled with quivering stars,
or during dawn's maiden brightness
or afternoons of sacrifice?

Or at the edge of a pale path
that encircles the farmlands,
or upon the rim of a trembling fountain,
whitened by a shimmering moon?

Or beneath the forest's
luxuriant, raveled tresses
where, calling his name,
I was overtaken by the night?
Not in the grotto that returns
the echo of my cry?

Oh no. To see him again --
it would not matter where --
in heaven's deadwater
or inside the boiling vortex,
under serene moons or in bloodless fright!

To be with him...
every springtime and winter,
united in one anguished knot
around his bloody neck!

And she was keen on education reform! And the first Latin American person to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1945)! Enthusiasm, please and thank you.

how we in Balkans kill rats

On March 18 I took a tip from Anna, one of the pirate store employees, and looked into Marina Abramović. She seems wonderfully strange. A contemporary Yugoslavian-Serbian performance artist based in New York, she's also at the MOMA. In New York. Right now. East coasters, what are you waiting for? She does things like this:

and this:

I am so bummed it will be over by the time I get to that coast! Please go see it for me & tell me all about it!

the Sea Queen

March 17th introduces us to Gráinne Ní Mháille and no, I can't pronounce it either (Psst! Irish folks! Help us out! Forvo is waiting!) – lucky for all of us English speakers, she was also referred to as Grace O'Malley. Whew. Also known as "The Sea Queen of Connaught," she was basically a pirate. Well, I'm kind of enraptured with that. There's a lot of fact-bleeding-into-fiction-into-legend with her, but she was definitely a real women and a real pirate. That's enough for me.


I'm so far behind on the updates for this that if I wrote a short story about it, the first line would be "My life is a sham." That being said, I've decided to finish up for the sake of tidy housekeeping. Facebook friends will have been kept up to date with the simpler, crisper, but ultimately less rewarding woman of the day one-liners. For those who've been waiting, I apologize and promise to do better next year. In the meantime, March 16: Meena Keshwar Kamal.

Something I've enjoyed about this project all along is that I told myself I had to do some research, and not just spend a month with the women already inside my head. Meena Keshwar Kamal is one of my favorite encounters, and I'm shocked and ashamed I'd never heard of her before (Damn you, western-slated media/history!). She founded the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) in 1977, whose purpose was to promote equality and education for women. Wow. Sadly and unsurprisingly, Meena was assassinated at age thirty. 

 In all our talk about Afghanistan in the press, in all the time before and since we've invaded, why is no one talking about this – still active – group? Maybe because they're not super keen on our presence there.  
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