Monday, November 30, 2009

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson brings Roald Dahl's imaginary tale to life
with amazing storytelling and humor, geared toward children and adults alike,
and graced with the quintessential Anderson art direction-

that sweet palette

so cussing good...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

It's Only Just Begun

Fall into this flower arrangement brought over to my mom's today by Holly, of Holly Flora. It now sits as the centerpiece on the Thanksgiving table. Just another one of today's many festive and productive activities in preparation for turkey day. Today was mostly all about baking with my mom. Everything from cookies, to pies, to brie in puff pastry. Right now I'm waiting on my chewy Molasses cookies that are just finishing up in the oven. Upon rotating, we had a bit of a scare. We realized that the spaces between the cookies had disappeared and that they had merged. As my mom says, "They look like a platter of hamburger buns." Or, she says, "Flying saucers." We'll let you know...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A flutter to my pulse

Another fabulous Saturday night spend at Counterpulse. This time, 5 fantastic performances swept the stage. There was Bollywood, there were Greek shadow puppets and there were Guqin masters in the house. However, I found most impressive to be Prumsodum Ok. An artist, videographer and cultural activist who meditates on the language of Cambodian dance, Prum graced the floor with both stillness and raw emotion. His control, exhibited in flawless movements and exaggerated hand gestures, inspired the artist in me. I know nothing of dance or the video arts, but his performance proved something to me. That, although not all mediums speak the same language, they all have the power to inspire the day-to-day, to call up that urgency for craft and to ignite the creative in everyone. He floored me, he moved me, he swayed me. He danced with me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stedfast as thou art

"Bright Star"

still dreamy...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Letter in November

The Recipient

in response to "The Couriers" by Sylvia Plath

See the snail, its word
cross the vein of a leaf? The tree,
its leaf are yours.

Accept these genuine offerings
like bare skin
like seeded beds and dance
a ring around your own.

No one is golden
or shines like you and no
these are not lies.

If you let it or allow, your heart
can warm this frozen leaf you sprout
for every season.

If allowed, the leaf is yours to thaw
but quick!
before its many pieces scatter

before it cracks like broken glass-

(Photo courtesy of Smith's Mortimer Rare Book Room.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Certain Slant of Light

I am captivated by this book, "The Ms of My Kin"(2009) by Janet Holmes. On these chilly days, I stroll past it on the shelves of Small Press Distribution and picture myself cocooned inside a blanket and reading its pages, cover to cover. Part of this intrigue I must owe to my ongoing obsession with another text that takes on Emily Dickinson.

Susan Howe's radiant "My Emily Dickinson" (1985) is one of the leading texts in my personal canon of inspiration. It's the wild combination of poetry and poetics, translation and explanation, and admiration and reclamation that places this work on a pedestal. Simply put and unprecedented, Howe unveils Dickinson's brilliance and timeless prevalence through close readings of poems. She explores the solitary poems themselves, but she also looks at them as coming after and in relation to other texts. She calls to light the influence such works (from such influential figures as Emily Brontë, William Shakespeare and John Keats, to name a few) had on Emily. Part of Howe's approach stems from literary criticism and it is from this angle, from this limb, that I learned to reach inside myself and embrace the critic within. Note to self: read poetry and enjoy, read poetry and question, falter, stumble, read poetry and write!

As for Holmes' book, I am eager to experience how she tackles Dickinson's poems. From what I've learned from my few times flipping through, I know that she uses erasure (see 1st image above) to further ignite and free Dickinson's original text. I wonder how she feels about Howe's groundbreaking book, almost 25 years old now. I also wonder what it was like for her, as a writer, to re-imagine Dickinson. Once I've read, will report back (and hopefully soon).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Certain Slant of Eye

Funny, the thing I see. Or, not funny but
funny, the way I go toward, strange
the direction it heads
we go.

Swept up like the branch to sun, or
it's undecided whether
they face north, south, east or west
whether they are taken-elsewhere,
into memory-or it's my foot
they set off course, whether it is me
they handle.

1. Mombaruzzo, Piemont. Lounging by lavender in Italy with Heather, my sister. August 2008.

2. California State Route 92. Alone and on my way to a poetry reading in Half Moon Bay. March 2008.

3. Matt Davis-Steep Ravine Loop, Mount Tamalpais State Park, Marin County. The early-morning, blurry-eyed start of a hike. Labor Day, 2009.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Much Ado About Benedict

Check out how my Sunday morning brunch was taken to a whole new level. Liz made, yes homemade, this favorite breakfast specialty. Variations happened, primarily the switch from "bene" to "flo" as the cook is a proud vegetarian and I happily and healthily oblige. In fact, when it comes to ordering this dish off of a menu, I usually go Florentine because tomatoes, spinach, avocado (whatever they put on to spruce it up)--oh, so much more refreshing than bacon a la Canada. Home style, the impressive aspect of this preparation is the foolproof Hollandaise sauce and poaching the eggs without the messiness of a bad break-up. I can't attest much to what all went down in the kitchen (I was too engrossed in the Sunday NY Times Style section reading about LA teenagers who break into celebrity homes) however I can vouch for the richness and perfection. It tasted and looked like the real thing. Anyone can do it! So, much a-do!

Note: the recipe is from the Cook's Illustrated's Holiday Entertaining Issue (on newsstands now) but for some reason I can't find it online. Good luck in your search!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Everyday Zen

"To make a stone stony: that is the purpose of art."
- Viktor Shklovsky

Here's hoping this weekend is as good as the last! I wish I could spend every morning like I did last Sunday, wandering over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center. The visit was specifically to hear poet and Zen Buddhist priest Norman Fischer give a dharma talk, in which he spoke of the process of learning. Using Japanese culture as a model, he encouraged students to seek out the mystery of the unknown as it is then when we will know ourselves. The lecture made me want to learn something new everyday and it also made me want to go to Japan. I'm starting to really cherish my visits to the Zen Center.

Norman Fischer's talk was an inspiration, however I walked away with more than just mindfulness and understanding. In addition to offering tea and freshly baked carrot muffins, there was a farm stand set up, with fruits and vegetables a'plenty. While snacking on muffins, Liz and I stocked up on a red kuri squash, sweet apples, and buttery lettuce. As it was my first time at Green Gulch, I was exceptionally excited and somewhat crazed to be there. So much in fact, that I almost took a photograph of one of the alters outside of a resident's room. But I had to stop myself. Some things are just too precious to steal from memory and onto a digital card. And anyway, it was the kind of crisp, fall day you barely have to remember or frantically capture because another like it is soon to come. And I look forward to it. But for now, I will stay in the present and enjoy these quiet thoughts of calm.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Performing Diaspora Festival

Last Saturday night, everything moved before my eyes. Mesmerized and wide-eyed, I watched dancers perform in what was the 1st weekend of the Performing Diaspora Festival @ Counterpulse. This space on 9th and Mission consistently presents exciting performing arts from emerging artists and cultural innovators. I heard about the festival through my friend, Sarah Jessee, who works as their Outreach Intern. Appropriately, she "reached out" and promoted this jaw-dropping night to me. I had no idea what to expect, but literally, I have a jaw and it dropped.

The evening was split into 4 performance by 4 different artists. The first was "A Conference in Nine," by Charlotte Moraga. This piece was a collaboration between Moraga and the musicians. Her style of dance is called Kathak and she embedded her own storytelling through her body's rhythm and ferocious movement with the musicians' song. The next piece was called "Alma Llanera-Spirit of the Plains," a work inspired by the novel Bless me Ultima. I have not read that book since junior high school, but the piece dealt with similar themes as the book, like coming-of-age and the power of good and evil. The choreographer, Gema Sandoval, juxtaposed the past and the present by using both contemporary and traditional Mexican music. But the highlight, really, was the group of dancers. These energetic performers (some as young as 12) danced joyfully in Mexican regional dance styles coupled with some contemporary moves. I loved this piece because the dancers appeared so genuinely glad to perform. With every smile and every impressive synchronized sequence (of which there were many), I felt their proud spirit sent into the audience.

The last performance was called "Ampey!" and it really brought down the house. I wish I knew how to talk intelligently about dance so I could properly articulate the beauty that I saw on stage. I don't really have the lingo, or the terms or glossary of dance. I suppose translating one medium into another isn't the easiest of things, but I can confidently say this work was powerful, inspired and enchanting! Choreographer Adia Tamar Whitaker, a master of Afro-Haitian folkloric dance, says that her festival piece was inspired by "ampey," a rhythmic game played by young girls in Ghana. In this show-stopper of a piece, she combines dance, media and music. It is a work in progress, but its lyrical tightness and overall strength was perfection. Readers can listen to Adia talk about work here. Also, the Counterpulse website has more information about the festival and its upcoming 2 weekends. It's not to be missed so shimmy on over as fast as you can!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lift 1 Leg, Maybe 2

When you are upside down...

...your heart is above your head.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bulk Up!

Most of the time, the only thing that brings me to San Francisco's Marina district is this:

"Can I please have a small vanilla with rainbow sprinkles"

Having grown up in L.A., I have frozen yogurt cravings in my D.N.A. It's a great afternoon snack, even though, let's face it, it's not really "food." However, I've been enjoying it since I was a wee-Malibu-lassie, only then, the above quotation was trailed by "and a chocolate chip cookie please."

Oh, ourselves as little!

Anyway, I don't get my fro yo fix too often in San Francisco. There aren't too many serving spots and those that do boast this tasty treat are often the strangest of places. Take the small yet clever liquor store on the corner of Union and Fillmore. I don't even know its name but I know that people line up for their flavors.

Yet, this post is not about frozen yogurt. Oh, it's not, you say? No. Something else brought me to my favorite Marina intersection this weekend. It was an establishment called Green 11. This charming cottage shop (which is hidden behind stores with storefronts) sells organic beauty and non-toxic cleaning products in large bulk containers. The practice of buying from bulk containers is a phenomenon I was pretty much ignorant to before I moved to the city. You can bring your own bottle and re-fill it with what you like? Yes! And it's environmentally friendly because you don't have to waste your old containers? Right! Everything becomes a little more useful, you will find. Green 11 has everything from laundry detergent to bath and shower gel to home cleaning supplies. It's easy! You just bring your empty bottles, pick from an array of deliciously scented products and fill-up!

My adventure begins! I followed little paw-prints to this refreshing hideaway, on an afternoon shaded by courtyard trees. I walked inside, feeling like a nursery rhyme character in search of the grail. All was well, chatting it up with the woman who worked there. And then, I learned such sadness! Green 11's adorable bungalow is closing!!!

Big frowns :( :( :(

Just when something seems so right, it falls dangling off the path. But then I heard the goodness! They have recently opened a new location on lovely Noe Valley's 24th Street, which is perfect because I live so close. Alas, there is a happy ending to this fairy tale. I can still bulk up with Green 11's offerings. Same stuff, just no fro-yo pit-stop!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Subtle Energy

This crystal wasn't always perched on my windowsill. I had it by my desk, perhaps for good luck or inspiration for writing. That's another thing: I have no clue what it means or what its use is. Is it a crystal or a stone? Do they all heal and protect? I'm not much of a crystal person so I wouldn't know. A little while ago, my friend and yogi extraordinaire Sophie came to town. We did the usual: a little yoga here, a little sushi there and caught up on each others' lives. She also gave my crystal a new home by the light. And I haven't moved it since. Maybe she thought it belonged closer to the sky, collecting rays and beams from the outside world as opposed to cooped up in the corner with school supplies. In the grand scheme of things, it didn't travel very far but in the tiny space of my apartment its new spot made a difference. Anyway, Sophie was right in taking charge. It rained the other day, giving my whole place that soft, slow look. There wasn't much light refracting off the crystal but there was still a rainbow inside.

Friday, November 6, 2009

As Owl Alma

A few weeks ago, the New York Times Magazine featured their 2009 Fall Design Issue. Actually, small side note: neither myself nor my lovely neighbor received our Sunday papers that week. I let it go, and thought, next Sunday will come soon enough. But she apparently called and requested her intended copy pronto. And then, one random weekday, I come home to the paper at my door with a note from her saying, 'they sent two, here is yours.' Oh, sweet and thoughtful neighbor...

And because of her kindness, I have been enjoying the magazine lately, breezing through the latest and hottest trends. I came across the owl lamp (above photograph) in the "New Collectibles" column (subtitle: "To have and to not hold onto"). The lamp, designed by Parisian artist Marie Christophe, isn't really my taste at all, but it did make me think of last year during this time and the book I was reading...

This 344 page, genre-bender of a book was a suggestion from my teacher and bay area writer Miranda Mellis. She was one of my mentors during my M.F.A. program and is an inspirational person who taught me, above all, to be curious. She encouraged me to investigate those ideas and thoughts to which I am drawn, yet also those of which I am afraid. It is excellent writing advice and she also advised me on such things from tea concoctions to French philosophers (thank you, Miranda, for introducing me to Roland Barthes' "A Lover's Discourse.") Needless to say, she deserves a whole blog devoted to her brilliance and I strongly recommend her book "The Revisionist" to all you curious beings.

Alright, wow, I'm good at getting off topic. So...during the fall semester of my 2nd year the California College of the Arts, Miranda and I would get together every few weeks and discuss this daunting Notley text. For more about Notley, go here or, better yet, you can read one of her books, like "The Descent of Alette" or "The Mysteries of Small Houses." But, seriously, back to Alma...

As you can see from the cover image and the title above, it's not your average book of poetry. You probably wouldn't keep it on your nightstand for easy access before bed. No, this work is difficult, tragic, and exceptionally hypnotic. Notley comes from a school of thought that values the process of writing. This movement, also known as the New York School Generation (some poets that come from this era are Frank O'Hara, Ted Berrigan and John Ashbery) puts emphasis on the experience and immediacy of poetry writing. Many poets claim that the instances in which a voice is evoked and a line is measured is as important as the finished product, the poem. It has been said that as part of the writing process, Notley enters a trance-like state. Whatever she does works for me as I am continually captivated by her lyricism and transported by her craft.

Chapter by chapter, section by section, poem by poem, this book captures the mind in its forever roaming consciousness. Crossing between the genres of poetry/prose/comedy/tragedy and written surrounding the events of 9/11, Notley's speaks through Alma and her community of spirits, known as the Dead Women. Alma is a drug-addicted woman, but she is also the the dead women, the owl, and Alma is pain. She embodies suffering, while sending messages of healing along the way: that for a person to actively have a soul they must do more than just be born.

Plot and interpretations aside, the text has accompanied my writing journey far beyond the 4 months (!!!) it took me to finish. It might not be the lightest of reads, but it pushes me to keep writing and dares me to investigate my own unsettling nature.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Låt den rätte komma in

In "Bright Star" (my favorite film thus far this year, aka: this year's "The Wrestler" and this year's "Diving Bell and the Butterfly") John Keats and his neighbor love, Fanny Brawne are limited when it comes to the expression of their love. He is a penny-less poet on the brink of death, yet she loves him despite discouragement from all sides outside their love. As a result, certain instances require they tap on the wall that separates their bedrooms in order to communicate. In the most tragic love stories it seems there is always some wall that comes between the lovers. Not the proverbial "wall" that once-hurt-and-never-to-love-again protectors put up for defense, but barriers against their will; that those involved must fight against.

In last year's Swedish vampire film, "Let the Right One In" a friendless young boy, Oskar, befriends the girl next door, who happens to be a 200 year-old 12-year-old vampire. Although Romantic poets and blood thirsty vampires have little in common (or do they?), my reaction to this film somewhat resembled my feelings toward "Bright Star." Similarities being: minimalist art direction and chilling cinematography. Story-wise: two people in love who can't be together. Not so off.

I have to stop though because there is one grand difference between the two cinematic experiences: "Bright Star" made me feel cozy, heart-struck and it made me swoon into a girlhood blush. "Let the Right One In" was horrific and upset me emotionally, and not necessarily because of the vampires or the violence. I was more upset by Oskar's loneliness. He is abused and humiliated at school--and it shattered my heart to see such a sweet, baby-faced boy treated in such a way. However, I recommend the film to everyone for its stark visuals and haunting pace, excellent screenplay. But once you're finished, you may have to lighten things up a bit with a little "Bright Star" if you want to warm your heart again.

Keats and his wall. Above, you will find Oskar and his.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dia de los Muertos

Last night's "Day of the Dead" festivities were magical. An array of people filled the Mission streets, adorned in Marigolds and holding candles, honoring loved ones who have passed. The grand procession began at the intersection of 24th and Bryant, making its way to 26th and Harrison to celebrate the Festival of Alters. I couldn't take my eyes off the beautiful dressed individuals who evoked memories and praised the miracle of life.

Mourners performing art or artists performing mourning?

Her marigolds were bright.

Skeletons mingled with the living.

Leans in on the accordian.

Ghostly Marie Antoinette.

The smell of burning sage haunted through the crowds.

And her lips were sealed.

And so were his.

"Have you seen the woman with a red hat?"

All white gown with blue flowers in her hair.

One of the leaders of the bicycle drawn puppet theater.


...was... favorite. Her smiling hat.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All About Almodovar

Although I'm somewhat out of the film loop, in yesterday's Sunday NY Times Arts & Leisure section, I got the scoop on Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar's new film starring Penelope Cruz, "Broken Embraces." The article also mentioned that there might be a stage musical in the works based on his international breakthrough hit "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown."

I recently watched this 1980's comedy and thought it was one-of-a-kind. Less tragedy than farce, it is full of emotion all the same. The characters express themselves so passionately and with such urgency. It seems almost that what they say matters less than how they say it. I feel that is often the case in his films. I have also seen "All About My Mother" or "Volver." In both of those films I am drawn to the characters' facial expressions and body language and how those physical traits can often dominate the principle action and overpower the words spoken. I think that this is how Almodovar gets away with the over-the-top nature of "Women on the Verge..."

After reading the article and revisiting "Verge" (notice the title gets shorter and shorter), I'm getting very excited to see what he does next.