Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Guest Blogging: Art to Inspire Joy

Check out their sweet logo!
Guess what, kids? While I'm busy writing up a post describing the totally wacky, beautiful, and mildly life-changing experience I had learning to build a house last week, the truly awesome Naomi Rifkin of Brush Fire Painting is featuring me as a guest blogger today! Brush Fire Painting Workshops bring art to marginalized youth in the San Francisco Bay Area. Talk about joy, seriously: they treat art as a tool for healing, expression, critical thinking, and self-esteem-building for kids who are often denied access to art programs. It's an honor to be featured on her blog. You can read the piece here, although really you should check out the whole darn website because it's so full of fabulous resources, ideas, and writing on the role of art in inspiring and changing lives. The best thing? I totally get to meet Naomi now that I'm back in the Bay, even though we encountered each other completely by chance on the internet. Whaddaya know, turns out the interwebz can be used for good and not just 4chan and flame wars about Mitt Romney's dog evil after all.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Things in My Cabinet: A Manifesto

Emily O'Neill once quoted me as saying that every moment of joy in the face of oppression is an act of revolution; I will die believing that, and I don't know about you, brothers and sisters, but I think revolution's what we need right now, and bad. Every day it seems like some new horrific thing is happening in this country, rights being stripped away or simply refused, transfolk murders, police brutality, horrific shootings, wrongful imprisonment, the growing clarity with which we face the total submission of our government to the big money that could not care less about most of us. Some days just reading the news feels like swallowing spoonfuls of poison. Some days I just feel dark and full of despair. And on days like that, I need to remember what I'm doing here. So here they are, folks, the articles of the only revolution that I know.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What The F!#& Should I Read Friday: Self-Portrait As Ruth

What The F!#& Should I Read Friday: Books To Make Your Weekend Weird & Wonderful

Self-Portrait As Ruth by Jasmine Donahaye
Salt Publishing, 2009

Fair disclosure: Jasmine Donahaye is my mother. Fortunately, she is a damn good poet, because it would be extremely awkward if she wasn't. You should f!#&ing read her book. Not because she's my mother, even though she is therefore obviously awesome. Because it's a really f!#&ing good book, and really f!#&ing relevant, and I feel kind of dopey that I didn't think of it for WTFSIRF before. It's a book of poetry, but it's not just poetry; it's a book about politics as well, and the difference between politics as they are seen on the news and politics as they are felt in the heart. Right now, we need books like this more than ever. I've written about it before, but not in depth. So, let me tell you then, the answers to your five questions...

1. Who the f!#& wrote this book?
2. What the f!#& is it about?
3. Where the f!#& should I read this book?
4. When the f!#& is it set? 
5. Why the f!#& should I read it? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Some things not learned in school: mud, money, and making people put away their stupid phones

I am probably doing this right now! Unless you're reading it in
the future, in which case I'm done now. Photo: Mixing cob for an 
oven at the University of Washington. By Josh Larios via Flickr.
So although I am away from the internet right now making stuff out of mud, I was incredibly productive in the days before I left and actually managed to write posts in advance! I know this is true because here I am in the past, writing them, even though you're reading them in the future, except now it's the present. For you, I mean. (And presumably for me, wherever I am. Why isn't there a separate verb tense for this kind of crap?) Anyway, I thought I would entertain you briefly while I was away by explaining that my whole idea of volunteering at the Exploratorium (free education and possible job opportunities!) instead of getting a graduate degree in Museum Studies (totally expensive and not any guarantee of employment whatsoever!) is totally working. For example, today I learned something extremely and wildly important that I probably would not have learned about museums in my first month of school. Want to know what it is? Of course you do.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What The F!#& Should I Read Friday: The Wind in the Willows

What The F!#& Should I Read Friday: Books To Make Your Weekend Weird & Wonderful

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Cover of the first edition, from 1908
Note that it features Pan!

You've probably read The Wind in the Willows already, and if you haven't, you are seriously missing out. It's my choice this week for WTFSIRF for a couple of reasons. One, I love it. Yes, all the characters except the jailer's daughter are male; yes, it's essentially about the moneyed gentry of the Thames Valley and has some rather uncomfortable references to those poorer and less fortunate, complete with awkward lower-class accents and touching of caps; yes, it's another book written by a straight white dude. I'm sorry. It's just that Wind in the Willows is a book from my childhood that articulates a very particular and special feeling of comfort that has nothing to do with social roles or gender and everything to do with the feeling of being a small animal in a snug, beautiful hole - just like my favorite thing about the entire Lord of the Rings cycle is not the adventure but the hobbit-holes. Yes, I'll say it right now: the thing I love best in all of Tolkien is hobbit houses. 

And this is especially relevant this week, because this week's WTFSIRF is a little different. See, while you're reading this, I am en route to an unconnected building site in Northern California where I will be spending nine days learning, in essence, how to make a hobbit house.

Monday, August 13, 2012

So I Wrote This Book...

Totally fake cover. It'll do for now.
Yeah. I wrote this book. Really I did, and I've been basically away from the internetz except for looking for apartments all this past week while I finished it. Which is why there was no What The F!#& Should I Read Friday this week - really, I was editing. Honest. And this morning the 3rd full draft of the book was done. I felt a little wobbly. I mean, I wrote this book kind of by accident, and now it's a huge meaningful part of my life. I've been following lots of writing blogs, and book blogs, and meeting lots of writers, and people who love books, and I've encountered some fabulous people, but there's been this odd thing: I've never thought of myself as a writer. I've always loved books, I mean literally since before I have memories; I learned to read when I was three. But I've never written fiction for fun. Even when I was dreaming of jobs as a kid, while I was busy wanting to be a racehorse jockey (too poor for riding lessons), an architect (all the school sounded boring), and a paleontologist (still not sure why I gave that one up), writer was never on the list. I think I figured out pretty early that nobody would pay you for it? Or I just wasn't that interested? Oh, I started a number of novels, and I wrote some pretty piss-poor erotica, but it was only because I thought I ought to be able to write if I wanted, seeing as I knew all about books from reading them. Because, you know, that's the only thing that qualifies you to be a writer. Which is why I never got past chapter one of anything.

And then last NaNoWriMo came along. I had just started artist modeling seriously at that point, and even though I really wanted to love it (getting paid - well! - to stand around naked getting turned into art? Hell, yeah) I was bored out of my mind. I was literally counting seconds. You think you watched the clock in your high school biology class? Oh, no. You have no idea just how far time can slow down until you're holding perfectly still. It was the second or third three-hour session of an eight-session pose. I thought I might go, y'know, just mildly insane. And then I realized it was November 1st, day one of the challenge. My sister was doing it. My dad was doing it. Why not me?

By the end of that pose, I had a plotline. I went home and started writing. And a book fell out of me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Things In My Cabinet: Sun and Dark

The Sunshine Blogger award. So...sunshiney.
I woke up this morning to a sky full of fog and two unexpected doses of intense sunshine in my inbox. First of all, the delightful A.F.E. Smith of Reflections of Reality nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger award. I have mixed feelings about these awards - they're sort of like chain emails, in that they kinda guilt-trip you into passing them along with the sense of "Well, at least somebody cares about me enough to pass it on, I'm not alone in the world, better make sure I send it to everyone I know!" And then, too, they don't tend to have much in the way of meaningful content (what's your favorite place to vacation? what's your favorite Christmas movie?) That being said, though, this kind of casual blog award is a sweet, unexpected indicator that hey, whoa, somebody out there is actually reading your blog! And likes it! And wants to share it! Which is lovely. And this one is, well, unusually topical.

See, I've been having a rough few weeks. Moving across the country has been much harder than I expected. I left behind a beautiful house full of art that I'd made, a wonderful partner, and a community of kind, creative people to come back to the Bay Area, because despite everything I'd made for myself in Massachusetts I knew it wasn't the right place for me, and I was homesick for fresh fruit and the smell of the jasmine and blue days full of sunlight that weren't soul-witheringly humid. And I thought that here would be the best place to seriously get to work on the Museum of Joy. I'd volunteer at the Exploratorium and learn a million things about how to make and run an amazing museum. I'd have contacts here, and family, a safety net. It would be a hard change, sure, but the right one! I didn't expect to find myself, a month out, walking around on the brink of weeping all the damn time. I didn't expect to find myself swamped so deeply in self-doubt that I'd actually consider moving back to the East Coast. I didn't expect to miss Kevin so viciously. I thought I'd be doing a splendid, adventurous thing, and it doesn't feel that way.

Friday, August 3, 2012

What The F!#& Should I Read Friday: Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon

What The F!#& Should I Read Friday: Book To Make Your Weekend Weird & Wonderful

Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon by Pablo Neruda, trans. Stephen Mitchell

Good morning, wonderful people! I've been in a bit of a blue funk the last few days, so I tried to pick something really extra glorious for this week's read. This collection of poems is as much a cure for discontent and despair as a slug of whiskey, and much, much better for your liver. I mean, even the cover is a joy to look at - designed by one David Bullen, featuring Paul Gaugin's painting Woman With Mango. I don't know about you folks, but I find mangoes to be potent bearers of joy. Eating a good mango is like eating a particularly juicy golden sun, especially on a  dreary morning. It's kind of a dreary morning, and this whole collection is my mango for the day. So...

1. Who the f!#& wrote this book?
2. What the f!#& is it about?
3. Where the f!#& should I read this book?
4. When the f!#& is it set? 
5. Why the f!#& should I read it? 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

This Inquiry Into The Nature Of Joy Is Totally Scientific I Swear

This is the four-mile trail from Sky Camp to
the beach, a hike we refer to as The Death
March - it's even more lovely than it looks.
I want you to talk to me about joy.

I'm not much for "please comment!" or "please share!" but this post is a little different. You see, I'm doing research, and I need your help. I need to know:

What brings you joy?

I've just come down from four days in the shocking beauty that is the Point Reyes National Seashore, and while I was up there, wandering around in the glorious sunlight (watching baby quails fluffing themselves in the dust, ospreys diving for fish, hummingbirds in the sticky monkey flower, bunnies hopping, fawns with big ears staring at me through the underbrush...what joy) I did some thinking. (Like you do when you've finished the only book you've backpacked up with you and there are about eleven hours of daylight left to ponder in.) And one of the things I thought about was - okay, so this Museum of mine. You know, it's really time to get started on that. And I know what I think about joy, but really? I don't know what everyone else thinks. But if I want to really start laying the foundation of a museum dedicated to joyousness, I'm going to need to learn a lot more about joy. So, ladies and germs, it's time to do a survey. It's TOTALLY SCIENTIFIC AND STUFF! by which I mean it's not, even a little bit. It is, however, very simple.

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