Sunday, December 30, 2007

My favorite compliment

"You are the definition of quality."

Thank you.

And you are one of the people I continue to write for.


Freezing in Knoxville Tennessee

Part one of our trip is done, and I'd love to tell more about it but I am quite literally freezing in Knoxville, TN. The hostel itself, simply called the Knoxville Hostel is a quaint little house in a small college town and was our refuge last night from 12+ hours on the road. The manager/owner, who is by far the nicest person I've ever encountered in all of my 24 years (it was so much like talking to an old friend that I never stopped to ask him his name), stayed awake to great us at 2 am in the morning in his wine colored bathrobe, show us where the toast and jam was before letting us know that he would only be charging us 2.50 less a piece than the cost of the room. He hasn't yet charged us and let us know that he'd be off to church in the morning (we're still unsure of when to pay and if we should leave before he returns, but we were much too tired to ask).

To say the place is quaint would be an understatement, thought not derisively. Its more like stopping at the house of a family friend, filled with lived in clutter and books and mail and dirty dishes. The bedrooms in the girls dorm have two plain white frame bunk beds with the plaid sheets that I remember from plenty of college students beds (mine were covered in hot pink lips, thank you very much). With a covered fire place and a mirror above. There were extra many extra blankets and robes maybe left behind from other guests. (They seem to not throw anything away so there are lots of things left over from guests before including a charger so that my cousin could charge her phone.) There seem to be a million things going on in every surface of the place and its the type of environment that one finds which inspires them to place an entire scene in, to invent characters to act and react within the very specific nuances of the space. If I were to write a scene here I would definitely keep him, the manager, as a pivotal point of reference, since he somehow ties this whole place together.

But like I said, its morning now and there seems to be no heat, making taking a shower a horrible prospect. Getting up to blog was sort of a stretch and now my hands are cold and I'm ready to get back on the road. Its late and we should have left by now. When I return, time permitting, I'll post all about the trek through Texas, Arkansas (sorry D, it was an unexpected change and I would have called you had I not left so late), and most of Tennessee.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

My Newest Obsession: Whiskey River

Startlingly beautiful quotes and thats all. Very simple.

"Knowing what will happen in the future, we are faced with a simple choice: either we resolve not to become attached to people and things, or we decide to love them even more fiercely."
- Amélie NothombThe Character of Rain

"The richness of your life comes down to the richness of your thoughts. If you want to have a full and more meaningful life you need to better tend your field of dreams."
-Earl R. Smith

Whiskey River


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blogging Better?

I was lying down for a nap and started to think about the changes to the sight I might like to implement in the new year. I'm not completely committing to any of this yet but I thought I'd post it none the less.

  • Site Design:
    Originally I wanted to change the site design when I first started blogging again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really think up a layout that would suit my personality, the content of the site and would look impressive enough to keep the readers attention. Now I’m feeling a little more inspired I’ve come up with a rough idea of the design and am thinking about the easiest way to implement it, seeing as I’m not a designer and only have a basic knowledge of design software.
  • Domain Name:
    I am still as of now unsure of whether or not I’d like buy the domain name, though it’s something I’d been toying with for quite some time. Though I feel it makes the most sense if I actually redesign the site. I also think that it means that I’m committing to keeping the blog active and should or would like to find ways to generate more of a readership.
  • Commenting:
    Blogs and commenting go together hand in hand but generally I’ve found that my friends/readers don’t offer much feedback (with the exception of one or two), which leads me to wander if I should keep commenting open. Without the option to comment, much like my tumblr, it gives me the freedom to not worry about that aspect of the site for a little while. At least until I get all the kinks ironed out. Its been two years and I still feel like a new blogger.
  • Content, Content, Content:
    Generating more content, keeping the content fresh and interesting, looking at my post that garner the most traffic and figuring out how to make that work. Being personal and yet still being informative, finding the balance. (Editing my content for typos and errors before posting it!)

ps: If you're wondering how I've managed to find so much time to post during the holidays, its become sort of a give and take. I go out hang with the fam, disapear for a half an hour write a bit, head back out hang for a few hours. There has always been something for me about having family near, but having the opportunity to escape into my own little world for a minute that makes the level of interaction and the amount of people I come in contact with more bearable.

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Poetry: What I Like and Don't Like

I worry that with all the new content especially during the holidays, there are plenty of posts that will get lost in the mix. That being said I can't particularly help myself, so bare with me, read and enjoy as much as you can, hopefully you'll catch up once its over. I'd seen this poem on Beatrice back in November, wanted to repost it but didn't want to steal too much of their content even though I have only a few readers and it wouldn't matter much to anyone but me.

Anyway, I came across this poem on their site and was instantly inspired to find out more about the writer, Phlip Shlutz, and the
Writers Studio in New York City, which he founded and where I would like to take classes sometime during the new year. There was a blurb about his poetry and his fiction writing that I found inspiring in the original post and this poem in particular I relate to most of all.

I like to say hello and goodbye.
I like to hug but not shake hands.
I prefer to wave or nod. I enjoy
the company of strangers pushed
together in elevators of subways.
I like talking to cabdrivers
but not receptionists. I like
not knowing what to say.
I like talking to people I know
but care nothing about. I like
inviting anyone anywhere.
I like hearing my opinions
tumble out of my mouth
like toddlers tied together
while crossing the street
trusting they won't be squashed
by fate. I like greeting-card clichés
but not dressing up or down.
I like being appropriate
but not all the time.
I could continue with more examples
but I'd rather give too few
than too many. The thought
of no one listening anymore—
I like that least of all.

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Late Holiday Greetings (my oddest and most liked greeting)

"you have received this, because you are in my life for a
reason...S(anta) does not need to know if you are good or if you are bad...your
"presence" in my life, has been a gift that i could never haveasked forwhat we
have shared, opened, and/or returned, with or without areceipt...doesn't
matter..."presence" is not a material thing...nor is there a return/exchange credit is givenone size does not fit all

but, it is weather-proofit is sustenanceit will quench
your longings and desires..
your presence i am thankful

enjoy the rest of this year, as if it were your
first...because next year will really bring you more understanding

trust me...S(anta) knows
Peace and

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Trip Changes

I had suspected it might happen, but its finally come to fruition...we've made the decision to leave a day later on Saturday instead of Friday which will put us in the thicket of holiday drivers heading home but also give us time to recuperate from the holiday weekend. The time change though not so drastic is taking a bit of a toll on my body, coupled with two overnight flights, its a wonder I can still write a sentence (only barely though). It'll give me the opportunity to spend time with the niece and nephew (and maybe even a friend or two) without feeling like I have to rush away again.

Besides, after having taken a big fall in the shower, I'm not quite looking forward to sitting on my bruised bum for twelve hours and more time to blog incessantly.

Apparently I woke up a few days ago with much more to say than usual, but I hope to keep my friends entertained with little tidbits as I come across them. Enjoy.

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Airplane Sunrise

It was as if someone had taken a wildly orange paint and swiped it across the horizon of the still dark blue sky and the clouds were an ocean rising up to engulf us. There was never anything so beautiful, so tranquil, so fearful and terrible even as the moment the plane tipped its wing drastically and descended into the hazy yellow dream of the clouds. Once we'd come through the other side, daybreak was not even yet noticeable. All the city lights still burned as bright as ever. Yet somehow through some trick of the light (it may have been my window pane or my sleepy imagination taking hold) I thought I detected a rainbow in the cloud.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Great God Brown

"Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and song and laughter?
Why am I afraid to live, I who love life
and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of earth and sea and sky?
Why am I afraid to love, I who love?
Why am I afraid, I who am not afraid?
Why must I pretend to scorn in order to pity?
Why must I hide myself in self-contempt in order to understand?
Why must I be so ashamed of my strength, so proud of my weakness?
Why must I live in a cage like a criminal, defying and hating, I who love peace and friendship?
Why was I born without a skin? Oh God, that I must wear armor in order to touch or be touched."
- Eugene O'Neill


The Wit of the Staircase:

I've been reading back through Theresa Duncan's blog. Its a curious thing her life and her death, and while I won't speculate about the suicide of her and Jeremy Blake (the web is full of too much of that already) I would like to reblog this quote I found:
"Go live, win and lose, smash your hands against hysterical constellations, your head against phases of the moon, and your heart against another heart. Find the leisure to contemplate the results. You will discover the human condition. Foolish people who say that they seek reality don’t know what they are saying. For them, the worldly, when they approach it, they tremble and feel weak, distressed, fearful, terrified and repelled. They reject the truth and turn somewhere else for it, an easier, a softer, lifeless one. Little do they realize that they have been through the door itself, and in error, stupefying ignorance, in that immensity, said nothing is here, and stepped back to dullness. They may be less eloquent and merely realize the words it is painful. I must stop it, and step back."

--John Brzostoski

The blog itself is interesting to read with or without the details we now know.


Merry Christmas to Me

I usually am not to fond of receiving books as gifts, as what usually happens is well intentioned people tend to be well of the mark. For example I have for years received mediocre books by black authors just because people thought based solely on the race of the author, that it was something I might enjoy. I always try to be courteous, grateful, and will usually give the book a go despite any misgivings. I would like to say that you can't judge a book by its cover and that I've been pleasantly surprised, but thats usually not the case.

So when I saw the bookish looking gift under the tree from my future step dad I was instantly nervous. My first thought was, oh no religious book. But apparently you can't judge a book from its wrapping paper because I was pleasantly surprised with Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas. I have to admit, this is the only time I've ever received a book I wanted to read from anyone other than my closest and dearest friends.

Read an excerpt below from the NYT review:
I thought, when he was born, that his eyes would be closed. I didn’t know if he’d be sleeping or screaming, but that his eyes would be closed. They weren’t. They were big, almond shaped and copper — almost like mine. He stared at me. I gave him a knuckle and he gummed it — still staring. He saw everything about me: the chicken pox scar on my forehead, the keloid scar beside it, the absent-minded boozy cigarette burn my father had given me on my stomach. Insults and epithets that had been thrown like bricks out of car windows or spat like poison darts from junior high locker rows. Words and threats, which at the time they’d been uttered, hadn’t seemed to cause me any injury because they’d not been strong enough or because they’d simply missed. But holding him, the long skinny boy with the shock of dark hair and the dusky newborn skin, I realized that I had been hit by all of them and that they still hurt. My boy was silent, but I shushed him anyway — long and soft — and I promised him that I would never let them do to him what had been done to me. He would be safe with me.

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Excerpt from Doris Lessing Nobel Prize Speach

A Hunger For Books. Posted on Guardian:

What has happened to us is an amazing invention - computers and the internet and TV. It is a revolution. This is not the first revolution the human race has dealt with. The printing revolution, which did not take place in a matter of a few decades, but took much longer, transformed our minds and ways of thinking. A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked: "What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?" In the same way, we never thought to ask, "How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?"

Very recently, anyone even mildly educated would respect learning, education and our great store of literature. Of course we all know that when this happy state was with us, people would pretend to read, would pretend respect for learning. But it is on record that working men and women longed for books, evidenced by the founding of working-men's libraries, institutes, and the colleges of the 18th and 19th centuries. Reading, books, used to be part of a general education. Older people, talking to young ones, must understand just how much of an education reading was, because the young ones know so much less.

We all know this sad story. But we do not know the end of it. We think of the old adage, "Reading maketh a full man" - reading makes a woman and a man full of information, of history, of all kinds of knowledge.

Not long ago, a friend in Zimbabwe told me about a village where the people had not eaten for three days, but they were still talking about books and how to get them, about education.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas Baby

Its Christmas Eve and I'm home with my (newish-)family, sitting in front of the computer still wearing my coat (we've been in for an hour now) listening to my mother and my future step-father talk on the phone to her future mother-in-law. As usual I haven't yet adjusted to the Seattle time (three hours behind) and I'm exhausted which isn't meant to be a complaint but a fact of my current state of being. I'm extremely happy to hear my mother in the other room.

Christmas is good. Merry.

(I'm not sure of the likelihood of this post staying up past the holidays.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

One more...

...before I get to work

5Oh7 and I were having a conversation on reading and finding time in to read all the things you want to take on in our hectic overburden with distraction, modern age. She sent me this excerpt and link to a New Yorker article which I greatly enjoyed reading (I do subscribe to the New Yorker in my feed...but who has time):
There's no reason to think that reading and writing are about to become extinct, but some sociologists speculate that reading books for pleasure will one day be the province of a special "reading class," much as it was before the arrival of mass literacy, in the second half of the nineteenth century. They warn that it probably won't regain the prestige of exclusivity; it may just become "an increasingly arcane hobby." Such a shift would change the texture of society. If one person decides to watch "The Sopranos" rather than to read Leonardo Sciascia's novella "To Each His Own," the culture goes on largely as before—both viewer and reader are entertaining themselves while learning something about the Mafia in the bargain. But if, over time, many people choose television over books, then a nation's conversation with itself is likely to change. A reader learns about the world and imagines it differently from the way a viewer does; according to some experimental psychologists, a reader and a viewer even think differently. If the eclipse of reading continues, the alteration is likely to matter in ways that aren't foreseeable.
Thanks, boom.

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No Name In The Streets

I am slowly reading and slowly getting closer to finishing "No Name in the Streets" an autobiographical book by James Baldwin describing the political climates surrounding Malcom's death, King's death, life in the rural south, Paris and the Algerians and life, of course, in Harlem. How I'm finding time to read it in all this holiday hooplah is beyond me, but here I am nearly done. I'm writing about it now because its on my mind to recommend it, and I fear that I won't be done before I'm in Seattle.

The first part of the book title "Take Me to the Water" starts with his life as a child in Harlem among all of his brothers and sisters, which jumps quickly to modern times. It covers his life in Paris, as well as the reasons for making the move which mostly relate to the state of his life in the US dealing with racism and injustice (as well as witnessing these actions done to his fellow man). Witnessing the treatment of Algerians in Paris, as a black american which, at least to me, relates very directly to the treatment of arabs in America today. His thoughts on the rural south and the quiet nobility of the black men he met there. (I know I'm jumping around but its so much that you'd really have to read it for yourself.) His thoughts on the white liberals he encountered at the time. And just various other observations. His astuteness is both at the same time, moving and provocative. It seems as if he judged the world with all the clarity one would wish to have, looking at both himself and his own shortcomings as well as the people that he encountered, always leaving room for where his own prejudices might influence his opinion. I've hardly read a more eloquent writer.

The second part of the book deals largely with the trial of Tony Maynard and the death of Malcolm X, who he was initially afraid of and intimidated by but grew to love and respect. I want to say the parts dealing with the trial read a lot like a murder mystery and yet I feel that its not doing the situation actual justice, because these are real events and this is someone's life. Someone accused of a crime he did not commit, who fled to Germany to escape another wrongful conviction only to find himself arrested and extradited for another crime.

Now of course, I'm at work so this is about all I can put up regarding the book (I would have liked to type up an excerpt or two but there just isn't the time.) What I'm hoping is that you'll find time, make time to read some of Baldwin's work. I had been wanting to read more of his work since I first started his essays in college and have finally felt in my mid-twenties that I can grasp the weight of his genius.

Reading his work makes it all the more clear why I write.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Pose for Kara Walker

When I was in college at the New School I wrote a paper on Kara Walker, the prolific and controversial artist whose work my teacher took me to see at the Brooklyn Museum. I was deeply fascinated by her images then, as I am now and I recently went to see her new show at the Whitney Museum. The woman is a genius.

Now I'm not really posing for Kara Walker, which if you seen her work wouldn't even sound that likely. An old college friend (I stared in her one act play) having seen my new and awesome facebook photo, called me up, and asked if I wanted to pose for her thesis project. And who happens to be on her thesis committee other than Kara Walker. (I tried not to sound like too star struck, but I believe I said something embarrassing to the effect of "So you mean Kara is going to see me in a photo!")

The photographs are likely to be as provocative and polemicized as to be expected. She explained to me that as the only black woman in her program at Columbia she shied away from presenting projects at school with images and artwork dealing with race and sexuality. It was just too much of a hassle to open Pandora's box. Now with her final project ready to make the audience uncomfortable if she has to; to do what needs to be done to express her artistic vision regardless of what her peers may think or feel.

Walker said to my friend, "I expect you to impress me," there is no doubt in my mind that she'll be able to step up to the challenge.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

The Road Trip

One of the highlights of the end of 2007 will most definitely be the roadtrip. Though, originally we'd planned to leave December 28th and make it back into NY around January 1st or 2nd, as of now I think its going to be more of a straight through trip with an overnight stay in Atlanta and Washington D.C. Our goal is to make through the southern states: Louisiana and Mississippi, in one fell swoop. (Which also means we'll be back in NYC for NYE)

D.C. is one of the highlights of the trip simply because I've never spent time not in transit, in the nations capital so its kind of exciting, in that little kid-unfulfilled-dream sort of way. We're also going to try to stop at Dinosaur land (OH MY GOD!) and the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum. We also considered going through Mempis to see Graceland (most likely not) and going to Louisville to see the slugger factory (who knows).

The other highlight of the trip of course, will hopefully be food. The plan is to find as many good restaurants on the map along the way.

I will be taking one million and five pictures along the way, but of course being that I still live in the dark ages and own a computer the size of a small person, that sounds like an air conditioner when its running, most of my updates will be in the form of tweets. We might stop at a few
internet cafés along the way since I start hyperventalating when I haven't checked my email in 24 hours.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Six AM

It is six am in the morning and I've been up for nearly an hour now (despite not having gone to sleep till three-ish) wondering why I can't sleep, posting a picture onto flickr, listening to the Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack (one of my favorite albums of all time), reading through my google reader items, hoping my throat stops aching and finally I decided to post to the blog since its been a while.

The past two weeks have been swallowed by holiday parties, Christmas card preparations, rolling with the homies, making plans for future excursions into distant lands and trying to find time to rest, read and write between all of that. The last month of the year always makes me eager for the year to end, no matter how wonderful it might have been; suddenly I'm counting down the final days so I can get New Years Eve out of the way and get back to living like a normal peron.

I did finish Atonement, which was absolutely my favorite book to have read all year. With the exception of the fact that I found out they were creating a movie staring Keira Knightly which ruined it halfway through, since suddenly I couldn't picture Cecilia as anyone other than her (I'm quite terrified of the film). Beyond that, the book was pure brilliance. (I wanted to write something more interesting about my analysis after having finished reading it, but I was too busy drowning in the usual sea of Jack Daniels.) After I finished it I sat at my new favorite coffee shop staring at the wall for a bit, trying to wrap my hear around what was nothing short of a masterpiece.

I did on a rather good note, finish something that I had been working on for a ridiculously long time. A lot of it was due to the lack of realism with which I undertook the project, and the spirit of perfectionism that nearly bought everything to a complete halt. Its not perfect, but you do what you can the best you can, and hope its enough.

That's All.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Resolutions for Writers

I'm tired, its late, and I've not much to say (it seems that no one really does much on the internet on Sunday anyhow). What I do have, after going through my weekly Sunday evening Google reader clean out is a few things that I found, that I'd like to share or direct you to. From Work in Progress' Suggested Resolutions for Writers.
7. Give yourself a break. Writing is hard. Yes, we all know it’s not like digging ditches…but it’s taxing nevertheless, and it’s hard to keep up morale when your wonderful story has just been rejected by some literary journal intern via a terse, form rejection printed on a scrap of paper the size of a gum wrapper. Don’t constantly beat yourself up for not being good enough/hard-working enough/brilliant enough/lucky enough/connected enough. One of my favorite teachers used to say that for a writer, there is only one question to ask: “Did you write today?” If you did, you’re golden. Doesn’t matter if it’s crap—that’s what revision is for. Just get your words on the page.

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