Prompts for the New Year

Looking for good new year's resolutions? In high school, I had these taped to my closet doors. Some kind of inspiration?



Today, Emily and I drove to Concord. (well, she drove. i sat in the back...) We were depositing our grandfather here, and have now somehow misplaced him. He's around about in his home... and we are wondering where. Dinner later, sleep and back again tomorrow. Tired, back sore, ready for Christmas vacation again.


Christmas Past

So Christmas comes and Christmas goes, and the world the holy child is born to rests, as ever, full of dark so deep that all the Norman bishops in the land with all their candles aren't enough to drive it back an inch.
- from Frederick Buechner's Godric


Christmas Day

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.'
The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: 'This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.'

Luke 2.25-35


fourth tuesday of advent

Come, if you will, on a Friday night,
whether or not I am paying attention.
Break me from my reverie,
rend earth from sea and sea from salt.
Separate the self and shame
showing them two not one,
then name me - the better half -
after yourself, the Son.
Come, if you will, in any form.
Preferably not that of a woman,
lest in my pride I pretend to understand you.
Lion or lamb you have been.
And as man I have loved you
both less and more than I ought -
for love is not an easy word.
Child and criminal the same,
your Spirit a dove and a flame,
water and light and the breath of life,
barefoot, berobed, bejeweled, begot.
Come if you will, appear as you ought -
only stop me in my tracks.
Still the cycle. Break the back of the beast.
Release the wolf from my mind.
Temper the time.
And whether or not it kill me,
show me your face -
swallow me like a seed into your breast
or your belly.
Bury and carry me, embryonic,
with or without rebirth -
only Come.

fourth monday of advent

you gave your body to the lonely


the third friday of advent

An Advent Monologue
by Walter Wangerin Jr.
(I think I posted a segment of this a year or so ago. Here's the whole. If Rev. Wangerin take issue with this posting, I will gladly recall it. If you would like the book it comes from, go here.)

I love a child.
But she is afraid of me.
I want to help this child, so terribly in need of help. For she is hungry; her cheeks are sunken to the bone; but she knows little of food, less of nutrition. I know both these things. She is cold, and she is dirty; she lives at the end of a tattered hallway, three flights up in a tenement whose landlord long forgot the human bodies huddled in that place. But I know how to build a fire; and I know how to wash a face.
She is retarded, if the truth be told, thick in her tongue, slow in her mind, yet aware of her infirmity and embarrassed by it. But here am I, well-traveled throughout the universe, and wise, and willing to share my wisdom.
She is lonely all the day long. She sits in a chair with her back to the door, her knees tucked tight against her breasts, her arms around these, her head down. And I can see how her hair hangs to her ankles; but I cannot see her face. She is hiding. If I could but see her face and kiss it, why I could draw the loneliness out of her.
She sings a sort of song to pass the time, a childish melody, though she is a woman in her body by its shape, a swelling at her belly. She sings, 'Puss, puss.' I know that truth, that she is singing of no cat at all, but of her face, sadly, calling it ugly. And I know the truth, that she is right. But I am mightily persuasive myself, and I could make it lovely by my love alone.
I love the child.
But she is afraid of me.
Then how can I come to her, to feed and to heal her by my love?
Knock on the door? Enter the common way?
No. She holds her breath at a gentle tap, pretending that she is not home; she feels unworthy of polite society. And loud, imperious bangings would only send her into shivering tears, for police and bill collectors have troubled her in the past.
And should I break down the door? Or should I show my face at the window? Oh, what terrors I'd cause then. These have happened before. She's suffered the rapings of kindless men, and therefore she hangs her head, and therefore she sings 'Puss.'
I am none of these, to be sure. But if I came the way that they have come, she would not know me different. She would not receive my love, but might likely die of a failed heart.
I've called from the hall. I've sung her name through cracks in the plaster. But I have a bright trumpet of a voice, and she covers her ears and weeps. She thinks each word an accusation.
I could, of course, ignore the doors and walls and windows, simply appearing before her as I am. I have that capability. But she hasn't the strength to see it and would die. She is, you see, her own deepest hiding place, and fear and death are the truest doors against me.
Then what is left? How can I come to my beloved? Where's the entrance that will not frighten nor kill her? By what door can love arrive after all, truly to nurture her, to take the loneliness away, to make her beautiful, as lovely as my moon at night, my sun come morning?
I know what I will do.
I'll make the woman herself my door - and by her body enter in her life.
Ah. I like that. However could she be afraid of her own flesh, of something lowly underneath her ribs?
I'll be the baby waking in her womb. Hush: she'll have the time, this way, to know my coming first before I come. Hush: time to get ready, to touch her tummy, touching the promise alone, as it were. When she hangs her head, she shall be looking at me, thinking of me, loving me while I gather in the deepest place of her being. It is an excellent plan! Hush.
And then, when I come, my voice shall be so dear to her. It shall call the tenderness out of her soul and loveliness into her face. And when I take milk at her breast, she'll sigh and sing another song, a sweet Magnificat, for she shall feel important then, and worthy, seeing that another life depends on hers. My need shall make her rich!
Then what of her loneliness? Gone. Gone in the bond between us, though I shall not have said a word yet. And for my sake she shall wash her face, for she shall have a reason then.
And the sins that she suffered, the hurts at the hands of men, shall be transfigured by my being: I make good come out of evil; I am the good come out of evil.
I am her Lord, who loves this woman.
And for a while I'll let her mother me. But then I'll grow. And I will take my trumpet voice again, which once would kill her. And I'll take her too, into my arms. And out of that little room, that filthy tenement, I'll bear my mother, my child, alive forever.
I love a child.
But she will not fear me for long, now.
Look! Look, it is almost happening. I am doing a new thing - and don't you perceive it? I am coming among you, a baby.
And my name shall be Emmanuel.



second tuesday of advent

F. B. Meyer, from The Way Into the Holiest

'He shakes all things, that the material, the sensuous, and the temporal may pass away; leaving the essential and eternal to stand out in more than former beauty. But not a grain of pure metal shall be lost in the fires; not a fragment of heaven's masonry shall crumble beneath the shock...'


second sunday of advent

I rode the devil's back - or perhaps he rode on mine.
The trees were hung with arms around
While I held on with vines.
The leaves they fell in fingers,
The grass grew up like teeth,
The shiver from my horror didn't stop the imp beneath.
And as we ran I felt his hand
Dig furrows in my motley skin -
Fishing for worms between the bones,
Fondling my organs till they were all exposed
And sprouting - toadstools, lichen and moss
Making much of my body a great, twisted fungus.
'The horror!' I cried, but it came like a croak -
Something was crawling up from my throat!
A black millipede with uncountable feet -
My eyes rolled like rocks - I choked, hacked,
Spewed, sneezed, puked it out. Please,
I whispered, wake me up from this dream.
I will learn how to live. I will do anything.
The devil turned to smile - he was wearing my lips -
He leaned to my face for a kiss, a caress.
Do you bargain with me? he seethed in my ear.
My market's of souls. I barter with shame
and fear. Do you dare?
You brought yourself here - see, it's me on your back.
Your legs a taxi, a hack for my pleasure
and speed.
Now we're alone here. If you have need of another,
go back (if you can). I will not assist.
I'm no man to play hero,
to lose my majority, to throw the game.
His hands on my innards, his teeth on my face,
At least he spoke true of the fear and the shame.
There was nowhere to go but further on in
Through this jungle of things that I should've been.
I could not cry out for another help home.
I knew no other name but my own -
Queen of Gomorrah, daughter of Sodom,
Babylon whore, Asherah slut, Gomer.

Gomer - Hosea
- Emmanuel -

Running through my own condemnation, he finds me -
Trapped in my half-aborted memory.

Turns my tattered face to his battered face
With the softest command: Look at me.
I am lost there, out of the vines,
Notice neither place or time
As he rebuilds my broken body
With pieces of his own.
Him, the Man Without a Name
Who blows back the devil like a wind.

How did you find me? Rushing as I was.

He laughs a little, his holy pleasure.
I descended once. Now even hell
is within the measure of my glance.

Please, I whisper. Don't wake me from this dream.
I will love only you. I will do anything.

Do you bargain with me
? he smiles in my ear
(now a true ear, no mossy cauliflower).
My market's of souls. I barter with my body -
Which is already, if you haven't noticed, your own.
You've won. I have loved always you.
I have given everything.

My silence surpasses the width of his smile.
It is the rightest thing I've done in a while -
Shut up and let him lift me
Onto his back, nestle my cheek
Between his shoulder blades
And watch the world rush by as he flies from this place -

Father forgive me, for i knew what i did, but i know not what i've done.


first friday of advent

in case you're still wondering what to get someone for Christmas, here's a catalog of gifts guaranteed to be worth your while.


first thursday of advent

my interest in Salvador Dali decreases in leaps and bounds as the years go on. there's only so much crazy i'll allow from an artist before it's just self-indulgence. but i cannot help still loving this painting. perhaps it displays itself like leonard cohen's praise: 'there's a blaze of light in every word / it doesn't matter which you heard / the holy or the broken halleljia.' so be it. here y'are:


the first wednesday of advent

'How Sweet the Name' - John Newton
i include this in my random advent postings, because the last stanza has been playing in my head for several days now. looking forward to the day when my own weak efforts will be blazoned by the sight of him, my unfaithfulness and inconsistency burnt to bits and only this remaining - the unsurpassable greatness of knowing Christ Jesus our Saviour.

how sweet the name of Jesus sounds in a believer's ear!
it soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, and drives away his fear.
it makes the wounded spirit whole
and calms the troubled breast;
'tis manna to the hungry soul, and to the weary, rest.

dear name, the Rock on which i build, my shield and hiding place;
my never failing treasure, filled with boundless stores of grace!
Jesus, my Shepherd, Savior, Friend, my Prophet, Priest and King,
my Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, accept the praise i bring.

weak is the effort of my heart, and cold my warmest thought.
but when i see you as you are, i'll praise you as i ought.
'til then i will your love proclaim with every fleeting breath,
and may the music of your name refresh my soul in death.


the first sunday of advent

'a nation' - czeslaw milosz - 1945

The purest of nations on earth when it's judged by a flash of lightning,
But thoughtless and sly in everyday toil.

Pitiless to its widows and orphans, pitiless to its old people,
Stealing a crust of bread from a child's hand.

Ready to offer their lives to draw Heaven's wrath on their foes,
Smiting their enemy with the screams of orphans and women.

Entrusting power to men with the eyes of traders in gold,
Elevating men with the conscience of brothel-keepers.

The best of its sons remain unknown,
They appear once only, to die on the barricades.

Bitter tears of that people cut a song off in the middle,
And when the song dies away, noisy voices tell jokes.

A shadow stands in a corner, pointing to his heart,
Outside a dog howls to the invisible planet.

Great nation, invincible nation, ironic nation.
They know how to distinguish truth and yet to keep silent.

They camp on marketplaces, conversing in wisecracks,
They deal in old door handles stolen from ruins.

A nation in crumpled caps, carrying all they own,
They go west and south searching for a place to live.

It has no cities, no monuments, no painting or sculpture,
Only the word passed from mouth to mouth and prophecy of poets.

A man of that nation, standing by his son's cradle,
Repeats words of hope, always, till now, in vain.


reflections on a tome

Reading Les Miserables (very slowly), I am fascinated by the Bishop's encounter with the dying revolutionary in the first book. The revolutionary, named only G--, debates the justification of the French Revolution with the uncharacteristically indignant priest:

'Monsieur, forget not this; the French revolution had its reasons. Its wrath will be pardoned by the future; its result is a better world. From its most terrible blows comes a caress for the human race.... Yes, the brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over, this is recognised: that the human race has been harshly treated, but that it has advanced.'

Strange words, looking back. The wrath of the revolution has never been pardoned. We have only condemned it more and more ardently as time has passed - even though we would have condemned the persistence of the monarchy just as vehemently had it not been cut short. The French revolution had its reasons; so did the gulags; so does the Sudanese government. Cruelty often has its reasons. It doesn't matter if the cat is rude; you don't go round burning its tail. It is worse by far when madness takes compassion for its mantra. How do you argue against that? I am glad it is God who must distinguish between the compassion of the individual and the terror of that individual's army - who must distinguish and then mete out justice. I am baffled by it all.


last year i thought about making this and didn't. this year i really am. rock on.

this is also, as far as i can remember, my first self-referential hyperlinked blog post.


thankful for the taste of coffee new each morning
and for clementines and oranges, citrus in each varied form

thankful as my sister sits upon my slumbered feet
thankful as my brother barrels through the sea to me

the clouds lumber bustling barrels across the sky
grace, expanse, and breath, and rain - stupify

(my mother used the word flummoxed in a sentence)
(and chris discusses agave nectar across the table)

big dogs and bad cats - cornucopia hats
apples for candles - bottleneck handles

blankets on my angled bed
bobbypins netting across my head

wind for weather, walls blow down
merry and honesty rebuild the town

thankful for pages for binding and books
for worlds that remind me how he looks

when he offers saving grace with his eyes
love with his smiles, patience with sighs

in this world it comes in the clouds and the rain,
the bad cats, big dogs, and citrus the same

love in measurable things, in weights and in flavors
the tangible kisses of the concrete saviour



I need to work on capitalizing in my blog posts. When and why this started to slip, I don't know. But I correlate the disappearance of capitalization with an increasing self-consciousness about my own words. A sort of 'please don't take this seriously or hold me accountable for my words' approach to blogging. Rather like my actual speech - when I start thinking that I'm not saying anything important or interesting, or if I think my words might be easily contested or disapproved of, I let them mumble away into silence. Let's not do that here.

I know I'm always hyperlinking over to firstthings, which is silly since anyone actually interested in their articles would just read them regularly all by themselves. But yesterday, Reno was discussing this British band Show of Hands and he said something that seemed to clarify what I was frustrated about in previous post. (Removing random articles is not the same as uncapitalizing. It's more cute than careless. At least, that's my contention.)

He writes this about the direction of their lyrics: 'The minor premise is implied: England now encourages cultural forgetfulness rather than memory.' And that's just what irks me about our time. Intentional forgetfulness. We look back at the past and see only the mistakes of our parents and ancestors and nations and churches. And we condemn the whole of history for what we perceive as unredeemable error - then have the audacity to assume we can do better! Audacity is just another way of saying 'boldfaced arrogance' and there's nothing hopeful in it. I've never once seen arrogance produce anything beautiful or true. Arrogance and ignorance about the past has, as far as I can see, never produced any kind of wisdom.

It is another symptom (or is it the cause?) of our youth-centered society. We think of old age as a shame rather than a glory, and old age gets younger every year! despite our desperate attempts to cheat death with more and more years. This seems directly related to our contempt for our grandparents' ethics, our great-grandparents' traditions, our great-great-grandparents' faith. Nothing old can stay. We have forgotten that the test of time is the most reliable of all filters - because we are impatient - because it is an old test - because we are audacious. and foolish.


i figure, if i don't check this for several months, i can spend a nice chunk of time reading nothing but its sweet, cynical pages without the inconvenience of realizing 'i read this already. why doesn't he post more? grr...' yes, 'grr' can be a realization, too. anyway, i am interested in the bit about white people in harlem objecting to the churches. the anti-religious tendencies of our po-po-mo america (that should be a new word. popomo. 'we get there fast and then we take it slow...' ahem... anyway) are really getting to me. i'm not offended or surprised. it just seems like someone, somewhere would recognize that it's just not very smart. maybe it's because my faith has always been so deeply entrenched in the process of enlightenment (not the 18th century kind), transcendence, exploration, mystery and revelation, inquiry, discovery, translation. there's nothing impulsive about it, nothing irrational - though much beyond explanation - and there's so much that's irrational about this present season. more than irrational. mob-driven, frenzied, hateful. it seems stupid to me. and i hesitate to call important things stupid. my cat or a song might be stupid, but a social emergence? a cultural movement? not usually. there's just so little actual consideration and conversation going on here and so much mania.

speaking of mania, i spent the afternoon watching this, and i must apologize for previous post suggesting there could be some casting improvement. thank you, deb, jen, and mary. i am humbled. i also wish that rob pattinson was not famous. for his own sake as well as for mine. i wish he was a tweed-wearing theatre kid at some dinky college somewhere being brilliant and making fork towers in the dining hall. i would want to be his friend. we would joke about being famous someday and be relieved when fame didn't find us. such is not life.


'Have no fear of robbers or murderers. Such dangers are without, and are but petty. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murderers. The great dangers are within us. What matters it what threatens our heads or our purses. Let us think only of what threatens our souls.'

- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables


better edwards

To begin with, I should clarify that I rather like Rob Pattinson. He seems like a good actor - from the little one can tell in Harry Potter - and I cringe inwardly at the simultaneous fandom and hatedom he receives from Twilight. There are two camps, and people tend to shift back and forth between them. The first is relatively predictable: he's the newest hottie, and everyone wants a poster of him on their bedroom wall (their are thousands available in various newspapers and magazines distributed over the course of the last week, so this is easy to accomplish). Cringe. The second is like it: he is NOT hot, not like Edward, not in the least, what are they thinking, he looks creepy not dangerous, he's supposed to be like a god, what are they thinking. Cringe. Poor fellow.

Here are some alternative casting options. Too late, I know, but we all love airing our opinions regardless (and be sure to check out the photos before you assume):

Jensen Ackles

Ben Barnes

Lee Pace


i really need to stop posting other people's posts of other people's posts, but in this case, i just can't help it. i laughed.



Think of it as a symptom rather than a cause. The euthanasia movement reflects a profound nihilism that has been spreading like a cancer throughout the West for the past hundred years.
The extent of our societal illness was described succinctly several years ago by the Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne. Writing in the wake of widespread public support for Robert Latimer, a Saskatchewan farmer who murdered his twelve-year-old daughter Tracy because she was disabled by cerebral palsy, Coyne wrote: “A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.”

-Wesley Smith, First Things


i let other people do my thinking

studying marxist literary theory in a classroom in scotland has little to do with understanding the workings of a socialist society, especially one that exists solely in the minds of the riled and disgruntled masses who have been raised so closely to the fat and mead of capitalism that they cannot tell where the good and the bad really come from. (long sentence with hazy meaning, i know.) so i like it when other people talk about it realistically and thoughtfully. it's refreshing.
to whom it concerns,

i'm so small and square and awkward
i have never once considered telling you what i think
or h0w i feel
in my mind there is no room for wondering
over your response
what is worse
i know you'll never read this
even though every post
is a post-it sized hope
for your distant attention.

remember the dream
with you at the top of the stairs
or the one where you dove
and washed me over with the wave
of your weight against the water?

please note, this is no poem
but prose with a twitching return
my insecurities.

i wonder what i would write
without wishing you for my reader
knowing i would never
dare to ask for your attention
let alone affection.

my imagination
is just not that elaborate.


the crazies are slowly starting to sound more credible to my tired ears.

home in the heather: a song, set in scotland

i've wandered and wandered far over the bens
and wandered still further through cavernous glens
because i was told with enough fortitude
that you would find me
or i might find you.
but i've waded through rivers and drunk from the ponds,
i've hunted with wolves and i've sifted through loam
for my food and my bed -
and then came the rain, that soaked me right through
till the sun blazed again.
once my skin shone as pale as a moon or a rose -
now i'm burnt to the marrow, i am red to the bone.
and all for a promise i could not achieve,
you'd no power to keep, they'd no right to give.
these twenty-five years of growing steadily wild,
i know i should've spent some as a child,
but i had no borders, no frame to stand in -
no walls to define - no skin determined.
now i hide and i hedge. i shift and i skulk.
when hungry, i forage. when tired, i drop
right where i am.

take this heather off,
this heather off of my lap.
i'm tired of trying to find a softer way through the wilderness.
take this heather off,
this heather off of my lap.
i'm tired of trying to find a softer way through the wilderness.
oh, all of my loneliness is just waiting for you.
all of my waiting's merely loneliness
without you.



Funny how every time I go to my blog, I'm disappointed to see it's not updated. Like there are two of me, one who is a blogger and one who is a browser. I feel your frustration, schizophrenically.

At the moment, I am sitting in comfy my-morning-is-free attire eating oatmeal (the yummy flavored kind from a package) and drinking coffee from one of Mom's William-Sonoma mugs. They are beautiful mugs. They make coffee taste better - no joke.

And I am browsing through Greek recipes, trying to figure out what to make for dinner tonight. I am cooking for friends. Haven't done this in quite a while.

And I am listening to Greg Laswell, because it's hard to get tired of him. He makes for good morning music. Especially late-in-the-morning, I'm-up-but-still-considering music.

And I really was going to say something significant in this here blog post. Maybe next time.

Oh yes! I remember. Very significant. I carved a pumpkin last night, and let me tell you about genius!! I have found my calling. My gift. So we went to Disneyland the other night 'cause I needed to get an annual pass and, more importantly, my Mom had to check out the brick with her name on it in the entrance. A student (and his parents, obviously) bought it for her last year on her birthday. It just takes about six months for it to actually show up in the ground. So we took a picture of the brick, ate dinner at Cafe Orleans, and took a tour of the Haunted Mansion. Every time I see it all zany and spruced up for the Hallo-Christmas season, it's like a brand new experience. If you are even slightly interested in The Nightmare Before Christmas, you have to check it out. They've been doing it for years, but this was the first time I'd gone right before Halloween. Mom and I immediately determined that we had to carve pumpkins the next night in the exact faces that were decorating the hill on the way in. I changed my mind slightly as I held the carving knife last night. Jack Skellington now sits, in perfect pumpkin form, in my dining room window. Disneyland should so hire me. I had no idea.

Picture (hopefully) to follow.


pretty pictures

i guess i figured we hadn't had any pictures lately. no context for this one, but if you like it, find more here:



I haven't really posted much lately about my actual life, and it seems overdue. Very overdue.

I have already mentioned how I took the GRE last Saturday. I followed that up with an evening of book-snagging at the SCIBA Author's Feast. I was hungry, sore, and bone-tired by the end of it. But I did meet a lot of good writers, including the elusive Pseunonymous Bosch, the hilarious Dean Lorey, and the dignified, worldly-wise David Benioff. Oh yes, and Dean Koontz. It was good stuff.

The next morning, I drove to Carmel. Didn't get there till the afternoon, of course, especially since I slept in a bit. My brother had called in the middle of the night, so I still didn't get more than six hours of sleep. With only five hours of sleep the night before, this was becoming a problem. I drove safely, however, and made it just in time to dig Kathy out of the sand and bury Chaeli in her place. I was there for about eighteen hours and slept about five. It was beautiful and cold and cozy and healthy and good. Drove back and barely made it into work at five o'clock.

The next day, I wrecked my car. Driving near ninety on the 101 didn't do it - scooting through 7th on Redondo did. I will not tell you all my feelings about Long Beach drivers and Long Beach roads. Suffice it to say, it's enough to make me want to move. Far away, where the roads are wide and speed limits are reasonably set to 50. So now I'm driving Amanda's red farmer truck. I haven't told her yet. Perhaps she is checking my blog in Guatemala - I should really email her first.

The next day, I had tickets for a boat to Catalina and back where I was booked to read stories to a group of preschoolers. Emily gracefully drove out to join me - it would have been a hot and lonely day without her. I arrived at the dock without my tickets. They were left on the seat of the van that dropped us off. I told myself, 'that's it! not one more stupid thing ever! not one!!' Here's the irony: I'm reading these kids these Halloween stories, and there's one that I've set to music - because that's some stupid requirement for reading to preschoolers, song and dance routines that make you feel like a tool - and I tell them this song is to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And it's not - it's I'm a Little Teapot. I don't realize I said this till several hours later, of course, when I'm vaguely running through the morning in my head and I realize that Teapots and Twinkle Stars are not in the same melodic family.

So in this week alone, I have wrecked my car and thrown fifty dollar tickets away to my stupidity. And what is it that makes me cringe with inward embarrassment for the next 24 hours? The fact that I said the wrong song title without realizing it, and none of the preschool teachers corrected me. I have, apparently, gotten over the worry and stupidity of my other acts - what remains is the shame of this trivial thing. So are we caught up in our own appearances that a freckle will topple our dignity, while an error of judgment we freely justify. For shame.


After the GRE

So I took the GRE subject test in English Literature this Saturday. Found my way to USC alright, got lost on campus, walked in ten minutes late, remembered that this is California - even the GRE starts half an hour after the posted time to accommodate our laxity - and proceeded to prove my literary worth after ZERO hours of study. Read a wide, self-satisfied grin right here.

Actually, that's not exactly true. Tara and I read two or three poems on the floor of my bedroom a few days before. One of them is posted below, and was not remotely helpful - only personally inspiring. The other one was featured on question 23, or thereabouts. I know, I know - I'm not supposed to reveal the contents of the exam to a single soul. Like they're really going to rehash that one with that very number and everything. Whatever.

Anyway, what I really should have done was asked Tara to write out little blurbs for each big-name in literary theory. Something catchy and rememberable. That would have been a good idea. As it was, I didn't think of it at all, and she thought of it only several days after the fact. Anyone interested in a thorough overview of the major theoretical bastions should absolutely check out her blog post here. Anyone not remotely interested, anyone with contempt or carelessness or frustration or tearful confusion regarding literary theory should check out her blog post here. (hint: it's the same thing.) Have fun.


For this one, Babs, try Panilonco from Trader Joe's

Love among the Ruins
by Robert Browning

Where the quiet-coloured end of evening smiles,
Miles and miles
On the solitary pastures where our sheep
Tinkle homeward through the twilight, stray or stop
As they crop―
Was the site once of a city great and gay,
(So they say)
Of our country’s very capital, its prince
Ages since
Held his court in, gathered councils, wielding far
Peace or war.
Now,―the country does not even boast a tree,
As you see,
To distinguish slopes of verdure, certain rills
From the hills
Intersect and give a name to, (else they run
Into one)
Where the domed and daring palace shot its spires
Up like fires
O’er the hundred-gated circuit of a wall
Bounding all,
Made of marble, men might march on nor be pressed,
Twelve abreast.
And such plenty and perfection, see, of grass
Never was!
Such a carpet as, this summer time, o’erspreads
And embeds
Every vestige of the city, guessed alone,
Stock or stone―
Where a multitude of men breathed joy and woe
Long ago;
Lust of glory pricked their hearts up, dread of shame
Struck them tame;
And that glory and that shame alike, the gold
Bought and sold.
Now,―the single little turret that remains
On the plains,
By the caper overrooted, by the gourd
While the patching houseleek’s head of blossom winks
Through the chinks―
Marks the basement whence a tower in ancient time
Sprang sublime,
And a burning ring, all round, the chariots traced
As they raced,
And the monarch and his minions and his dames
Viewed the games.
And I know, while thus the quiet-coloured eve
Smiles to leave
To their folding, all our many-tinkling fleece
In such peace,
And the slopes and rills in undistinguished grey
Melt away―
That a girl with eager eyes and yellow hair
Waits me there
In the turret whence the charioteers caught soul
For the goal,
When the king looked, where she looks now, breathless, dumb
Till I come.
But he looked upon the city, every side,
Far and wide,
All the mountains topped with temples, all the glades’
All the causeys, bridges, aqueducts,―and then,
All the men!
When I do come, she will speak not, she will stand,
Either hand
On my shoulder, give her eyes the first embrace
Of my face,
Ere we rush, ere we extinguish sight and speech
Each on each.
In one year they sent a million fighters forth
South and North,
And they built their gods a brazen pillar high
As the sky,
Yet reserved a thousand chariots in full force―
Gold, of course.
Oh heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!
Earth’s returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!
Love is best!


sunset from long beach

watching the clouds across the sky soak up the spectrum of the setting sun,
i cannot agree with you, milosz, that words have anything to do with these things.
enough with naming. the clouds confound my vocabulary, dancing as they do
in twos and threes toward the hills. the peninsula appears like a volcano
denying itself, all things being sucked into its peak as quiet fire and smoke,
a happily repentant pandora's box. i want no lover here on the beach
to admire the scene with me. i want a gaggle of children, wide eyed and open mouthed.
they would not distract but understand. they would see the panther and giraffe,
the distant dragon lit with its own breath, tongues of fire, a beautiful woman, and at last
a flock of giant storks, weaving and wending their way into the mouth of the mountain.

i went to the beach to cry a little (or a lot), being unnaturally tired - nothing more.
but this was more than me by far, and i forgot to tear until beneath the panoply above
i saw two kayaks swimming home. then my face crumpled for the simplicity of the scene
and the sudden awareness that someone else knew this sunset even better than me,
not observing, but partaking in its beauty. at the last moment, when i thought
perhaps i had seen it all, the wings of the birds lit with a last intense and fiery glow -
a parting bow to we little ones below. the cranes of the port look like toys in the distance
and all this urban business seems so remarkably small. i know, i know. i said no words would do,
and here i write a poem not half as good as you.
I have figured out why we grow palm trees at the beach. Because their narrow trunks and lack of low branches don't block the view! I am so clever...


It's about time...

Up before the crack of dawn to well-wish away my marathon-bikers, I follow these activities with hot chocolate and a curl-up in my dad's recliner. My cat is mad at me for a variety of reasons, namely for pinning her against the wall with the back of the hall door after she clawed up the oriental rug by the front door. So we are not on good terms at the moment. I am hoping she will forget both her misdeeds and mine - mine are so many more, and she is so well aware of them. Perhaps it is my hypocrisy that keeps her clawing up the rug. They learn by our example.

Should I tell you what I'm reading? That seems to be the theme of this blog. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I am not sure how well I'll do with finishing it. It's good, but it's more in the style of Pynchon than O'Connor, and I don't know how I'd do with Pynchon without a deadline. That's not true. Gravity's Rainbow has been sitting on my dresser for weeks, unopened, unread. There you go.

I have a goal today. It is a good goal. My goal is to remove myself from the stupor. To do one or two significant things that are healthy and productive and proactive and useful for the people and relevant to my dreams. That probably means something like writing one good paragraph or baking cranberry oatmeal white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Actually, that's exactly what it means. I should bring them to work tomorrow. Seal the love.



out in the darkness a lighthouse flashes on the point.
my heart goes out to it, battering toward it against my ribs
like a startled bat.
the lighthouse, my lover, all things indistinguishable.

i hover three inches over the earth,
all things refracted through my distraction
seem surreal, unreal, being temporal.
not that i grow any nearer heaven,
only further withdrawn
into my own imagination,
now tired from lack of fruition.

all things favored or feared,
otherwise unacknowledged:
the yellow mug, the severed limb,
and the myriad of faces i religiously forget -
these categories rule me.

while under it all (or over,
or choose your position, your preposition)
this strange flotation
making a mockery of my material -
calling out from the earth like a mythic beast,
teasing me with alternating delight and perturbation -
should i enter a monastery or an institution?
is this mysticism or delusion?

(incidentally, i still sin like a Gomer,
laugh with my mother, grow tired and hungry,
forget the hour, cosset my pet,
leave my clothes on the floor, open the window,
double-check the back door, email, forget to call,
let my tea grow cold, feed the fish,
forget the fish, leave the milk in the bowl -
oh yes, and i try to impress the straight guy at work,
that one, while avoiding eye contact in the most awkward
and obvious way.)

then, on the edge of sleep,
dreaming or not dreaming
out in the darkness
a lighthouse flashes
my heart crashes
beating my ribs with its wings.
i choke on its violence
i float three inches over the earth
all things forgotten.


window in the sub

Dear Nathaniel,

I am microwaving pie that Mom bought up in Oak Glen this week on her way home from the orthodontist. As I put it in the microwave, I was full of sadness that I was not in Oak Glen with her. Why did I not go? I was working. I want to see the trees turn. I want to wander slowly through autumnal gift shops. Under the water, you cannot sense the approach of the seasons. Even here it is difficult because, after all, it's California. But I can still sense it. After three seasons in Illinois and one in Scotland, it must be with me for good. Or at least for a while. Because I am all abuzz with eagerness for fall and winter, for turkeys and dried leaves and Santa. I should start cooking again this fall. Fall foods are my favorite. Baked squash dripping with melted butter and brown sugar, pumpkin soup... this year, if I have enough money, I will put together a holiday dinner for my friends. And we will drink Scandinavian mulled wine, which is the most wonderful thing I have ever tasted. But it's really expensive to make from absolute scratch. A million ingredients. And no, I will NOT go to IKEA for a cheap substitute!

Mike has gotten over her flea problem, it seems. Well, not entirely. She still won't go in my room, where the fleas took up happiest of residence in my sheep skin rug. But she was lying on the floor in the living room yesterday, and that is a big deal. I am assuming we told you she has fleas. The doctor gave her this magical oil that gets dripped on her neck and then seeps back up through all her oil glands and kills the fleas off on contact! Very sneaky. But there are still bazillions of them in the carpet, and she has been fearful of the floor ever since. Imagine being afraid of the floor. It makes life very difficult for her. Last night, she almost tried to walk from the recliner (I let her up there because of the fear) to the window sill by walking on the arm of the couch. Which, as you know, is absurdly narrow, being made of rattan or whatever that is. Eventually she gave up and braved the floor for a meerest second. She doesn't mind uncarpeted floors, of course, so she'll travel from the kitchen to mom and dad's room (which IS carpeted, but which has been vacuumed the most due to Mom's paranoia - she feels fleas everywhere - that Mike got over that room first of all) via the bottom of the bookshelf. This might make more sense if you were a little more familiar with the placement of furniture in the house...


Amanda flew off to Guatemala last week. I drove her to the airport before five in the morning, then came straight home and slept through most of the rest of the day before going to work at four and being grumpy till we left sometime after midnight - despite all my napping. It was good to drive her to the airport, though. I felt it was the only really good time I spent with her the whole week she was here. Not entirely... we went to my favorite coffeeshop, Portfolio, and had a feast of delightful foods and she studied Spanish and I wrote the beginnings of a story in my new red journal. But the rest of the time she was here, I was mostly working or in a grumpy mood. These moods must stop. They must have no hold over me!

While I am typing, my apple pie and coffee are getting cold. You are worth it, of course.

It is a hazy day. I can see the islands and some trawlers off the coast (I don't think they're really trawlers. I don't know what trawlers are, but I like the word.) but the sky is grey and the sun has little purchase on the landscape. There is a guy in the front yard laying sod. It's about time - we've had nothing but dirt for over a month. I am pretending that he cannot see me in my nappy hair and bathrobe, staring right back at him. He probably can't see much of me... I hope.

I love you and wish you were here. I really think of you so often lately. I am very glad I have a brother. And I am glad it's you.


note on the text: if any of my readers begin to think themselves superior and exclusive for having such an intimate view of my personal correspondence, temper yourselves with this knowledge: this is an edited version of the original, available only to my brother's eyes and the eyes of whatever people back in Washington are responsible for filtering submariners' email. so there.


It's not the planes I love. It's the hangar.


today i am blogging about emily.

mb: so, emily, what do you want to tell the blogworld?

emily: they should all come and help me paint my house.

mb: you have a house? tell me about your house!

emily: it's a darling little bluish grey three bedroom two bath with hardwood floors and a yard.

mb: how long have you lived there?

emily: two! whole! weeks!

mb: how are your cats adjusting to the change?

emily: they're a little crazy, but they always were!

mb: what is one major decorative change you will make to your new abode?

emily: well, we already painted the kitchen a nice alpaca color, which isn't too major... (interrupted by beep from the oven signifying the end of the scones' ...never mind. they need another minute) and we'll be painting most of the other rooms as well. other than that, it's just small things here and there.

mb: where do you find your greatest inspiration?

emily: pottery barn. no, i'm kidding. my greatest inspiration for what? what are you putting. everything i just said.

mb: your greatest inspiration for anything. whatever inspires you to be you!!

emily: target. lately.

mb: from where do you derive your energy and ...shtuff.

emily: i drink lots of coffee in the mornings. and my husband and my kitties......
(clarification: she is not implying that she drinks husband and kitties. transcription confuses things obvious in conversation.)

this is a very boring interview. i would like to further clarify that emily is the opposite of a boring person. there you go.


Book of the Week: The Hunger Games

If Cynthia Voigt had written science fiction, it probably would have looked something like The Hunger Games. In Suzanne Collins's newest novel, we meet a protagonist who seems remarkably familiar. Like Voigt's heroines, we understand her story because she seems so much like ourselves - no matter how strenuous or bizarre the circumstances, we feel certain our story would be the same. We, too, would have those resources, that practicality, that certain sensitivity that separates us from the masses. I don't say this critically - it is the book's strongest feature that it identifies with every one of its readers and says 'this could be your story.'

It is not just its portrayal of Katniss Everdeen, the novel's heroine, that is familiar. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic North American nation, Panem. It is a country held together by fear - a fear instilled by the capitol into each of its twelve districts and maintained by a yearly event called the Hunger Games. Each year, one boy and one girl are randomly selected from each of the districts to be thrown into a large 'arena' for a fight-to-the-death. If the Roman Colosseum met the show Survivor, this is what you'd get. And this is precisely what seems so eerily familiar about this book. Despite the fact that it's clearly a futuristic novel, the story has all the rusty barbarism of something very old. Except for the cameras and plastic surgery and hovercrafts, this could almost be historical fiction. It is not only a strange mixture of what was and what could be, it is remarkably relevant for today's paparazzi-culture. The contestants in the Hunger Games are the only examples of celebrities in this imaginative culture - and they are made famous for killing or being killed. Think of a reality TV show gone horribly awry.

But in case you think you'll be plodding through another Fahrenheit 451 or 1984 or some other work of social-criticism-thinly-veiled-as-science-fiction, think again. It's an adventure story - a story about loyalty and fashion and eating roots and shooting arrows and trying to decide between two very eligible young men. There are explosions and kisses, genetically-altered bees and numerous near-death experiences. You will not want to put this one down. Which is actually a problem, because this book is the first in a series. You might be tempted to write Suzanne Collins a thank-you letter, but please think again. Let's not interrupt her while she's working on book two. The sooner it's out, the better.


Book of the Week

I am very good at having favorites. Every week during storytime, I tell the kids: 'this is one of my favorites!' and then inwardly roll my eyes. They are all 'my favorites'. But there are a few that really are. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, for example. Or Lewis's Till We Have Faces. I could read these books twenty times over and still feel that they are new to me. Among my true favorites, there are few picture books. Not because I am a snob about chapters, but it's difficult for me to put picture books in the same category as chapter books to begin with - and then to compare them? It just seems awkward.
But let me tell you about The Rough-Faced Girl. If I can. The little blurb on the inside flap calls it a Cinderella story, and I suppose it is that. More than suppose - there's a girl who sits by the cinders, who is mocked by her two proud sisters, who is chosen by the 'prince' instead of them, who is rescued from penury and obscurity by his love. So it's a Cinderella story. It's also a reminder that the Cinderella story is universal precisely because it is the human story. When reading The Rough-Faced Girl, you know yourself to be the mocked and scarred daughter, lost among the ashes. And you know yourself to be the proud sisters, arrogantly assuming the love of the Invisible Being without ever having seen his face - never having sought it! But you know, and you hope. And hope is not an inclination or even a determination, but a faith. And so, again, you are the rough-faced girl.
Reading The Rough-Faced Girl is rather like reading the verses from the book of Hebrews that tell you to approach the throne of grace with confidence. Confidently vulnerable, having seen his face.
I was surprised, picking it up just now, to see that David Shannon did the illustrations. I just read How I Became a Pirate an hour ago for storytime (I love saying 'scurvy dog'), and I cannot imagine less-related images than Braid Beard's motley crew and the powerful illustrations of this Algonquin legend. Kudos, Mr. Shannon. Three cheers and a bottle of brandy. Anyway, read the book. And buy it. And give it to everyone for Christmas.


First I read this by Walter Ong:

In contending with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Derrida is of course quite right in rejecting the persuasion that writing is no more than incidental to the spoken word. But to try to construct a logic of writing without investigation in depth of the orality out of which writing emerged and in which writing is permanently and ineluctably grounded is to limit one's understanding, although it does produce at the same time effects that are brilliantly intriguing but also at time psychedelic, that is, due to sensory distortions....

then I pick up The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and read this:

Nervousness seeps into terror as I anticipate what is to come. I could be dead, flat-out dead, in an hour. Not even. My fingers obsessively trace the hard little lump on my forearm where the woman injected the tracking device. I press on it, even though it hurts, I press on it so hard a small bruise begins to form....

This is my dilemma.


in case you didn't get enough.

Eve, or september 12th.

i know it's a shame,
the proportion of the pain,
but there's one thing i can do
on this day that has both name
and gain.

i can take this bitten body
warm between my two palms,
and cleaning house from top to bottom,
give her balm.

what's one more mourner or less
on this day of second deaths,
and what has my grief got to do
with the towers and the rest?
i have not lost a soul,
just the trust of this small thing
warm and shaking, claw and purring
from the pain -
not from the trains
or the rains
or the memories of mayhem one september -

this twelfth, all i see
is the calm misery
pouring out of these two animal eyes
as she twitches and whines
with hives and parasites
between my palms.

good grief knows when to weep
over one thing at a time.


I have a love affair with windmills.


p.s. i am so beyond over this layout. if anyone feels like helping me pimp my page to better reflect its content, please tell me how to outdo blogger's paltry template selection. my internetal creativity is nonexistent.


mom: 'all these halloween ideas. more different ways to make a bug out of food...'


remember when i reached for paper? this was why...

watch me bust at the seams
to offer you praise
and if my dance seems epileptic,
know my heart is full of grace,
full of grace.

my sparkles are gangley and gauche
cheap cheesy kitsch and unholy
but holy's your business -
it's you drawing breath from my lungs.

in this near particular, all I can give
is a song that will break all your crystal
will rise to the rafters and ruffle the wings of the owls.

and everyone watching cries
what a shame!
that such music should come from one
so overweight
that these notes make their way through
my messes of hair
or emerge from between these
crooked teeth.

they'll wonder in silence
because they are decent
enough not to announce it
in front of themselves
(let alone their neighbors):
how could He be quite pleased
how the Lord be satisfied
or the man with the microphone brazen to try

to ignore all our eyes
and the skin he stands in
thick in the way of the aria
fit for a king -

such contradiction
of praise and praiser

oh, we all have our highs
we all have our lows.
we carry our growths
on the sides of our faces
and maybe they know
and maybe they don't
but we all limp and shudder
we tramp and we hulk.

and the bones that aren't broken
they still quake like we're choking
the voice that we sing with
fits us like an epileptic. look full on my face
bless the place where I stand
and draw one last note
out of my throat
to hold in your enormous hand.


still working, reading, and sleeping. in that order and with little reprieve. be back soon.


the inevitable twilight

I suppose I always knew it would happen. I work books, after all, and these things are the hottest things going. Of course, that reasoning hasn't made me pick up A New Earth or The Last Lecture, or even Stori Telling - but it does have some sway with my choices. Some. A little. Okay, the real reason I picked up Twilight the other day and started reading it in earnest (I am done now and moving on to the next book after work) was because I was talking to Chaeli on the phone while cruising up the 405 (Jenny B was at the wheel - no law-breaking for me), and Chaeli said: 'You have to read them. It is so good for people to be reading these books right now.' So I thought, 'Alright already. If they're culturally relevant, I'll read them.'

Let me clarify, I did not avoid these books because I thought they'd be stupid. I'd read the first few pages and knew the writing wasn't bad. And I was 100% certain I would enjoy them. That was half the problem. They are romance novels. Teen romance, at that. And I have been trying very hard to be grown-up about my emotions and ideals.

But a culturally relevant novel is very different from a teen romance novel. A culturally relevant novel is very different from a popular novel (I can see my flatmates scowling at me). And so I read Twilight from beginning to end in less than three days. I know, I could have finished it in one, but I had to work some of the time.

Just as I predicted, the writing was harmless, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I fully intend to purchase an 'I Heart Edward Cullen' t-shirt - mostly for the irony, but also because it is completely and utterly, ridiculously, marvelously true. Like a girl can help it. He is a nearly perfect being. And it is not just his appearance that is flawless. Muscles and shimmery skin are, like, whatever. It's more than that.

And that's just where I got Chaeli wrong. She wasn't saying it was culturally relevant. She was saying it's important for people. Because in the most simple language, and in the most unintentional way, this book is about unconditional love: agape. I closed this book, not with fantasies of demigod vampires spinning around my head, but with a renewed, impassioned love for Jesus. Edward Cullen (and you may quote me) is like Jesus. He is beautiful as the angel of the Lord, more human than those around him - not less - as C. S. Lewis's heaven-dwellers in The Great Divorce. He knows the hearts and minds of all around him - and yet few ever acknowledge him. Most of all, he loves a completely ordinary, unsuspecting girl. And his love makes her extraordinary, unique, and worth a heck of a lot of trouble. He calls her by name. He listens to her every word, whether the news is new or not, as though it is the most important thing for him to do at that moment. He loves her not for her appearance (he often admires her in her muckiest, bruised, or groggy states), but for something essential to her being. Yes, yes, her blood - this is, after all, a vampire story. But is that not also like Jesus? He loves us for the very things that make us human.

I could go on for a good long while, but I don't want you to think I picked this novel apart with all the force of my Christianese, desperately trying to fit it into a formulaic gospel-box. I was not looking for Jesus in the pages of Twilight. I have also not read the next three books - for all I know (though I strongly doubt it), Mr. Cullen could completely destroy my epiphany in the first chapter of New Moon. I just wanted to say that when I put down the book, I saw Jesus staring down at me from the cross with the most intense concentration - seeing me, and desiring my intimacy to such an extent that he would sneak himself onto the boards of my execution (it was very sneaky - my demons had no idea till it was too late). Even then, stretching my pain between his hands, he looked down at me - holding a silly teen book in my two hands - and he called me by name. And he said, 'I would do it again. I would go to hell and come back again.' He saved my life.

I have a feeling I would fall in love with any man who saved my life. Certainly with one who died to keep me alive. So far, Jesus is the only one who's done it. I know Edward Cullen is a fictional vampire. I am not waiting even half a second for him to come knocking on my door. But I am stunned to silence and tears with love for one who's far better - being real, and very much a man.

I made a soundtrack for the Breaking Dawn party before I'd read anything more than inane quotations and fan gushings. According to Jenny B, it is a very fitting soundtrack. But I know now, having read the first of them, that I left out three essential songs. They are from Coldplay's X&Y album. I listened to these three songs almost exclusively the summer after I graduated, when I lived with Megan. I don't know how to post MP3s, so I will let you hunt them down for yourselves if you feel at all inclined: 'Fix You,' 'A Message,' and 'Til Kingdom Come.' These songs represent my first dawning realizations that the love Jesus has for me is more personal and intent and intense than the love of a man for a woman or a father for a daughter or any other dichotomy of affection you could conjure.

I have run out of words and still not spoken anything of what I mean. Not a breath of it. Blur. Just read the book yourself, then.


“ A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. Robert Anson Heinlein (via ckck)

For more wise words, visit the new link on the right:

Olympic Transitions

Three cheers for the word 'snarky' and for journalists who think! Anne Applebaum of the Slate reports the glaring distinctions between British coverage of the Olympics and... everybody else. Thank you, Ayjay.


The Family Business

Some of my readers may not be aware that my father is a pretty important guy when it comes to homelessness. He's like the godfather of the homeless of Long Beach. Except not as scary. (Note to self: Do not blog after midnight. Sentences become stupid. Metaphors become inane.) At some point in time, everyone of his children - yeah, that would be me and my siblings - has worked for him in some capacity. I typed addresses into a computer and folded newsletters. My oldest sister single-handedly constructed the Long Beach winter shelter last year (slight exaggeration, but she deserves a lot of kudos). My other sister has done smart work for him as well, and it looks as though growing up and getting a 'real' job hasn't quite satisfied. She's coming back, hubby in tow, to ride in the Long Beach Marathon (or whatever it's called), all for the sake of raising money for the Long Beach Rescue Mission. Anyone interested in supporting her ride (she's one of our frequent commentators, by the way), by giving money to the mission, visit this site. I'll update this post with more information about the ride when I am not stupid with midnight. On the other hand, if you're curious, you could just google it yourself. :)



Not much blogging going down this week. Jenny B, one of our regular commentators, is visiting just now. This means that a) blog-worthy things will happen, and b) I will not be around much to blog about them. hehehe..... Meanwhile, let's all celebrate as my sister, also one of our regular commentators, is in the process of purchasing her first home! clap hands...

On a side note, because I really want to be late for work, is anyone else feeling like this blog template is worse than boring? Does it lull you to sleep every time you read my missives? This might change soon. Whenever I find an html artist with time on their hands - 'cause I'm really tired of blogger's present selection.


Latte Heaven

For the best latte I have tasted outside of Italy, go to the Portfolio Coffeehouse. I'm not trying to be a snob. I have ordered from them three times now, and every time they have given me the most delicious coffee beverage I have tasted since I flew out of Rome one year and a half ago. Patronize this place. Now. If you hesitate, know also that they provide free internet access and curiously compelling wall art. What's holding you back?


There once was a what?

Further fairy tale business: Follow this link to a 'choose your own adventure'-type fairy tale. It's pretty awful, but since you make narrative decisions along the way, it's hard to know who's to blame for the inanity of the story. Try it out.


Don't get used to this one-post-a-day thing...

Found an interesting site while browsing in front of the Olympics this evening. It's an online journal of fairy tale stuff. It looks pretty legitimate, too. I think I should work for them. Or at least submit stuff. Perhaps I could work this into the fairy festival I'm planning for November.... How? Haven't got the foggiest idea.


Neuhaus's New Earth?

A quick flashback (not too far back) to my reading of Wright's Surprised by Hope - a task interrupted by Harry Potter, bad teen fiction, and the celebration of Neil Gaiman's transcendentalism - has me going through Neuhaus's response to the book in my ignored April edition of First Things. Happy in his words, I hop back on the journal's website (I have not been checking it as frequently lately. My sense of self-injury as I nobly tackle faithful loan payments and responsible budgeting by working two jobs has seriously cut down on my intellectual and social pursuits, adding to my impatience with an admixture of self-pity and self-contempt. In other words, I don't have the brain power to keep up with these things.). It seems that Neuhaus is tackling Wright's own issue from an entirely different slant. I am curious. I read his previous articles on the same topic. I find his thoughts are soon to be compiled as a book. I am excited. I wonder if it will really be a Neuhaus version of Surprised by Hope or something completely different (his focus is on the comparison of the present world with the Old Testament Babylon, a concept I have not yet encountered in Wright's book. In other words, I am making the comparison between the two books all by my onesies. No foundation in the authors' own self-representations.)

Anyway, if you care to read Neuhaus's first epistle on the subject, follow the link here. Then you can see for yourself what I'm talking about instead of following my rambling-which-ultimately-says-nothing-constructive. I have blamed my rambling on the hour. Now I must blame it on too much coffee, too little food. And not being in the mood to edit myself.


Angels in the Water

Went to the Aquarium of the Pacific this evening. It was open late, so Mom took my grandfather, and Dad and I tagged along. Saw the leafy sea dragons for the second time ever. If you have not seen these ethereal creatures of the sea, let me show you.

You can see a weedy sea dragon here. They're not as angelic, but I think I might like them even more. They're twiggy. Mischievous. I want to make a picture of them.


losing things

First there were my scissors. They were small ones, tucked with my toothbrush and other bathroom goods in my carry-on. Because all I had was a carry-on. I was eating Panda Express with you-know-who-you-are and JennyE. in the waiting warehouse of the Denver airport when I remembered that they were in the bag. I left them there with Colorado, and headed to the security checkpoint feeling unmaterialistic and self-satisfied.

Then there was the face soap and moisturizer, both of which were 2 oz. too big for the satisfaction of the x-ray machine. 'I have more at home,' I told myself, and refused to be annoyed by the passive aggressive contempt of the security woman who told me that had been the liquid standard for some 2.something years. Well, we all have our bad days. I boarded the airplane feeling unmaterialistic, self-satisfied, and full of dignity despite the slight absurdity of three toiletry losses in an hour.

After I returned home, it took only a few days to discover further losses. The man my family had hired to fix up our house for rental had returned to drug-use and taken some of my possessions in the process. Specifically, he took my laptop (broken; I had been using my mother's for some months, anyway), burgundy dress from the independent shop on Main St. in Ventura, my grey Anthropologie dress (the most beautiful article of clothing I have ever owned), my blackandwhite tweed heels, and the silver heels my mother had bought me a few months before. I can't say I was exactly annoyed. I was appalled to find out that my roommate had lost even more. I was disappointed in the thief. But it was almost refreshing to find my possessions that much thinner. I was moving at the time, and filling the closet with those clothes I did have reminded me of how little of it I really used or cared for. The loss made me all the more determined to wear the clothes I love as often as possible - and not to keep them strangely 'special', set apart for occasional use.

The other day, my mother held out a small metal object to me and asked, 'is this yours?' It was one half of my favorite pair of earring studs. She had found it on the floor of the laundry room, it's twin stud apparently having been swallowed by the washing machine. I stared at the stud, feeling stupid for having put the earrings in my pocket in the first place (I never do that.), and wondering just what might be lost next. And if this continues at such a rate, what might my belongings consist of in, say, a year? How long before I have nothing left at all? And in all reality, what would that matter?


dm, where do you find these things?

Think you take a long time getting dressed in the morning? Compare yourself to others and feel better about your time. I wonder, who agrees to photograph her every other morning?



I had a thought about blogging the other day, some subject that seemed worthy of these 'pages'. And now, of course, I can't remember what it was. Was it the stranger showering from our sprinkler spigot at three in the morning? My mother saw her from the window, but did not interfere. It seemed an awkward moment to assert property rights.

Or was it the teen book I picked up the other day and won't pick up again?
A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray. It has two sequels and everything. Very unfortunate. It's structured within a post-Victorian British Empire based more on 21st-century prejudices and assumptions of old-world gender-restrictions than actual fact. It seems to try to get away with its diversion from true historical representation by involving itself in a very confused world of dark magic. I say confused, because you find the author has dropped you into it without warning. There were several times where I had to turn back a page or two to find the elusive point of transition from the faux-Victorian world to the pseudo-magical world. Perhaps if I had kept reading, it would have become more developed and less clumsy, but the dialogue and character development was so hackneyed... it sounded like something I would have tried to write in middle school. On the other hand, it sounded like something I would have enjoyed in middle school. It would have been book candy at the time. It's the sort of book that assures me I have grown up in the last decade or so.

And there goes my new years resolution to have fewer opinions. To counter all the criticism, here's one point of virtue in these books: they have beautiful covers. Almost makes you wish you wore a corset.

So anyway, I put the book down after several chapters and picked up The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Which is BRILLIANT. The trouble with good books is that I am not nearly as creative in describing them, so I'll just leave it at that. Particularly because I haven't finished it yet. And this is one I absolutely will be picking up again. I may even find myself writing little love notes to M. T. Anderson, author extraordinaire. And hoping against hope that I might find myself an advanced reader copy of Volume II, coming out this October. I think.
exclusive addition: It seems unfair of me not to include some of Anderson's own brilliance. Here's a chopped-up passage from the first part of Volume 1:
[Dr. Trefusis] was possessed of a belief that nothing existed, or to be more precise, that only when things were perceived could we be sure that they existed. He troubled himself in arguments, therefore, that when he was not in his chamber, and no one else was in his chamber, there was no one who could say beyond a shadow of a doubt that his desk still existed, no one to say that the candle still guttered by the bed; or that the bed had not simply frayed apart into atoms.
To combat this situation, he requested that one of the slaves periodically creep to his door when he was absent, and hurl it quickly open, to determine whether the desk remained, or whether, with no one to perceive it, it had simply given up and dissipated....
He maintained that we were surrounded by a vast shadow, a universal emptiness as wide and long as space, in which there were small molten bulbs of color and light, wheresoever there were beings to perceive them. He believed that as we walked, the world of objects unfurled before us like the painted scene for a play, turrets and moats, and topiary aisles slapping down into place just before we would arrive.
Once, late at night, he roused me and took me to an empty room. I was somewhat afraid. The silence of the house was enormous.
He stood me with my back to the wall, one inch from the paneling. He stood next to me. We faced the same way.
'Sir,' said I, 'for what have you--,' but he hissed, and I fell silent.
For a long while, we stared straight forwards, side by side, in the empty room. It was a summer night, and the dogs of the town barked for a time, and then ceased. Still, we stood. Some ten minutes passed; then fifteen.
'Do you feel it, child?' he asked. 'The wall is gone. Space is gone from behind us.'
I could feel nothing.
He said, 'All that is there now is the eye of God.' He shivered. 'The pupil is black, and as large as the world.'



This post is to officially recognize Jenny B. (don't know how you feel about publishing your name on the interwebs) for introducing me to the works of Neil Gaiman. Yes, I know it took me a long time to come around. It usually does. But am I not here now? and is that not all that matters? Thank you.


thank you, ayjay.


How easy it is to live with You, O Lord.
How easy to believe in You.
When my spirit is overwhelmed within me,
When even the keenest see no further than the night,
And know not what to do tomorrow,
You bestow on me the certitude
That You exist and are mindful of me,
That all the paths of righteousness are not barred.
As I ascend in to the hill of earthly glory,
I turn back and gaze, astonished, on the road
That led me here beyond despair,
Where I too may reflect Your radiance upon mankind.
All that I may reflect, You shall accord me,
And appoint others where I shall fail.End quote.

—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1972

The Graveyard Book

Neil Gaiman's newest novel The Graveyard Book is coming out this September, and I think we should throw a party. I am not sure if I've ever read anyone as boldly imaginative as Neil Gaiman. And when I say bold, I mean stand-in-front-of traffic-and-wave-your-arms bold. Except not as stupid.

Maybe I should start over. Neil Gaiman has written several novels that have been received with wide acclaim from young and old readers alike. His children's novel, Coraline, had me shivering in my seat with spine-tingling fear - the most delightfully enchanted fear I have ever felt. (Perhaps the only enchanted fear I have ever felt.) He co-wrote the screenplay for Beowulf (2007), introducing a startling perspective on the ancient hero with intelligence and sympathy. His novel Stardust was hilarious and riveting and curious and new and old. As was the film, which he also wrote. Everything I have read or seen of his has been a brilliant fusion of novelty and familiarity. His is the stuff of fireside tales on cold winter nights, legends laughingly told in a pub, anecdotes that cause conversations to come to a standstill.

And The Graveyard Book is no exception. It is, in fact, just what we would expect from him - something entirely new. It is the story of Nobody Owens, a young boy who grows up in a graveyard, the adopted son of a happily dead couple from the 17th century, and the godson of the resident vampire. His school lessons consist of haunting, fading, and guarding against ghouls. The local witch (dead and buried some four hundred years before) just might have a crush on him. But he is alive. Very much alive. And someone, for some reason, doesn't want to keep him that way.

After reading this book, you might find yourself preferring cemeteries to playgrounds. You will wish your teachers were werewolves. Shadows and shades, ghost stories and ghouls, will seem rather... fun. If you ever thought there was a limit to the powers of fiction, ideas too unrealistic, premises too unlikely, you will find yourself happily humbled. Gaiman has broken all the boundaries between real life and every other-world - and we are pleased to be so easily convinced, to find our disbelief so quickly and joyfully suspended.



The BD party is over, and I get to breathe. Sleep. Relax. At least until more work next week. I actually had to go on a stealth book run this morning to grab some more copies since the publishers shunted the independents of Southern California and our shipment isn't coming for a good long while. I wonder how long it will take for me to get the books from a used book place. You know, for like a dime. They have no resale value.

Meanwhile, I have started writing a children's story. I know, I know. I'm supposed to be working on my novel. But who can focus when there are children in the world? I will tell you more as it unfolds, perhaps even posting the story in installments. As long as it doesn't get swiped.



I am over-the-moon with excitement! Over the 'new moon', that is... hehe.... ok. dumb joke. Anyway, my excitement is sprung from the joyous news that Spencer Smith - of the Noir - will be playing live at the Breaking Dawn release party this Friday night!!! He is only my simply favorite. Come and hear him play between 10:00 and 12:00 at La Muse (all appropriate info in previous post). And visit his website here - when he's posted songs, of course.


Breaking Dawn Release Party

I don't normally like to use my blog to advertise my work, but it seems appropriate considering how much it represents of my recent activities. I have been helping to organize a release party for the fourth book in Stephanie Meyer's Twilight saga, Breaking Dawn. You can visit our website for more details, and if you live anywhere remotely near Long Beach, you really ought to come for the party. Dressed up, of course. It's at La Muse East Village Cafe on Ocean and Linden. Call ahead if you want to join the die-hards for an exclusive pre-party dinner. And if you have any costume ideas for me, send them my way. I'm all out of fangs and fake blood.


I know that it has been a long time since I've updated, and I know also that this is a source of frustration for at least two of my regular readers (yes, that's two of the three...). But I have been reading Harry Potter. What can be done? Nothing. There's only one book left to go, though, so no worries. I'll start on that today, and it should be done soon.

My sister is visiting for the weekend, a source of great joy and happiness, and my mother is back in town for a few more days as well. She will be able to return for good from the fixing-up of the desert house by the end of the week (no crossed fingers; we hope in good faith, not in superstitions). This should coincide more or less with my renewed interest in the outside world, so we may even do one or two bloggable activities! Maybe even take a photo or two. :)

The sailboats on the water outside my house look like toys. The wind is whipping with a ghostly noise, wholly inappropriate for such a bright - though not entirely clear - summer morning. I have been working for the last six days straight, and I am excited at the prospect of doing next to nothing until mother and sister return from Disneyland. Whereupon we shall perhaps perhaps go to IKEA. A good follow-up to the happiest place on earth, if I've ever heard of one.

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