Tuesday, November 25, 2008

best research request of the week

I've researched many things, even a few odd subjects back when I worked at the Davis Public Library, but today this latest research request takes the cake. One patron called in and requested a search on "serial killer". He is interested in this not-so-retro term, but what a serial killer was referred to in the 1900s. The first thing that came to my mind was Jack the Ripper. Turns out, he, too, is referred to as a "serial killer"---retrospectively. We move on to other angles....

Hope this patron is writing a book or a poem, and not a nut.

Other library news:

Lots of people are checking out information on blueprints: how to turn a plan into blueprints, blueprints and development, how to price blueprints, bids on...etc.etc. I asked one lady why the trend? She said because Barak Obama promises to create more jobs in this field and she wants to be on top of the game, understand the language of what 'they' will talk about.

Funniest requested item is a book by Mark Levner titled: Why Do Men Have Nipples?

Cool stuff huh?

Sunday, November 23, 2008


One of things I love about blogging is discovery and parting. I found this very talented artist and was dying to share. The photos are mesmerizing and catchy. They appear unattended and accidental. Enjoy more at http://streetzen.net/

1. bruise
2. whitelegs
3. windowsun
4. eatme
5. ironhorse

Saturday, November 22, 2008

random after tutoring Friday thoughts

Yesterday the college was so hectic. I always forget that this time in the semester requires more patience than ever. I tutored 17 students on Wednesday, 10 on Thursday, and 13 on Friday. Weeks before this were about the same. I felt also that I didn't give as quality of tutoring sessions as I usually do--I only pointed out grammatical errors, refining a thesis statement, more creative titles--don't use the authors' titles--"it's not yours to use." On a good tutoring month, day, week, I usually, include a close look at logic--do the paragraphs go back to the thesis? Are they logical? Are there enough supporting examples and details? If non-literary, is there enough literary evidence to support topics? I was tired, grouchy (starting at about 2 p.m.) and rather lazy yesterday. Quality was so low. I think I ran out of mental energy after several students came in for a session on how to approach their final exams (the writing part--the blue book part). Really, I've been teaching them the same mundane, traditional structure throughout the semester--I advised to approach the final like that: Don't just start writing. Plan first. "But it's going to be an argumentative essay? and we don't know what topics she will give us," one student said. I suggested she ask if she needs to include a refutation (probably not); pick one of the two topics she can best write on. Take a stance, use "should be" or "should not be" followed by "because" and give three reasons why or why not. Build a thesis, the topics, restate thesis in conclusion. "And my introduction?" Open on topic, make general facts or statements, then move to specific (thesis). Somehow, all that I've said and all that -some- students learn throughout the semester, this mundane, formulaic, traditional way of writing a general, very basic essay doesn't hold. Just doesn't. This particular teacher is giving her students 2 hours. But sometimes, I think writing within a certain time frame causes panic and all they have learned goes.

Some days I feel like a big'ol flat voice of boilerplate, but then, by the grace of literature Gods, I will have a student pop in and want to discuss Oedipus and compare it to my favorite The Book of Job or an Asian myth comparison: a daughter must go into the depths of hell to find her mother to Demeter and Persephone or to Dante. These students come in so lively and full of -want-. And some of them will not even go on to major in English, but other disciplines like biology or construction engineering.

I'm 'brainstorming' to come with ways to make my sessions more interesting (for those who are there just to get through the literature requirements or just there to get through). I remind myself, "Hey, at least they're here--getting by."

I'm looking forward to the month of December off--my brain is a bit shut down. I can't think, write well, or blog without a zillion typos--of course I question 'to edit or not to edit'---not to mention the rush in posting. I always have to post on-the-go. But I get it done one way or another.

What would you choose? To blog full-time or to teach full-time? Money aside. Choose one or the other...no in between.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

my Trace


*One of the most beautiful people I know, inside and out, is my best friend Tracy. I have had the pleasure to know her for 16 years and she is who made leaving California so difficult. I have always loved her and always will. I miss her every day. I miss her honesty, candor, grand sense of humor, curiosity, unconditional love, beauty, ability to light up a room with comfort and ease, the sound of her laughter. She's the only person I know who can eat garlic and smell so good. I miss our long talks, just us too, some where in Tiburon on a dock with late morning cocktails headed to Sausalito, a small little hotel, Starbucks, sun, good food, her shopping, me admiring everything. I miss her on the exercise machines while I sit and eat a Carl's Jr. hamburger and fries. I miss the time I left my last Intermediate Algebra test on our kitchen counter top so she could celebrate with me, no more math; she saw my dislike of the subject and how diligently I needed to work to complete it--wanted to get right to my studies in literature. We drank that day too. I love the way she pops chocolates in her mouth (just one) with her morning cup of coffee. She scared me one day when she left our shared house in her blue Ford Probe. It flipped with her in it--it was the other person's fault. She came home without the car--it was odd because she knocked on our front door instead of using the genie--wide eyed, big circles of ice blue. We drank that day too. Alot. She loves to eat homemade sandwiches with onion slices as thick as a finger. And she loves spicy foods. She's a home designer at heart but works in law. She can make any house look fancy (like it's straight from the best home decor magazines). We nearly went broke one day shopping at Linens&Things for our shared bathroom. Later, our other roommate moved out and Trace took the master bedroom. She did a complete and total makeover! She made a beautiful photo album of my daughter's life with fresh flowers from the service pressed into the back pages. She included letters my daughter had written to me while in school. I don't know how she selected the photos or why she chose certain ones. There's even a John Holst middle school identification card. I miss accompanying her at the mall during a lunch hour at work and hearing her critique shoes and pants and why some were cute, others were not. I miss hearing her call me "schoolmarm" because of my long skirts and high turtlenecks--the same worn out green sweater that she begged me to throw away. Her, running in the opposite direction when I reveal my unshaven, hairy legs and arms. I'm good on all that now--sometimes. She'd scream out "That's just fuckin gross!" She held up, my bras, from our clean laundry and said, "Is this my thong?" and reminded me I was part of the itty-bitty titty committee. We used to go dancing into the wee hours. She taught me so much about men, but called me "The Ice Queen" because I would not give guys the time of day. I wasn't interested; I was mourning. And I loved walking along her side and seeing guys drool over her beauty. We have a saying: JENN&JUDY--it's serious. Instead of swearing by God, which we do sometimes, we swear by my dead daughter and her dead mother, their graves. In restaurants, we'd order a big plate of something good, but healthy and "split" it. We did Chevys all the time--and margaritas. And sometimes, we'd start our Saturday mornings with the blender--margaritas. Saturday evenings started with Trace going on a date, me with my head in my books. Most of the time, I'd wait up for her to hear if 'he' was the one--and always, she'd tell me everything! We were truly Chardonnay girls! All the way. We still are. There's so much, I could go on and on. I love her mostly though because I could always look the other way and she'd still be there caring for me, loving me, being the true meaning of "friend."

And then, my godson, Christopher. He has been in my life since he was five years old. He clung to me like my own and has grown to be such a handsome, smart young man. He's serving our country and speaks fluent Farsi, which I have always encouraged. He and I used to drive his mother nuts because we would run around the house and play. He stole my attention from everyone!

I have been so fortunate to have them in my life. I don't have but about three very close, good friends--I've never been the type to have a lot of girls by my side or guys either for that matter. But the ones I do have, I cherish and am so grateful.

I miss my Trace like crazy, but she's still here and so am I.

photo taken by me in Davis, CA 2002 or 2003

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the Paltrow

I did it! And without a hotcomb! I finally got my fro to do the 'my thing'--bun up!!

Before going into work on Sunday I treated my hair nicely. I washed it really good, conditioned it with Tresemme (dollar store), rinsed it well with a nice mixture of warm water and lemon then combed and brushed and combed and brushed, sin cringe. The results--the Paltrow!

Of course, in one of these pics, you can definitely see a tad of rebellion--there's a tiny little kanked coil sticking out at my nape! In any event, I was still prettified at the head and have been since. Plan to wash again tonight and start again.

The trick is though I have to sleep with two pigtails every night to straighten out the coils--much better than the old fashioned way, especially after a good wash, coils are even tighter--and Gera was supposed to capture the pigtails---NOT THESE!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Helen in Dunbar

Davis, CA 2003

my mama is beautiful
she has a gap between her teeth
that only a son could wear with privilege
to see through
she has a mole that strikes her face with
god and remembrance
to be proud that she really started
from far east and south creek

her hands
are mine like mine and mine
they spell though
from that woman
who was minding her own business
building in a time when blacks and their own
building was unforeseeable--my big

the big beauty though is my mama's frown
between her eyes. it will tell you what you
don't want to hear or know--
that black men can hurt and
it is better if they were just
somewhere working in a garden
or tending to whittling and raking and
making babies like the color violet breeds quietly
or like blue-caramel swells in holy

but while the world gathers to see her slumbers
it has really known and waited to hear how
her frown and tight coils will stride

it can keep gathering though
for she is one of the few that god has blessed
and captured--her soul--a language unknown
to the common man

couldn't help it quote of the week


Experience is
presenting the lesson.

--Vernon Law

i remember

When my Dad and Step mom took us everywhere--my siblings were all so young--and so was I. My daughter and step brother were only 2 years apart--or maybe less. My other sister was there, but she was in the bathroom. My brother Sean was probably doing he usual hang out, which meant not with us. If it didn't involve airplanes or soul music, Sean could not be bothered. Wherever we went, we attracted attention. My Dad and step mom were one of the coolest interracial couples I'll probably ever know--accept for me and Gera or course! They built our family around us five + 1 grandchild.

This was a favorite time. Vacaville, California. Early 1990s. The Pumpkin Patch. It closed a few years before I moved back home. It was such a neat place to gather with family--kids! My Dad was a happy man--and so were we.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

notes from a library--for Ryan

Part of my job working in periodicals is to research obituary requests. People write in, via email, and request death notices of loved ones, friends, neighbors, lovers, distant family members, and just in general--for whatever reason--estate claims, works-in-progress: songs/books, family trees. This is a favorite part of my tasks. The difficult part of these searches, however, is doing so without stopping to look at every interesting article or sales ad or big news headline that passes through the microfilm scanner! After all, many of the searches request deaths from the early 1900s and some even further back.

In researching an obit a week ago, from the 1960s, I stumbled across one, interesting, old article. The only reason it caught my eye (Nationalists/Taipei) is because my friend writes of this territory (Taiwan).

Fort Worth Star Telegram
Friday Morning, October 14, 1960

Nationalists Vow Defense Of 2 Islands
Taipei, Formosa, Oct. 13 (Reuters)--Top Nationalist Chinese military sources declared Thursday the Nationalists would "fight to the death" to defend Quemoy and Matsu Islands.

They were commenting privately on the emergence of the offshore islands as an issue in the American presidential election campaign.

The sources claimed that without Quemoy and Matsu "there will be no Formosa and Penghu"--the Pescadores Island group 50 miles west of southern Formosa.

There was no immediate official comment on the American campaign controversy stirred up by the assertion of Senator John F. Kennedy, the Democratic standard-bearer, that Quemoy and Matsu should be excluded from the United States defense perimeter in the Far East because they are indefensible.

Press reports here quoted President Chiang Kai-shek as saying recently the islands should not be given up under any circumstances.

Will post more later on other noteworthy articles I found.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

favorite obama fam pics -- it's really really real

I have overheard so many different comments and even seen a little spittal fly since President Elect Obama won by a landslide. Texans do not hide their feelings (hate). And neither do young students. Me, approaching a vending machine for a Baby Ruth in a small cove at the college, three students sit in obvious disgust, one week later. The female: "It really scares me to death that he's going to be our next President." One of two males: "Well, he doesn't have that much power. He can't do anything without approval." The other of the two males: [quiet]. Other Texans walk around looking at you, but thinking something completely different, with an uncomfortable, sweaty grin! Others have faces so pinched, you'd need a bookmark to find their eyes, noses, or mouth. In Spanish, we call these people "cara de agria." Sour face. Also in Texas, gun purchase has skyrocketed because people are afraid that our new President will do away with the right carry a weapon. Yeah, here--you can do that!
One coworker at one of my two jobs just lately revealed she is jewish and she, for the first time in years, went to a service. She made it a funny point to tell me that her Rabi said: "Sarah Palin ain't nobody but a hillbilly who shops at Neiman Marcus"--and now every time she gets a chance, she reminds me that she's jewish and she doesn't like right winged people. I of course never respond--it's innate. She also celebrates President Obama's win in my presence, but does so quietly---yes, in whispers she praises his victory. It could be real, but Texan runs deep in me and I grew up knowing sometimes, you need to sleep with one eye open.

And yet, still, again: Congratulations to President Barak Obama and Family and I love you more because you are a combination of everybody!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the gera touch


This was a week and a half long project. My honey's got such good skills. The clients hired him to do yet a second bathroom. He still doesn't charge enough--I think.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Partisan's Daughter - looking at the lives of prostitutes

. . .

I have always been fascinated with prostitutes in literature. Their lives are colorful, tragic, disturbing and yet force one to look in awe, intrigue--it's difficult to turn away. I found their presence in Morrison's Bluest Eye, Ryan's Locke 1928, Faulkner's That Evening Sun, in almost any Hawthorne, to be lulling and at times more reliable than any.

When I first moved back home, 2004, I lived with my aunt for the first year. She has lived in the same home since 1964. Nothing had changed drastically. There was however one young woman, they called Bitty, who walked up and down the street. Sometimes, she'd be with her boyfriend, Eddie, and sometimes not. They were so in love. The problem was, however, Eddie's mother prevented him from living inside the house as long as he was dating Bitty. Instead, he and Bitty made pallets on the side of the house and sometimes, when it was freezing cold, makeshift partitions. They had even lived in the back seat of a car, used a cigarette lighter to warm the bottom of an opened can of god only knows what. My Auntie said they were "on that shit," but she still gave them food and sometimes hired Eddie to do yard work or clean the gutters or trim the shrubbery. Then one day, it got to a point when we didn't see Eddie that much, hardly at all. It was as if he vanished. But Bitty was still around. She'd walk up and down the streets and knock on doors looking for a sandwich, a cola, two dollars. My Aunt told me after turning her down several times, "A woman ain't neva broke and ain't no need for her walking the road hungry like that." I said, "What else can she do?" My Auntie said, "She got a pussy!"

I wonder what prostitutes think of and I wonder how they survive emotionally---maybe by a numbing kind of mechanism? And though Jean Rys' Good Morning, Midnight is a different read, I just now remember being so wrapped up in Sasha's mental state--the gloom.

Louis De Bernieres' new book A Partisan's Daughter sounds terrific! I haven't felt this anxious to read a book in a long time. I want to see what the author does with the characters and their differences.

Here's a snippet from Amazon and NYTBR:

De Bernières (Corelli's Mandolin) delivers an oddball love story of two spiritually displaced would-be lovers. During a dreary late 1970s London winter, stolid and discontented Chris is drawn to seedy and mysterious Roza, a Yugoslav émigrée he initially believes is a prostitute. She isn't (though she claims to have been), and soon the two embark on an awkward friendship (Chris would like to imagine it as a romance) in which Roza spins her life's stories for her nondescript, erstwhile suitor. Roza, whose father supported Tito, moved to London for opportunity but instead found a school of hard knocks, and she's all too happy to dole out the lessons she learned to the slavering Chris. The questions of whether Roza will fall for Chris and whether Chris will leave his wife (he calls her the Great White Loaf) carry the reader along, as the reliability of Chris and Roza, who trade off narration duties, is called into question—sometimes to less than ideal effect. The conclusion is crushing, and Chris's scorching regret burns brightly to the last line.

The NYTBR article is even better! A Partisan's Daughter

I ordered it for our library and have a request already put in.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

bed lessons bed built


Sooooooooo, Gera took on yet another interesting project: Building a bed! Some clients just purchased their first home and are more interested in having a bed made than spending a lot of money to buy a factory made bed.

The results so far:

Of course during the process (three days into the project) he was trying to think of the correct words for certain bed parts. We're still learning so much about each other's language.

I will post the final pics of the bed when its finished. He's done other additions since these pics and still has to stain and finish it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

... and we're living to see it happen

338 to 157
44th President

The Book of Job

Sunday, November 2, 2008

skin off a pig's back

Gera and I went grocery shopping Friday. Our grocery list: milk, cilantro, onion, tomatillas, jalapenos, tilapia, avocados, bread, brown eggs, cream, orange juice, red wine, limes, tortillas, fajita meat, bananas, zucchini/squash, toilet paper, taleras, toothpaste, yogurt, carrots, beans, freso cheese, water, lotion and epazote. Most of the time we plan meals, but this spree was random and even though we had a list, we weren't sure what we would have for dinner. I said ceviche; he said fajitas. We ended up making tortas!

The bad part about living and shopping for food in Texas is that you bend--all the way. I went down one aisle, Gera down another. Shortly, we met up at the meat section. I wanted to die! Lo and behold he had in his hand a big old gigantic piece of pigskin (chicharon). I said, "Nu-uuh, we're not eatin that! Who's gonna eat that?" He started to smile. I said, "I'm for real." He said, "Calmate Morena!" He calls me black girl (morena) when I get worked up. But seriously----the pigskin was humongous--BIG!--. We go to the van; he opened the bag, broke off a big piece, crunched and crunched. Looked at me. Crunched some more and dared me to take a bite. I have to admit, I love skins--I used to freak out my best friend, Tracy, eating bags from time to time. She would say, "That shit's nasty!" She wouldn't touch that kind of food to save anybody's life. But I did love skins then and I do love skins now we just don't buy them--and because Texas runs too deep in my blood, I bent. All the way. I broke off a small piece, then another, then another. Of course the entire time, I was thinking this can't be good for me, this can't be good for Gera, this is so damn good, but it can't be good for my heart, for his arteries, it can't be good for anything. But the flavor and the crunch and the light greasy taste, the salt--wow! I couldn't help myself. We did well, though because we never finished the bag. We probably won't do that again for at least another year. I hope!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

don't forget this month--Toni Morrison's new novel A Mercy debuts

Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison reads from new book 'A Mercy'
By Omar Carrillo
Photo by Lucy Minott

Toni Morrison, emerita professor and Nobel Prize winner, read from her latest novel, “A Mercy,” in Richardson Auditorium on Tuesday evening. Emotionally provocative scenes from Toni Morrison’s newest book, “A Mercy,” silenced a packed Alexander Hall on Tuesday evening, as she illustrated to the assembled crowd the ubiquity of slavery in civilization’s history.

Her ninth book stemmed from her interest in “what might it be like to have slavery without race, without racism,” said Morrison, who is an emerita professor in the Lewis Center for the Arts.

“It’s something that we’re not born with. It has to be taught, learned, seen, and there’s no civilization that did not rest in slavery, whether they call it that or not,” she said, noting that American society traditionally thinks of slavery in racial terms.

Though she said she is not the first to explore this theme, “even unoriginal thought can lead to extraordinary and original places,” she explained.

Morrison won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, and her novel “Beloved” was named “the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years” by The New York Times Book Review in 2006.

Given standing ovations before and after the reading, Morrison retained the undivided attention of students, professors and community members from the first word to the last sentence of her reading.

Morrison chose three excerpts from the book, scheduled to be released in November. Each passage reflected a different voice and represented the beginning, middle and end of the novel.

The excerpts also reflected Morrison’s insights into women’s place in slavery, and she read several passages in the voice of female slaves living during the 18th century.

One of the excerpts was from the perspective of a mother in slavery. She explains her situation after giving her child, Florence, one of the novel’s main characters, to a plantation owner.

“To be female in this place is to be an open wound that will not heal,” Morrison said, reading the character’s words aloud.

The book also addresses the impact of religion on the slave experience.

In the novel, Florence is taught by a religious figure. “Reverend Father [who] is the only kind man I ever see,” she says in the novel.

Morrison also read a passage in the voice of Florence’s mother, as she considers the relationship between human and divine action.

“It was not a miracle bestowed by God, it was a mercy offered by a human,” Morrison read as Florence’s mother.

Morrison’s calm yet piercing voice won the admiration of both old and new fans.

“The book seems so interesting and the excerpts at the end are so powerful,” Maraiya Hakeem ’12 said. “I am definitely looking forward to buying it.”

Gideon Rosen GS ’92, chair of the Council of the Humanities, introduced Morrison and thanked her for everything she has brought to Princeton.

“Toni Morrison books are set in the past, but today more than ever, we can all say we live in Toni Morrison’s America,” Rosen said.

In his introduction, Rosen quoted Morrison’s letter of endorsement of presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D.-Ill.) to illustrate the power of her words.

“ ‘Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb,’ ” Rosen said, quoting Morrison’s letter.

The reading was co-sponsored by the Council of the Humanities and the Center for African American Studies.