Thursday, April 29, 2010

Picture of the Day: Fairfield School

My favorite school: Fairfield Elementary. This is a two-room schoolhouse five miles west of the town where I grew up, a small little red brick building lost in miles of ag land. Hot air balloons used to land in the fields behind the school. Lizards used to lose their tails under the wooden walkway at lunchtime.

I hope that in this rush to salvage public education, we don't lose sight of just how much it means.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

North Korea, La Mission, and Found Plays -- just another week in San Francisco

Last night, fiction writer and Stanford lecturer Adam Johnson read at our second annual Gina Berriault award event at San Francisco State University's Poetry Center. He read to us from a novel in progress that is set in North Korea. One of the story's main characters was a loudspeaker that made us, as an audience, chant nationalist propaganda in English and Korean.

Johnson was, in a word, phenomenal.

Every now and then I have these glimpses of how other people live creatively. On Monday, while interning at KQED's Forum, I had the opportunity to meet Benjamin Bratt and his brother Peter, two talented men in the film industry whose latest work, "La Mission," tackles the thorny yet common theme of clashing cultures and ideologies in one of San Francisco's most fascinating districts. The younger Bratt, who is most known for his television work, spoke eloquently about this desire to channel both the artistry and complexity of a bridge between generations and ideologies. I was struck not so much by both Benjamin and Peter's obvious talent, but by the way they made it all so personal. They grew up here. They've heard stories. They've driven low-riders. They have a desire to reconnect with a population that they both identify with and systematically question.

One local story that I find particularly exciting is a new SF State project headed by Theatre Arts Professor Joel Schechter, who while researching a book on 1930s Yiddish plays, stumbled across a lost script outline originally devised by the Works Progress Administration's Federal Theatre Project in 1937. Schechter and a group of his graduate students then adapted the outline into a musical called Money, an aptly named piece both for its Great Depression origins and for its current economic relevance. Talk about the creative process - what must it be like to revive a story decades old, one that brings startling new meaning in the post-housing-crisis world.

I wonder what our country would look like, if we had a Federal Theatre Project now, if the government valued the arts in a way that it did the sciences or academia. Maybe then there'd be more out there about up-and-coming writers and artists whose work makes life digestible, even powerful.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Ligre Debut

Introducing the world premiere of Ligre, an improvised comics tour de force created piecemeal by a Tiger (Ryan Alpers) and a Lioness (Julia Halprin Jackson).

"It wasn't the world that made him dream of beautiful girls and wonderful things..."

"and landscapes surreal with smoking pots and endangered desert tortoises..."

"It was his job, after all, to imagine..."

"unreal realities portrayed behind curtains on silver screens...
-Ever seen that dog before?
-Nope, but she's got style on those skis!
-Yip! Yap! Yeaaahh!"

"wondering what willed whatever wont withal..."

"smaller and smaller when love comes to call..."


All drawings by Julia, usually done in class, in a little notebook
all text done by Ryan, usually done on the weekends, on a little tiled counter in San Francisco
website help by Ammon Bartram

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I found this poem

I had a legitimate moment of literary amnesia just now, when cherrypicking old work for potential submissions. I found these words and I know they held special meaning at the time, but the idea of titling something like this a "Bloodletting for Scarlet O'Hara" -- the Julia who wrote this poem is someone I no longer resemble.

Blood Letting for Scarlet O’Hara

You laughed when I said,
It’s been far too long since I’ve had a good scab.
It was true;
My body was tired of stories
Knee high fence posts
And narrow doorways.
We were at Whiskeytown lake
And it felt appropriate to be somewhere
Named after alcohol
Because my legs got drunk around you
Skidding down the boat ramp
It was 104 degrees
And the dirt was scarlet

O’Hara would’ve never done that
In a black bikini
Run down moss while you were still in the car
By the time you had your trunks on
My knees were the color of the dirt
Even lines of oxygen trailing into whiskey

Town lake and when you put me on your shoulders
I’d never been happier
To acquire a scab


I wonder at what point creative work simply overrides memory.


A brief follow-up to the Monday night Quiet Lightning event: Evan Karp, the San Francisco Literary Culture Examiner, wrote up a great summary of the reading at Gestalt.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Before I wax poetic on Passover and Easter (and pre-Passover breakfast, which at my house consisted of bacon and French toast, how very kosher), I have two quick plugs to make. Tomorrow, Monday April 5, I'll be reading at the Gestalt bar in San Francisco, along with a great group of Bay Area poets and writers, including novelist Shanti Sekaran and fellow SFSU grad students. Come check it out if you're local -- cheap beer and expensive words!

Also - on April 22, I'll be sharing some work at a reading hosted by the amazing fantastic and cutting edge literary journal Flatmancrooked, which is publishing it's First Annual Poetry Anthology this fall. Rockstar poet / SFSU grad student / my neighbor Shideh Etaat will be hopping a ride up to Davis' John Natsoulas Gallery. Loverly.

And here's one image of an amazing Passover seder--intentionally blurry, you see, to reflect the four glasses of wine we are expected to consume during the dinner.