Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oh. Bama.

I spotted this t-shirt at the Maker Faire in San Mateo last weekend, and was sorely tempted to buy it. It really made me stop and think, wow, we've come a long way from the days of GW Bush's face superimposed over Alfred E. Neumann's. Presidential imitation has gone from abject mockery to some bizarre mixture of fascination, awe, and, yes, lust.

Needless to say, I didn't buy it, but if I see anyone on the street wearing it, I'm giving them a high five.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Reason to Watch News in Spanish

I turned on TeleMundo today after I got home from a run and saw a young journalist reporting live from Phoenix, flanked by a phalanx of supporters, Latino and anglo. Al Rojo Vivo has been broadcasting from Arizona since the law SB 1070 on April 24. You know, the law that says all those not born in the United States must carry their papers with them everywhere they go.

Amidst interviews with prominent Latino and Mexican politicians, Al Rojo Vivo shared two things that blew me away completely:

The first was a new ad campaign developed in Sonora, Mexico, which was recently printed in the Arizona Republic newspaper. It's a close-up on a man in camouflage with binoculars held against his eyes, with the words "IN SONORA WE ARE LOOKING FOR PEOPLE FROM ARIZONA." It is, in a word, awesome. Awesome in the original sense of the word: it strikes awe in its beholders, because at last, a mirror has been lifted to the Arizona border. Heck, to the American border.

The Arizonan response? Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has asked his constituents to avoid traveling to Mexico. Because that's the way mature, forward-thinking, global citizens of the world do things, I guess.

The second amazing thing I saw on TeleMundo was this short film by EKG Films:

If I learned anything today, it was to get my international news from other countries. And that if Arpaio wants to boycott Mexico, I'm fine with boycotting Arizona.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Where You Should Be Tonight

Fourteen Hills, SF State's graduate literary magazine, is sending its latest issue out into the world tonight at the San Francisco Motorcycle Club. We're talking awesome contributor readings, amazing raffle prizes, really yummy food, fun people. And, um, an interview I did with SF State lecturer, published writer and the author of a forthcoming novel, Alice LaPlante.

Here's what you need to know:
come to the
San Francisco Motorcycle Club
2194 Folsom St. (@18th St.)
at 7 pm tonight

If you can't make it, buy your copy through Fiction On Demand or pre-order from Small Press Distribution. Also see D.W. Lichtenberg's breakdown on designing the cover art at We Who Are About to Die.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Things that Repeat

I saw this in a bike tunnel in Isla Vista in 2003. The war in Iraq had just been officially declared and it was just a matter of months before the truly embarrassing and horrifying destruction abroad would occur.

I was reminded of this yesterday, when I read in the New York Times that the American death toll in Afghanistan has reached 1000. I wonder, whose morbid job is it to count the dead? Does a mortician do it? A military officer? Some inverse incarnation of the stork who brings babies into the world?

I wonder, too, about the real question that this number hides: If 1000 Americans are dead in Afghanistan, who else is lost? Death and its dark honor is not a privilege that only Americans endure.

In 2007, I was working at an elementary school outside of Malaga, Spain, when we celebrated el Dia de la Paz. Peace Day. We took about a week of class time and instructed kids of all grades to design their own posters and learn peace songs. This was right around the time that the American death toll in Iraq had reached 3000, and my aunt April was hosting candlelight vigils in Los Angeles.

I'm thinking it's high time we had our own Dia de la Paz as well. If we're going to be repeating ourselves, it might as well be with something good.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bathroom Stall Series, #2

Love Sucks. Take Steroids.

I didn't write this, but I enjoy reading it in the girl's bathroom.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Only in San Francisco...

Bay to Breakers 2010

Who doesn't want more machines?

This is called a continuous blood glucose monitor.

Actually, this is called a comic, one that happens to involve a woman who happens to wear both an insulin pump and a continuous blood glucose monitor (CGMS). These two little machines, when they work in tandem, effectively tell her what her blood sugar is doing at five-minute intervals throughout the day, and then help her make decisions on how much insulin to take.

Sometimes being a savvy type 1 diabetic means remembering words from high school chemistry. I knew "interstitial" would come in handy someday. Gotta love those "hypers" and "hypos," and "glucose"--my life would be so much more boring without that C6H12O6. But the opportunity to live with not one but two
little machines plugged directly into me all day long--this was something I could not turn down. How often do you get to tap into the superhighway of your own bloodstream every day, all day long, and have it help your health? Not only that, but it graphs out glucose patterns and beeps before you get high or low, just to check in. It's like living with a doctor slash mother attached to your hip, with some of the implied advantages and disadvantages.

I'm not squeamish about needles and finger pricks, and have worn an insulin pump for more than 8 years, so I learned long that the diabetic aesthetic doesn't -- and won't ever -- cramp my style. One of my favorite Eddie Izzard sketches is his identification as an "executive transvestite" -- I like to think of myself as an "executive diabetic."

Pretty soon everyone will want one.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Introducing the Stall Series

We live gracelessly.

I don't know who wrote this, but I'm pretty sure I know what she was doing when she wrote it. I should mention that many of the bathroom stalls at my university come equipped with handy little chalkboards, perhaps in an effort to cut down on bathroom graffiti. Instead, people write with indelible pens on the chalkboard. And then others write over it again.

I've long been an admirer of bathroom poetry--you know, the little afterthoughts written on paper dispensers and stall walls all over the world. I often wonder if the people who write these little aphorisms carry pens with them when they go to the bathroom, or if maybe they are struck by sudden inspiration, and their first instinct is to make a beeline for the potty to jot it down.

It's safe and anonymous, and yet intimate.

I've decided to start documenting my favorite moments of bathroom poetry. Some of them are poignant, some of them are sad, some of them have girly curly-cue handwriting, some of them are written in WhiteOut, some etch their emotions in with the precision of a straight edge.

I went hunting today for my absolute favorite moment of bathroom bizareness, but it looks like it might have been washed clean from the chalkboard in the stall. It said: "IF YOU RUB YOUR HANDS TOGETHER FAST, THEY SMELL LIKE PEANUT BUTTER."

But what made it even better was the little note right underneath it, in clearly different handwriting, different color pen even:

"...Wow you're right."

Oh, the wonders of fleeting, spontaneous and seemingly heartfelt bathroom poetry.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

For my brother, on his birthday

Josh, for your birthday, I'd like to dedicate the following Screeching Weasels song to you.

Thanks for letting me into your club. Happy birthday to pretty much the best brother in the world.

And yes, I'm going to work on getting you that skate deck. One that is okay for you to break. ;)

Monday, May 10, 2010

The True Nature of Surfing the Web

This was at Quiet Lighting V at Mina Dresden Gallery here in San Francisco. Fun.

I was a little startled, however, to see it pop up on some random Julia Roberts blog this week. I'm wondering what this group is, who Frances Kelley in Grand Rapids, Michigan might be, and what possible relevance it has for a group of Julia Roberts fans. Maybe this is a meme for anyone with the first name Julia?

The internet does funny things to our lives.

This morning, while trolling internet news sites for possible Forum show ideas, I came across a photo of a performer at the SF Weird Street Faire that looked oddly familiar. There was something about that pink hair...And she was identified as the one and only Trixxie Carr, a performer, playwright, musician and faux drag queen here in San Francisco, who also happens to be my cousin.

Trixxie was the girl at my family reunions who was always completely unafraid to be herself, and as the only granddaughter on both sides of my family, I always wished I could be so unabashedly my own person. She is, as I've soon learned, an accomplished performer who has toured as far as China. I hadn't seen her in some time, and suddenly we had exchanged contact information and I realized that maybe creativity is a force as powerful as family, one that makes us circle the same overlapping Venn diagrams time and time again, until we hit all the matrices that seem interesting.

Small, lovely, funny world, thanks to the internet. And perhaps the people out there doing the things they love, and then putting them on the internet.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


You taught me to adventure.

Revista EOI Fuengirola: International Magazine That You Should Read

credit: EOI Fuengirola

Marta Moreno is pretty much one of the best teachers I have ever met. We met in 2006 when I was working as a bilingual educational assistant at en elementary school in La Cala de Mijas, Spain. Marta teaches English at the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas in Fuengirola--just across the street from the apartment where I lived. Once a week, my American friends and I would join her for a bilingual "teatro" club with several of her Spanish students who were in her English classes. Marta organized these classes on her own time with the help of Amy Nickerson, a fellow American who, like me, had come to Spain as part of a national bilingualism-in-the-schools project. Each week we'd perform little skits in English and Spanish, in part just for kicks, and in part to engage that language part of our brain that was still transitioning from English to Spanish.

Marta and I often talked about writers and artists we liked in various languages, and by the end of the year she had become a wonderful friend and resource. This year, she emailed me to say that she and her class at the EOI were making an international magazine. She was asking around her international friends to see if we would contribute a short piece about the cities where we lived. I passed her along some notes about San Francisco, along with some photos. Today she emailed me to share the results of their year of hard work, and it is really well done:

Whether you speak English, Spanish, German or French -- whether you're an armchair traveler or a Trotemundos (Globetrotter), you'll love the work they've done.

Y a Marta y su clase de escritores, disenadores y artistas: bien hecho!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Picture of the Day

I spotted this while walking up the steps to Gaudi's Park Guell in Barcelona.

Nerd-dom, I embrace thee. Especially in Spain.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cool Stuff You Should Know

There are a lot of them--things, that is. But I feel the need to dash off a list of some of the coolest nouns in my life these days. People, places, events, programs.

The Best New Literary Series in San Francisco

would have to be Quiet Lightning, a monthly reading series curated by Evan Karp and Rajshree Chauhan. I was first turned on to this by my classmate (and Managing Editor of SF State's kickass graduate literary magazine, Fourteen Hills) D.W. Lichtenberg, who has been actively reading work from his first published collection of poetry, The Ancient Book of Hip. Karp and Chauhan take submissions of 5 minute pieces early in the month and then arrange them in specific reading order for the event, which has hopped from bar to gallery and back again. Writers are invited to submit poetry, flash fiction, excerpts and really it seems anything that can be performed in about five minutes. Not only is the event itself a fun gathering of writers and friends, but Karp and Chauhan have managed to bridge that gap between open mic and literary journal by publishing all the work in sPARKLE & bLINK, and by video-recording all of the readers and posting them online.

Best New Radio Shows

New to me, that is. Just yesterday I got turned on to Snap Judgment, an NPR program that explains itself as an "audio rollercoaster." Glynn Washington hosts these hourlong programs, which are sensationally produced with music, sound effects, and dramatic moments of pause in between personal narratives.

is a New York-based personal storytelling program in the tradition of The Moth, except it allows its readers to offer long, entertaining and practiced personal anecdotes. Kevin Allison (most famously known for his work in the comedy troupe the State) hosts, and sometimes has celebrity guests such as Janeane Garafalo or Elna Baker -- two ladies whose writing I definitely admire.

Best Local Music Show

Golden Beat, from Berkeley's KALX, is my go-to when I've got a few hours to write an assignment and crave some indie, funky, country, bluesy, eclectic beats.

Best Impersonal Email Message

VSL, or Very Short List, has mastered the art of anonymous culture-busting. I got turned on to this by following Kurt Andersen, host of Studio 360 and another one of my literary heroes, who helped found the website in 2006. Basically, their concept is to summarize "one must-see gem" a day, and it's usually an underground book, film, band, or even political movement that might not otherwise see the light of day.

I'm not usually one for the mass email, but this one I read every day.

And, finally, last but not least:

Best Way to Respond to a Bad Pick-Up Line

A short, accidental moment of true, unblemished impoliteness. Every now and then someone will see the little machine on my hip and use it as a way to chat me up. 99% of the time it's a perfectly harmless exchange, but every now and then I find that it acts as an excellent screen. One example:

After the reading Monday night, I was talking with my cousin and my friend Max, and a young guy approached me and interjected rather loudly, "WOAH you must be a doctor or something because I haven't seen a PAGER like that in a long time!"

To which I responded, "I'm diabetic." In my head, I modulated the tone as a kind of "I'm happy to talk to you about it if you ask," but it actually came out in a much more of a "fuck off, you ignoramus" way. I didn't realize that until I saw the startled look on his face, and I turned back to my friends just as he did a full about-face and walked away.

So yeah. I think this stuff is cool. You don't have to agree with me, but if you ask me about my pager, I might accidentally shut you down.

Monday, May 3, 2010

La Senora Presidenta

I didn't realize I'd ever meet a president, and if I did, I didn't ever think she'd be a woman.

I first learned about la senora Presidenta Michelle Bachelet, Chile's first female president and one of its most popular, while working on the Women, Power and Politics exhibit at the International Museum of Women in 2008. We were doing a segment on women as political leaders, and one of my colleagues suggested I watch La Hija del General, a documentary about Ms. Bachelet. Her father, a general in the Chilean Air Force, was arrested in 1973, and later died in prison. Michelle and her mother were also arrested and detained for several months, only to emerge, like a butterfly from a cocoon, into a life of social activism. In 2002, she became the Chilean Minister of Defense, a position that took her back to the very same military that altered the course of her parents' life. In 2006, she ran for president and won. A progressive, divorced mother with longstanding political convictions, she gave Chile a new face, only to leave it shortly before the recent earthquake.

I had all this in mind when I went to greet her for today's Forum broadcast, and yet all that came out of my mouth was some fluff about the weather. What do you say, in the five minute walk from the stairs to the studio, to convey your level of respect? Certainly you don't say something as banal as, "Oh, yes, it get so foggy here in the summer," and certainly you don't boil her tea too hot, and certainly you don't just stand there, smiling stupidly, wanting desperately to talk to her in the language you both know, the one she thinks you don't understand, wishing you could be half as eloquent and a quarter as accomplished. But she's effortlessly presidential, and you only have five minutes, and she's got a posse with her, so you talk quickly and walk fast and then, before you know it, she's lost to the airwaves and you're lost in thought, wondering, I wonder who else in this great world I might actually meet.

And realizing, of course, that it's rarely the ones you think will dazzle you that do--usually it's the ones that have been newsmakers all along, the ones that pop up on your horizon only when it's convenient to you.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Night at the Oakland Museum

This time last night I was just walking up the steps to the Oakland Museum of California, which was hosting a spectacular 30-hours re-opening celebration in honor of its recent renovation. There were deejays, documentaries, palm readers, and lots of vibrant, diverse, amazing exhibitions. It was "From the Mixed-Up-Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" meets "Night at the Museum," except in Oakland, on a beautiful spring night.

The only other time I'd ever been to the Oakland Museum was as a fourth-grader. We had driven all the way to the Bay Area to get a hands-on look at California history, and yet all I seem to remember about it was that there were koi in the pond, and that the adult chaperone in our group got lost on the 880 and we ended up in San Francisco. But last night--last night art was seeping in our pores. There are three main exhibits that are currently open to the public: "Art", "Nature," and "History." I don't think I've ever been to a museum that examined California identity so carefully, and displayed such an honest depiction of what it means to be multicultural. I was especially moved by the exhibit of art made in Japanese internment camps, many of them in the Bay Area.

There's something magical about being in a public place with lots of people late at night. It's almost as if the truly fascinating, exotic or curious parts of ourselves emerge when no one else is looking, and these are the parts most worth documenting.