Sunday, September 14, 2014

“lucky and full-hearted”

A mother speaks about her daughter:

She came out to me by calling me from college … The next day I wrote her a long letter. I told her that what was most important to me was not whether she loved a man or a woman, but that she loved and was loved well — that she experience passion, and the wonderful surprise of finding that someone feels about you as strongly as you do about them, lucky and full-hearted.

I came across this quote in Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree: parents, children, and the search for identity. Andrew Solomon investigated the way parents cope with finding out their child is unlike them. The topic chapters include the Deaf, Dwarfs, Down Syndrome, and Autism. Mostly Solomon interviews parents who cope well. Still, when I came across Betty Adelson’s description of her reaction to her daughter Anna’s coming out announcement, I was awed. Those are some seriously beautiful words.

I read the passage to Kent and couldn’t help choking up (made it difficult to get the words out). He kept patting me on the shoulder and telling me it was okay. Yeah. It was totally okay.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

word of the day: realia

The narrator [of the story “Verily He Is Risen” by Mikhail Shishkin] harks back to Soviet-speak when he hears a woman who might have been his schoolmate and recalls the realia of a Soviet schoolchild’s life and the kind of verse they recite. [my bolding]

definition: objects, as coins, tools, etc., used by a teacher to illustrate everyday living.
definition courtesy

source: Marilyn Schwartz’s introduction to her translation of Mikhail Shishkin’s short story which appears in Two Lines: world writing in translation, no. 17

I looked again at the part of the story where the “woman who might have been [the narrator’s] schoolmate” appears. The woman’s way of speaking reminds the narrator of “a girl in my grade at school [who] was the school’s best at reciting the poem about the Soviet passport and ‘I’ve disliked the oval since a child and since a child have drawn an angle,’ and lots of other poems in that vein, and therefore she performed at all the Pioneer and later Komsomol assemblies …” I don’t see where the narrator remembers any “objects … used by the teacher to illustrate everyday living” — unless the translator is referring to a “poem about the Soviet passport.” I understand the Soviet passport wasn’t so much for travel outside the Soviet Union but rather something you had to produce to prove you were allowed to be wherever it was you currently were (even if it was where you grew up). In that case the passport, at least, would be an object of “everyday living.” In the U.S. you only get a passport if you plan to leave the country. Maybe the equivalent in the U.S. would be the driver’s license which is used more frequently for identification purposes than to prove you have the state’s permission to drive.

Friday, September 05, 2014

a tub is overflowing upstairs

Are there more than two ways to talk about music? There’s the technical - talking about keys and fifths and timbre or whatever. And there’s metaphor. The jargon of the technical quickly loses me. I have no way to conjure the sound in my head. On the other hand, metaphor is fun to read and creates a feeling that I can associate with the music. In neither case do I hear the music. But at least with evocative metaphor I am intrigued and more inclined to seek the music out.

The critic who writes about pop and rock for The New Yorker is Sasha Frere-Jones. I recently read a feature of his about the band Grizzly Bear. Let’s look at his metaphors:

“The songs on [the album] ‘Yellow House’ … seem to glow from within, as though the electricity had gone out and the house were lit only by candles.”

Frere-Jones likens the playing of a particular chord in one song to “a car coughing to life, or someone rising to his feet reluctantly.”

When later in that song “the backing vocals” come in, they “are bleeding in from above, like the tub upstairs overflowing.”

Grizzly Bear’s more recent album, “Veckatimest,” Sasha-Jones calls “a sprawling water park, sending you through different sluices and dropping you from pools down into slides that give onto small lakes.”

One of the songs on that album is “a big fat ice-cream cone.”

Another “manages to sink fully into its own honey without disappearing.”

The concluding song of “Veckatimest” shows us that, “The fog has lifted and now we can see an entire city, not just a house.”

If you’re curious, the metaphor about the tub overflowing refers to the song “Knife”:

source: The New Yorker, May 11, 2009

Thursday, September 04, 2014

word of the day: besom

context: A little boy is being carried through the sky by a female personification of the North Wind. “He began to wonder whether she would hear him if he spoke. He would try.

‘Please, North Wind,’ he said. ‘what is that noise?’

From high over his head came the voice of the North Wind, answering him gently, —

‘The noise of my besom. I am the old woman that sweeps the cobwebs from the sky; only I’m busy with the floor now.’” [my bolding]

definition: a broom, especially one of brush or twigs
definition courtesy of

source: At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

word of the day: roscid

The Arctic Ground Squirrel lies / beneath the tundra … / temperature lower than ice … / … But every other week it shivers / into warmth and for a night, it dreams. … [D]etails of the creature’s fate must echo / the unsolved problems of our hearts. / Else why bother reading through / these words in quest of a frozen mammal’s / roscid dreams? [bolding mine]

definition: Dewy
definition courtesy the Collins English Dictionary

source: “What the Arctic Ground Squirrel Dreams,” a poem by Christopher Michel
appearing in Fourteen Hills: the San Francisco State University Review, vol. 20, no. 1, 2014

I remember going camping without a tent as a kid. Usually we slept under trees but sometimes we would lay our sleeping bags under the open sky and wake up roscid. I don’t think any dreams I woke from were roscid as well. Maybe those came later?

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

“that splinter of grandiosity”

Most of us would like to be more successful or more beautiful or wealthier, and most people endure episodes of low self-esteem or even self-hatred. … But we retain the startling evolutionary imperative of affection for the fact of ourselves, and with that splinter of grandiosity we redeem our flaws.

source: Far from the Tree: parents, children, and the search for identity by Andrew Solomon

Monday, September 01, 2014

What if everything you’ve been told is wrong?

Being gay is very different from a heterosexual’s experience, in which everything they see, hear, and have been told confirms their own experience. Whereas for gay men and lesbians, their experience is at odds with what they’re told.

That’s Robert H. Hopcke in an interview conducted by Mark Thompson.

source:Gay Soul: finding the heart of gay spirit and nature with sixteen writers, healers, teachers, and visionaries interviews and photographs by Mark Thompson

Sunday, August 31, 2014

what I got at SF Zine Fest 2014

Tyranny of the Muse, issue #1, written by Eddie Wright, illustrated by Jesse Balmer
plus Tyranny of the Muse stickers
Tyranny of the Muse website

Police Log Comics: comic strip interpretations of the police log of Carmel, CA, issue #2, by Owen Cook
sample Police Log Comics in color

Tortilla, issues #2 and 3*, by Jaime Crespo
The artist doesn’t seem to have a website of his own currently but here’s his Wikipedia entry: Jaime Crespo

The List by Maia Kobabe
Red Gold Sparks

Childhood, a mini-comics anthology by students at California College of the Arts
class taught by Justin Hall

Jin & Jam, no.1, by Hellen Jo
for more: Hellen Jo

paperdummy, issues #5, #6, #7, and #8, by Peter S. Conrad

Four Mission Mini-Comix: When Naked Hallway Dudes Attack!, The Thrill of Living in a Dying Empire #2, Quincy’s Terrible, Horrible, Worst-Ever Blind Date, and Do You Suffer for Your Art … Or Because of it?
Mission Mini-Comix

postcards by Lia Tin, Lauren Kawahara, Aki Neumann, Emma Judd, Shawn Eisenach, and a postcard-sized piece of original art by NubsArt

a reminder to attend the 5th annual East Bay Alternative Book and Zinefest in Berkeley on December 6.

* actually Kent bought these, but I talked to Mr Crespo about Harvey Pekar and the work Mr Pekar left unpublished at his death - I would contribute to a Kickstarter to see that stuff.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

“migrant and unspecified forms”

[T]he right to look, for unstructured amounts of time, at migrant and unspecified forms, and at the relation between them, without demanding that the forms have a single meaning, and without demanding that whatever significance I ascribe to these forms be defensible, explicable, or based on any evidence but my own sensations.

This is how Wayne Koestenbaum descries one’s “rights” in regard to the experience of viewing abstract art.

source: My 1980s & Other Essays by Wayne Koestenbaum

Monday, August 25, 2014

word of the day: irrefragable

Over the years I [Oliver Sacks] have seen … patients who, in consequence of a right-[brain]hemisphere stroke, have lost all feeling and use of the left side [of the body]. Often they have no awareness that anything has happened, but some people are convinced that their left side belongs to someone else (“my twin brother,” “the man next to me,” even “It’s yours, Doc, who are you kidding?”). … It needs to be emphasized that such patients may be highly intelligent, lucid, and articulate — and that it is solely in reference to their odd distortions of body image that they make their surreal but irrefragable statements. [my bolding]

definition: impossible to refute
per Merriam-Webster

quote source: Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

Monday, August 18, 2014

“You don’t have to bend the whole world”

I always had hopes of being a big star … As you get older, you aim a little lower … Everybody wants to leave something behind them, some impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think, you left a mark on the world if you just get through it .. You don’t have to bend the whole world. I think it’s better to just enjoy, pay your dues and enjoy it. If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you. [ellipses in original]

That’s Dorian Corey at the end of the documentary Paris Is Burning. Dorian Corey is a professional drag artist. Paris Is Burning focuses on the Drag Ball scene in New York City in the 80s.

source: Paris Is Burning: a queer film classic by Lucas Hilderbrand

Friday, August 08, 2014

Handwriting Rebels

A couple years back Kent & I were doing a tour of Northeastern California. We stopped in at a museum that featured gold mining equipment and Indian baskets and so on. I bought some postcards, as I am wont to do, and chatted a little with the lady behind the front counter. When I said we were from Berkeley, she said she was born in Berkeley!

Somehow we got onto the topic of education - maybe it was the ignorance of kids today, or some such evergreen - and she said she couldn’t believe schools no longer required handwriting, that is, cursive. How could you consider yourself educated if you didn’t know how to do that?

Probably nobody (older) has ever but agreed with this sentiment (not long ago my younger sister posted similarly on Facebook), so I must have surprised the museum lady when I rolled my eyes and said, “I always hated cursive. As soon as it was no longer required I stopped using it. The only time I write with cursive these days is when I apply a signature.”

Sadly, we suddenly lost our common ground!

In his book about the FBI and the Free Speech Movement Subversives, Seth Rosenfeld spends several pages on a biographical sketch of former University of California president Clark Kerr. Kerr remembered his grade school days and one of those confident predictions made by his teacher at the old one-room school:

[T]hough she insisted he learn the prevailing Palmer Method of cursive writing - unless he mastered it, she warned, he would “never amount to anything” - he clung to his block letters.

I doubt Rosenfeld interviewed Miss Elba himself so I’m guessing Mr Kerr provides the quote from memory. It stuck in his memory! He did amount to something, the little rebel.

source: Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals and Reagan’s rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld

Thursday, August 07, 2014

What J. Edgar Hoover liked to see

This one’s not going in the “evidence disproving Hoover was gay” column.

[FBI agents] complied with a dress code enforced as much through fear of Hoover’s personal disapproval as through any written rule. They wore dark, conservative suits, white shirts, ties, and spit-polished shoes, their hair cut short and their faces closely shaved. They were subject to annual physicals and strict weight limits, though some of them complained that Hoover seemed well over the limit. “We were all taking pills to try to repress our appetite, to trim down,” [agent Burney] Threadgill recalled.

Hopped up on pills to look good to a man.

Victims of the male gaze.

source: Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals and Reagan’s rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld

Wednesday, August 06, 2014


Two FBI agents under Jessica Mitford’s house :
One evening in the [nineteen-]fifties, [Burney] Threadgill and another agent named Harold Hoblit were assigned to monitor a meeting at the [Mitford/]Treuhafts’ home [in Berkeley]. They sneaked into the crawl space beneath the house to eavesdrop on Mitford and her visitors, but as the meeting wore on, Threadgill fell asleep, and began to snore loudly. In a panic, Hoblit rousted him and they crept away.

source: Subversives: the FBI’s war on student radicals and Reagan’s rise to Power by Seth Rosenfeld