Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weekend on the Farm

Blame Mother Nature

This time, the delay in posting was not my fault! Wind knocked out our internet connection for a few days, but it has calmed down and I am back. Thanks for your patience. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Upside Down

This technique comes from art class. Remember art? Those of us born before 1990 probably relish those bygone days when things like art and music were actually valued in school. Our elementary school art teacher, Mr. Pratt, was a quiet and calm man with light brown hair and a soft smile. When we first learned drawing techniques, copying images from magazines, he would urge us to turn our pictures upside down. This forced us to pay more attention to lines, shapes, and shadows, rather than the finished product. It helped immensely to see in a different way.

Upside Down Figures by Joan Miro

Poetry is another way of seeing differently. Why describe an art teacher as "quiet and calm with light brown hair and a soft smile," when you can say something like this:

a chin templed, something smooth
about the way skin rose, parted,
became eyes or a brown shadow
behind the portables.

Turn whatever you're writing about upside down. Look at the parts rather than the whole. Write accordingly.

The Fault is Mine

A jam-packed wedding-celebration weekend coupled with a new job have left me struggling for balance. Be assured that I'll do my best to keep this blog updated and current. Thank you, friends and readers.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Movie Monday: A Perfect 10

As the summer blockbuster season descends and we are inundated with loud, violent, flashy, and often poorly made movies by hacks like Michael Bey and McG, I've been thinking about my list of perfect movies. You know, those movies that have it all: a quirky, yet lovable lead, an engaging story with a dash of fantasy, a tightly-edited and evenly-paced film, compelling and elevated dialogue...a movie that makes you feel good as you leave the theater.

As I began to compile a list in my head, I realized that my perfect movies and my favorite movies were mutually exclusive, a curious occurence. My favorite movies often have a nostalgic element to them. There are awkward moments, bad filming choices, but I love them all the same. Perhaps we can admire and appreciate that which is perfect, but only truly love that which is flawed.

So, for all you summer movie viewers looking for either the perfect movie, or its slightly awkward cousin, here are my suggestions:

Perfect 10's

All-Time Favorites

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Weekend in...Arizona

Today, I return to the land of my birth for the wedding of a dear friend. Happy Early Weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weekly Workshop: In The News

Headlines are like little poems...they have to have a big impact in few words, and all the extra fluff must be extricated. Oftentimes, they employ poetic devices such as alliteration, meter, and even rhyme. At their best, they intrigue and stimulate thought, at their worst they offer laugh-out-loud moments. It's evident that they are perfect as jumping-off points for poems. Try some of these:

Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
Enraged Cow Injures Farmer With Ax
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
Drunk Gets Nine Months In Violin Case
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
Iraqi Head Seeks Arms
Astronaut Takes Blame For Gas In Spacecraft

Or find some from your local paper, before it is no more. Maybe if print journalism fails, poets can keep things going!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Not-Really-Review: Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

After eight years of Spanish class I can only understand about one tenth of what they're saying on Telemundo's dating show, Doce Corazones. Despite this minor setback, I still get a lot out of the show. For instance, I can tell who the most popular guy is. I can also tell which girl a guy likes best by who he yells at most. Sometimes, I can see that the guy really wants to date the show's hostess, which is too bad. You see, as an Aquarius, she's pretty independent, and she's used to turning down contestants. No mierdas donde comidas, she might say. Or is it comeras?

The Not-Really Book Club meets each month in Sacramento.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Movie Monday: I've Been Watching...

viewing partner: Isaac
stars: **
notes: Boobs? Check. Racial tension? Check. Girl puking? Check. This movie is funny...until you realize there's no plot. 

viewing partner: Isaac & George
stars: **1/2
notes: I wanted to like this movie. I just...didn't. It could have something to do with the fact that it kept putting me to sleep.

viewing partner: first half, Isaac; second half, solo
stars: ***
notes: Sorry Jennifer Jason Leigh, but your Katherine Hepburn can't hold a candle to Cate Blanchett's.

viewing partner: Isaac & George
stars: ****
notes: Way underrated. Reminiscent of Heart and Souls, but with more scatological humor. Which I love.

viewing partner: three loads of laundry
stars: ****
notes: Filmed at a time when voiceover was king. Speaking of kings, Stephen, you rock!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's Friday, I'm in Love


putting in a summer garden

the new Star Trek

the smell of bandaids

Lee Smith's story in Shenandoah

the addictive Hulu

man-sized sunflowers

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Public Policy

If you read my previous posts, you will know that I am a fan of public poetry, or, more precisely, of putting poetry in poetry-less places. You might also be able to tell that I love collaboration between the arts, specifically those of the visual and written kind. It is inevitable, therefore, that I am a little obsessed with Broadsided

Based on traditional printing practices, Broadsided produces (I think) about one sheet of art-accompanied poetry or prose a month. In true eglatarian spirit, it is electronic, so anyone can print it out. People can even sign up to be "vectors," and their charge is to put the printed piece somewhere public--a sign post, a waiting room, a bus stop--for others to encounter. But you can use the Broadsides however you want. I used them in my middle school classes to talk about metaphor, imagery, and the like.  It was a great way to expose my students to contemporary, working writers and artists, rather than the long dead in their textbooks.

And speaking of working writers, this month's Broadside includes a poem from Karen Weyant, a wonderful working poet who writes about the wonderfully gritty stuff of life. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wednesday Workshop: Genre Bending

I'm still thinking about Castle by J. Robert Lennon, a literary novel disguised as a regular old mystery. But I'm also thinking about the book I'm currently reading, Nicanor Parra's After Dinner Declarations, a book of poetry disguised as a series of speeches (or is it the other way around?). I'm remembering when I first read Anne Sexton's Transformations, how twisted her "fairy tales" really were. And I'm remembering Norman Dubie's epic science fiction poem, The Spirit Tablets at Goa Lake.

All this adds up to a genre-bending workshop. Let's play with tired old genres like science fiction, mystery, romance. Better yet, let's think of new genres: the 80's teen movie, the period drama with modern music, the underdog team finally winning the big game, the witty archaeologist battling ancient evil. Now I've stepped into the realm of movies, but you get the idea. How can we turn these genres into something new? How can we make them relevant to our current cultural environment? How can we twist, bend, play with them? And are there any other genres I haven't listed? The medical soap opera. The courtroom soap opera. The high school soap opera. The possibilities are endless.

from Anne Sexton's "Cinderella"

You always read about it:
the plumber with the twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes.
From toilets to riches.
That story.

Or the nursemaid,
some luscious sweet from Denmark
who captures the oldest son's heart.
from diapers to Dior. 
That story.

Or a milkman who serves the wealthy,
eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk,
the white truck like an ambulance
who goes into real estate
and makes a pile.
From homogenized to martinis at lunch.

Or the charwoman
who is on the bus when it cracks up
and collects enough from the insurance.
From mops to Bonwit Teller.
That story.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I don't know where I first heard about Craig Arnold's disappearance. An accomplished poet and faculty member at the University of Wyoming, Arnold was fascinated with volcanoes, and went missing during a trip to Japan to study and write about them on his blog, Volcano Pilgrim. Once news of his disappearance got out, help came from all over: from his fellow faculty members, from the Japanese authorities, from friends and readers around the net; the show of love and concern was amazing. Unfortunately, despite everyone's best efforts, Arnold is now presumed dead. My heart goes out to his family.

To read Mr. Arnold's work, go here:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Movie Monday: Bad Movie of the Month

Hank Anderson (Paul Newman) is drilling oil on an island paradise when a nearby volcano erupts. A group of tourists, including Hank's busty ex (Jacqueline Bisset), are urged by hotelier Shelby Gilmore (William Holden) to stay put and await rescue, but they choose to accompany the steely Hank through the jungle. Meanwhile, a New York cop (Ernest Borgnine) is on the trail of a white collar criminal (Red Buttons).

material courtesy of Gracenote, Inc.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Weekend on the Farm

Apparently, I have caught a weird hybrid cold/flu thing, so the weekend starts today.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Weekly Workshop: Missing

I just finished reading J. Robert Lennon's new novel, Castle, and it got me thinking about omission. What we leave out is often as important as what we include, sometimes even more so. A poet must neccessarily be aware of omission, because, of course, to include everything would be prose. But I thoroughly enjoyed the missing pieces in Castle, and thought that Lennon's use of omission was intensely elegant. In fact, this important aspect of the novel has been translated to the cover:

What else gains power through omission? How can a story or a poem become stronger by taking some of its pieces away? If you have a great example of omission, please share it. I will be working on my own.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Galapagos, Day 7 & 8: Floreana and Santa Cruz

On the seventh day, we found ourselves on the green mineral beach of Floreana. The green crystals are known as Olivine, and you can see the distinct olive color here:

As we walked the length of the island, we found that Floreana is also home to white organic beaches as well.

Another unique  location on the island, this lagoon is home to many flamingoes. Unfortunately, they weren't here today, but we could see the pinkish tinge of the alge from which they get their distinctive color.

After a lovely, but quiet and animal-free hike, we had the most amazing snorkel of the trip at the Devil's Crown. Another volcanic formation shaped like a half moon crescent jutting out of the water, Devil's Crown acts as a protective enclosure for the most amazing coral, fish, and ocean life. It was spectacular, and I could have floated there all day.

We continued on to Post Office Bay, another location on Floreana. Post Office Bay was the past home of a fish cannery begun by a group of enterprising Scandinavians. Unfortunately, they could not figure out how to get enough fresh water, and so their business and colony went under. The remains of the cannery, however, were still standing.

Another relic of Floreana's past, and the origin of the Bay's name, was this "post office."

Floreana was actually home to many various groups of colonists, including the above-mentioned Scandinavians, Germans, and workers from mainland Ecuador. When they wanted to correspond with friends and family back home, colonists would put their letters in the barrel above. A postal boat would visit the barrel every so often, picking up outgoing mail and delivering incoming letters.

This mailbox of sorts is still active. You can leave postcards or letters in the barrel to be delivered by other tourists or picked up by a friend you know will be visiting the Galapagos soon. I left a letter for my parents, which was delivered to them just this past March. I also picked up a postcard for a family in Scottsdale, which I will deliver in May. I love that this tradition exists, and that it is still active after all these years.

The eighth day was the day we packed up left our boat for good. Before we got the bus to the ferry to the other bus to the airport, we visited the Charles Darwin Tortoise Sanctuary.

You can see above the distinct saddle-like shell of some of the tortoises. This is actually where the Galapagos gets its name. Galapagos is Spanish for "saddle."

The sanctuary is dedicated to preserving each of the tortoise species that have not already become extinct. To this end, they keep males and females in captivity for breeding purposes, a necessary evil, I guess. The tortoises looked so sad.

The two most famous tortoises at the sanctuary are Lonely George and Super Diego. Lonely George is so named because he is the last known tortoise of his kind. With no known females to mate with, Lonely George might be the end of his genetic line. Scientists and geneticists are looking for close matches that might produce a hybrid tortoise, but George has not yet mated with the females he lives with, and the future of his species is still unsure.

While we were visiting George's enclosure, he was hiding, and so I was unable to see him. But I did get a look at Super Diego.

Super Diego is Lonely George's opposite. He was found living in the San Diego Zoo, and returned to the Galapagos for mating purposes. And what a mate! At an advanced age, Super Diego fathers around two hundred babies each year. He's insatiable.

He has a long neck, which indicates that he is from an arid region. Tortoises from such dry zones must have long necks to reach their food, whereas tortoises from verdant zones look more like regular tortoises, no saddle back or long neck.

Here are some tortoise babies. Aren't they cute?

And that was the end of our trip to the Galapagos. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Galapagos, Day 6: Espanola and South Plaza

We disembarked at yet another beautiful white sand beach on Espanola Island. 

The white sand beaches were known as "organic beaches" because they were made from the finely crushed remains of shells. They differ from the darker sand of "mineral beaches," which consist of, well, minerals.

And what did we find waiting for us on the beach? Surprise, surprise, more sea lions.

This little one decided to take a nap on some seaweed. Too cute.

Espanola was also home to the Hood Mockingbird. We were warned the day before to keep our water bottles out of sight during the hike, because the mockingbirds recognize and flock to them. Mrs. B. forgot this rule when she got thirsty, and this is what happened:

These birds seriously have no fear when it comes to humans. But unlike the other animals, who were mostly indifferent to us, the mockingbirds were quite aggresive. Mrs. W. had birds landing on her water bottle laden backpack.

Espanola's lava lizards have beautiful red faces, as can be seen here.

I did quite a bit of bird-watching, since Espanola is the perfect place to see a large variety of the famous Darwin finches. I saw many, but was unable to catch a picture of any of them. They were just too fast.

After an amazing snorkel, which included sightings of two, count 'em, two sea turtles, as well as a nice swim with the sea lions, we found ourselves on the shores of South Plaza, a veritable bird's paradise. The first avian sighting was of yet another pelican. I was able to get much closer to this one.

Used to being the only mammals in the area, the sea lions were as agressive here as the mockingbirds were on Espanola. This one was gunning for Isaac.

We saw the lovely Galapagos dove

and made our way to the top of a cliff, which offered a striking ocean view.

At the top of the cliff, we saw the last of South Plaza's most famous resident, the albatross.

This albatross was just a baby, still losing its fluffy feathers. While not a native species, the albatross is a yearly visitor to South Plaza for mating purposes. Since the mating and nesting seasons were pretty much over, our guide was unsure whether this late nestling would survive.

The cliff-top spot also offered us a view of this blowhole, a unique volcanic formation which would periodically spurt ocean water much like a mini Old Faithful.

Our bird sightings continued with yet another Galapagos hawk and another booby. This booby, however was different.

Known as either the Nasca booby or the masked booby, this sea bird gets its name not from its colorful feet but from the black band across its eyes, which looks exactly like a Zorro mask. The masked boobies also took advantage of the protective cliffs of South Plaza to mate and nest.

And finally, because our avian adventure wouldn't be complete without one, we saw this blue-footed booby and her two little nestlings.

South Plaza was also home to this species of colorful marine iguana.

We ended up calling them Christmas iguanas because of their distinctive red and green coloring.

I know they're reptiles and they form harems and none of that is particularly romantic, but this was just too freaking cute:

And that was the end of yet another day in paradise. To close, I'll leave you with another shot of some Sally Golightly crabs.

Tomorrow, I will be posting pictures of Floreana and our triumphant return to Santa Cruz, so stay tuned.