Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hodgepodge 291/365 - Avocados

I heard today that the International Space Station is about to get a resupply, including 20 pounds of fresh food. A special treat that is being tucked in this time is some fresh avocados.

That reminded me of my trip to the USSR back in the early 90s. We entered and exited the country via Helsinki, where I happened to have a friend from boarding school days in Germany, Raili: she went on to become a principal soprano with the Finnish national opera. We arranged to meet up on my return, and she welcomed me with a bottle of wine and, even better, fresh avocados! It was such a treat to savor that yummy food after a few weeks of Soviet food. (Though granted, we also did quite a bit of camping in Russia, where we foraged for mushrooms and berries and caught fish, so it wasn't all dismal.)

The avocado, or Persea americana, is in the laurel family and is thought to have originated in southern Mexico about 12,000 years ago. The name avocado comes from the Nahuatl word āhuacatl (also meaning "testicle"), which became aguacate in Spanish. Avocado is the state fruit of California, where 90 percent of the domestic crop is grown on some 59,000 acres of land, much of it in San Diego County. We also import from Mexico, Chile, and Peru. The fruit is rich in B vitamins and vitamin K, as well as C, E, and potassium.

Those astronauts are going to be happy campers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hodgepodge 290/365 - Poetry (Khadijah Queen)

Like several others I've featured here, Khadijah was a fellow student at Antioch University, in the Creative Nonfiction thread with me. I vividly remember her pieces about being a sailor—young, female, black—on the U.S.S. Cole (before it was bombed by Al-Qaeda), about her grandmother. Her prose was enriched by the fact that she is also a poet.

For a few years, we took part in a little writing group together with a couple of other Antioch friends. We called ourselves the Red Threads. Reading her work was always challenging—in a good way. She pushes boundaries, finds edges then transcends them.

Since I met her she has published several books of poetry, a play, and most recently a work of what I would call prose poetry, I'm So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On, which was a finalist for the 2015 National Poetry Series prize. Here are a few from that book (which you can read more about in this review).

The same year I found out who Audie Murphy was I got stretch marks I was 12 & living in a battered women’s shelter in Long Beach with my mother & sister & I filled out too fast from eating too much junk food & noticed the light striations after my first shower there I put on sandals & a loose pale blue summer dress that tied at the shoulders & saw the woman in the bunk across the room organizing pictures in a raggedy green photo album she lay there propped up on a thin elbow & I asked who is that & she didn’t reply just turned to a page that had his name & stared at Audie Murphy so hard her inch-thick glasses fogged up & I think it bothered her son who was my age & very smart but he didn’t complain he took really good care of her she would kiss the pictures & say in a clear voice I might be tall & you might be short Audie Murphy but you’d better tell those Western girls you’re all mine

I don’t remember how old I was when I saw Lou Rawls but we were on Wilshire somewhere with my mom & he drove a Rolls the color of rich cream every finger had gold & diamonds on it & the woman passenger wore a white fur coat & her bouffant stretched high enough to almost brush the inside roof of the car she also had on a lot of jewelry but not as much as Lou & we knew who he was because he had just performed on Solid Gold or Soul Train & I am pretty sure it was nighttime in the spring because I remember his lights were on & my legs were cold so I must have had on a dress or shorts my mom said for us to wave so we waved & he smiled & tapped the horn & glided on down the street in sparse traffic

A guy I met on Tinder took me to see Lionel Richie at Red Rocks Amphitheater I had on 3-inch gold heels stupidly because you have to climb approximately 8,901 steps which slope at a 45 degree angle but redeemed myself by keeping a pair of flats in the car also gold luckily matching my black slacks & ecru shell & light sweater I was glad I brought the sweater even though it was June since when the sun went down it still wasn’t warm enough & my date also let me wear his jacket & wrapped an arm around my shoulders & we had just met but it wasn’t weird at all just a moment that made me love dating in my late 30s & our whole row sang along to all the songs & on that outdoor screen Lionel Richie looked like he hadn’t aged a day since 1988

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hodgepodge 289/365 - Naked Ladies

Today's Facebook reminder of how long I've been sinking time into "social media" was a photo from three years ago, of a "naked lady," a.k.a. Amaryllis belladonna.

Here are some fun facts: this flower, variously known as Jersey lily, belladonna lily, March lily, and naked lady, is native to Cape Province in South Africa but is widely cultivated as an ornamental and has naturalized all over the world, especially in places characterized by a Mediterranean climate (cool rainy winter, hot dry summer). In Portugal one name is meninas para escola (girls going to school), referring to the flowers blooming when the girls in their pink uniforms are starting the new school year. Here in central California it blooms reliably for a few short weeks in August, on utterly naked stems (hence their more bawdy name). After the blossom, the narrow strap-shaped leaves appear.

It is one of only two species in the genus Amaryllis (the other being the rare paradisicola, known from a population of only about a thousand individuals in Richtersveld National Park, South Africa). What we commonly refer to as "amaryllis"—the kind you can buy in grow-from-a-bulb kits—is also in the family Amaryllidaceae (along with daffodils, agapanthus, and onions and chives), but in the genus Hippeastrum. The name Amaryllis comes from a shepherdess in Virgil's pastoral Eclogues, from the Greek ἀμαρύσσω (amarysso), meaning "to sparkle." Belladonna, of course, means beautiful woman.

Here are a few more photos I've take in Augusts past. Click on them to view large on black.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hodgepodge 288/365 - Poetry (Issa)

Kobayashi Issa (1763–1828) was a Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest of the Jōdo Shinshū sect known for his haiku poems and journals. He is better known as simply Issa, a pen name meaning Cup-of-Tea.

The man pulling radishes

  The man pulling radishes
pointed my way
  with a radish.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hodgepodge 287/365 - Book List for My WWII Project

I have a long reading list, research for my "novel" that treats, in part, the Japanese American internment during World War II. I think it's time to fit it into my schedule . . . Most of these are books that I actually own, and some of them I've actually read. But there are a lot to go, even just for skimming/note-taking purposes. Must get cracking!


Isabel Allende, The Japanese Lover
Jerome Charyn, American Scrapbook
Toshio Mori, Yokohama, California
Nina Rovoyr, Southland
Herman Wouk, War and Remembrance


Ansel Adams, Photographs of Manzanar
Robert Asahina, Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad—The Story of the 100th Battalion/442d Regimental Combat Team in World War II
Ansel Adams, Manzanar memorial
Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese Americans, Manzanar Relocation Center, Inyo County, California—Based on the Book Published by U.S. Camera in 1944 with Photographs and Text by Ansel Adams
Brian Komei Dempster, ed., From Our Side of the Fence: Growing Up in America’s Concentration Camps
Brian Komei Dempster, ed., Making Home from War: Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement
Allen H. Eaton, Beauty behind Barbed Wire
Paul Fussell, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War
Linda Gordon and Gary Y. Okihiro, eds., Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment
Kimi Kodani Hill, Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment
Delphine Hirasuna, The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942–1946
Lawson Fusao Inada, ed., Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience
Karen L. Ishizuka, Lost and Found: Reclaiming the Japanese American Incarceration
Heather C. Lindquist, ed., Children of Manzanar
Eric L. Muller, ed., Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II
Alice Yang Murray, ed., What Did the Internment of Japanese Americans Mean?
Joanne Oppenheim, Dear Miss Breed: The Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration during World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference
Richard Reeves, Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II
Gerald Robinson, Elusive Truth: Four Photographers at Manzanar—Ansel Adams, Clem Albers, Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake
Jan Jarboe Russell, The Train to Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp during World War II
Todd Stewart, Placing Memory: A Photographic Exploration of Japanese American Internment
Surviving Minidoka: The Legacy of WWII Japanese American Incarceration (a project of Boise State University, College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs, in partnership with College of Southern Idaho)
Barbara Takei and Judy Tachibana, Tule Lake Revisited: A Brief History and Guide to the Tule Lake Concentration Camp Site
Ruth Wallach et al., Los Angeles in World War II (Arcadia Publishing Images of America series)
Jane Wehrey, Manzanar (Arcadia Publishing Images of America series)

Memoir, Oral History, and Biography

Diana Meyers Bahr, The Unquiet Nisei: An Oral History of the Life of Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Mary Matsuda Gruenewald, Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese American Internment Camps
Jean Houston, Farewell to Manzanar
Miné Okubo, Citizen 13660
Pauline E. Parker, Women of the Homefront: World War II Recollections of 55 Americans
Michael Elsohn Ross, Nature Art with Chiura Obata
George Takei, To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei
Paul Howard Takemoto, Nisei Memories: My Parents Talk about the War Years
John Tateishi, ed., And Justice for All: An Oral History of the Japanese American Detention Camps
Voices Long Silent: An Oral Inquiry into the Japanese American Evacuation (The Japanese American Project of the Oral History Program at California State University, Fullerton)


Toyo’s Camera


Densho Encyclopedia,

Friday, August 11, 2017

Hodgepodge 286/365 - Gaman / 我慢

Gaman is a Japanese term of Zen Buddhist origin meaning "enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity." Variously translated as patience, tolerance, perseverance, or self-denial, it means to do one's best under difficult circumstances and to maintain self-control and discipline. Displaying gaman is considered a virtue, a sign of maturity and strength.

The term is, not surprisingly, often attributed to those Japanese Americans who were imprisoned during World War II. In 2010–11, the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., part of the Smithsonian, mounted a show called "The Art of Gaman," featuring arts and crafts created in the camps, out of whatever was available. These pieces are remarkable for their ingenuity and beauty. Here are a few links (here and here and here) that give more description, more images, and more of a story of the internment itself. There is also a book that accompanied the show, and in this video the curator, Delphine Hirasuna, describes how she hunted the pieces down over a decade.

Here are just a few examples:

Scissors hammered from melted scrap metal by
Akira Oye in Rohwer, Arkansas

Unknown artist, bas-relief carving  and painting
of Heart Mountain, Wyoming

Kinoe Adachi made this samurai out of shells she collected
while at Topaz, Utah

Carved birds based on National Geographic
photos and Audubon bird identification
cards; the legs were often made of wire

A puzzle made by Kametaro Matsumoto in Minedoka, Idaho:
the objective is to free the young woman from the
surveillance of her family and surround her by the four young men

Stone teapot carved by Homei Iseyama in Topaz, Utah

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hodgepodge 285/365 - Ikigai / 生き甲斐

I have been desultorily "working" on a "novel," or perhaps a series of linked short stories, that concerns, in part, the Japanese American internment camps. I am trying to get more focused, without a lot of success, but it occurs to me that I can use this blog to archive facts and concepts, beliefs and histories, that might contribute to the overall project.

A term that I ran across today, probably on Facebook (while avoiding my project: damn FB), seems pertinent. It is ikigai, meaning "a reason for being" (literally, iki means life, alive—more in the terms of everyday lived life than of a lifetime—and kai means a result, worth, benefit, or use). It is similar to the French phrase raison d'être. Here is a diagram of the concept, though it need not be as utterly symmetrical as depicted here (i.e., what you're paid for doing might have nothing to do with your sense of ikigai).

According to Japanese cultural beliefs, every person has an ikigai. Finding it, however, requires a deep and often lengthy search of self. Yet such a search is considered important, in that discovering one's ikigai is precisely what brings satisfaction and meaning to life. It may lie in work, avocations, or raising children, or in something more akin to a calling. It is associated with actions we want to take, spontaneously and naturally, not that we must.

In Okinawa, ikigai is one's reason to get out of bed—or more generally, to enjoy life. National Geographic fellow and author Dan Buettner held forth on, among other things that contribute to long life, the Okinawan take on ikigai in a TED Talk in 2009. It's worth watching (and not just for the ikigai). Going fishing a few times a week may be the most important thing in life—for some Okinawans, anyway. Probably a few Montanan fly fishermen too. Buettner calls ikigai "purpose in action."

The "girl band" KBG84, average age 83, on the island of
Kohama in Okinawa. Ninety-two-year-old member
Tomi Menaka (on right) considers singing and dancing
in the group her ikigai.
Here is an article published just a few days ago by the BBC on ikigai, if you're interested in reading a little more about it.

Perhaps I should consider my own ikigai more carefully. That might help me get going with this "novel"—or whatever it is. And I certainly will be considering the role that ikigai might have played in the lives of the internees, who were so unjustly ripped from their homes and livelihoods. Talk about needing a reason to get up in the morning.