Wednesday, November 30, 2016

61 Books: #61

61. Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) (11/30/16)
And so I come to an end of this yearlong "project": to read 61 books. I chose this final one based on what's going on in our country now, on the desperate need to better understand our differences, and perhaps those that hinge on race most urgently.

Divided into seven parts, comprising assorted written forms (prose poem, essay, quotations, free verse) and visual imagery, the book investigates, to quote the National Book Award judges' citation, "the ways in which racism pervades daily American social and cultural life, rendering certain of its citizens politically invisible. Rankine's formally inventive book challenges our notion that citizenship is only a legal designation that the state determines by expanding that definition to include a larger understanding of civic belonging and identity, built out of cross-racial empathy, communal responsibility, and a deeply shared commitment to equality."

The idea that citizenship involves empathy, responsibility, and a "deeply shared commitment to equality," it seems to me, is being seriously challenged both by recent events and by Rankine's own words. Indeed, she demonstrates, over and over—in an essay about Serena Williams, in short "Scripts" that blend text and image to create a kind of revisionist remix of major media coverage of racialized incidents (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Trayvon Martin, the Jena Six, stop-and-frisk), in internal monologues, in lyric prose poems that reference an unspecified "you"—the aggressions, whether overt or unconscious, that black Americans must daily endure.

"The world is wrong. You can’t put the past behind you. It's buried in you; it's turned your flesh into its own cupboard. Not everything remembered is useful but it all comes from the world to be stored in you. . . . Did I hear what I think I heard? Did that just come out of my mouth, his mouth, your mouth?"

In section II, an essay about Serena Williams, she speaks of "the anger built up through experience and the quotidian struggles against dehumanization every brown or black person lives simply because of skin color. . . . You begin to think, maybe erroneously, that this . . . kind of anger is really a type of knowledge: the type that both clarifies and disappoints. It responds to insult and attempted erasure simply by asserting presence, and the energy required to present, to react, to assert is accompanied by visceral disappointment: a disappointment in the sense that no amount of visibility will alter the ways in which one is perceived."

Many times in the book, she talks about seeing/being seen. Also about memory; and about sighing, breathing: "The sigh is the pathway to breath; it allows breathing. That's just self-preserva- tion. No one fabricates that. You sit down, you sigh. You stand up, you sigh. The sighing is a worrying exhale of an ache. You wouldn’t call it an illness; still it is not the iteration of a free being. What else to liken yourself to but an animal, the ruminant kind?"

Powerful, poetic, emotional, astute, wrenching. It is a book I will certainly read again. After only one reading, I feel washed with impressions, but still far from true understanding.

Hodgepodge 32/365 - Meditation

I have never had a meditation practice, though I've occasionally tried, and I definitely believe it would be good for me. Today, I think I'll try and start one. So: I hereby resolve to sit daily—ideally for 20 minutes or more—until the end of the year. Not that I will stop then. But for the next thirty-two days, no excuses.

By way of encouragement, I have located a web page that lists the twelve best free online guided meditations, and another with ten YouTube guided meditations. I'll start there.

I will check in on December 31, report on how I did. Accountability helps.

That's all for today. Short, sweet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hodgepodge 31/365 - Snake Dike

I have written elsewhere about my first climb and about climbing at Joshua Tree. Last night I watched the documentary Valley Uprising, about the history of rock climbing in Yosemite. It brought back fond memories.

One of the best climbs I ever did was Snake Dike on the backside of Half Dome, an easy (5.7) multi-pitch, mostly bolted route. Here's the description from the website SuperTopo:
"Snake Dike is the easiest technical climbing route to the top of Half Dome, the most recognized rock feature in the United States. Half Dome boasts an unreal summit, 5,000' of rise from the Yosemite Valley floor, and amazing views of the Yosemite and the High Sierra. This dramatic setting, combined with clean and exposed climbing, makes Snake Dike one of the most glorious moderate climbs on the planet. The long and aesthetic approach will take you past two beautiful waterfalls, through the backcountry and past an isolated lake to the southwest toe of Half Dome. The route climbs an 800' salmon-colored dike that wanders up the dramatic southwest face of Half Dome. The combination of a six-mile hike to the base, eight pitches of climbing, and a nine-mile descent back to the Valley makes a full-day adventure."
The "full-day adventure" is true. We set off early (immediately after the Curry Village bagel-and-coffee stand opened) from our campsite in the Valley, but by the time we arrived at the base of the climb, we were already third or fourth or maybe fifth in line—which doesn't sound too bad, but because this is an "easy" climb, you get beginners, and the first pitch is a little tricky, so . . . it can take a while. Waiting in the sun, I developed a headache, but someone had some Ibuprofen (the first time I heard the term "vitamin I") and soon I was good to go—though we didn't actually get on the rock until mid-afternoon.

Pitch 2. Photo by Paul Souza.
The climbing is straightforward, with a scary friction traverse on pitch 2, which I led, and otherwise lots of upward-trending runout (up to 75 feet between clips) on the pink "dike" for which the climb is named. Once we were on the route, especially once we gained the dike, it went quickly enough, I guess (I don't really remember!). It's supposed to take 3–4 hours, which sounds about right. The last few hundred feet are "class 3": a long trudge up the granite slabs to the top of the dome.

Looking down the cables.
Descent is via the famous Half Dome cables, which we arrived at shortly before sunset, having stopped to enjoy the amazing views from the top. Our nine-mile hike back was therefore in the dark, with headlamps. The most surprising thing about the descent was the large number of millipedes (Californiulus yosemitensis) that littered the trail. I had no idea millipedes were nocturnal, nor, until just now, that the ones we saw are called Yosemite millipedes! Learn something new . . . 

C. yosemitensis. Photo by Mark Leppen.
It's been a while since I've been climbing. I miss it. But I mentioned it to some friends, one of whom is pretty gung-ho, and . . . we might make an excursion to a nearby climbing area soon. I would love that.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hodgepodge 30/365 - Amazing Grace

This morning I attended the funeral of Patrick William Bailey, recently retired USFS Monterey District Wilderness Manager. It was a Catholic Mass. As usual, I found myself unmoved by the religious talk (I would, yes, call myself an atheist), but I did very much appreciate two close friends of Pat's speaking about their long friendships, and I enjoyed the music, especially "I Ride an Old Paint"—so fitting for this man who ran pack animals and loved his mules—"For You," and, of course, "Amazing Grace," sung by a sweet-voiced soprano.

I was reading something the other day that mentioned President Obama's rendition of "Amazing Grace" at the 2015 memorial service for slain Charleston pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney. Another article, in Atlantic, mentioned that he performed it distinctly in the style of the black church. This article (which includes a link to the entire two-plus-hour service honoring all the slain church members) speaks in depth about the thirteen-second pause that separated Obama's 35-minute eulogy, which was met with frequent call-and-response encouragement—amens and cheers—and his singing of this simple, beautiful song.

This extended silence is called the "sermon pause." "It is not a 'dead silence' but a 'live silence,' " writes the author of The Hum: Call and Response in African American Preaching. "It is a silence that organizes time, that invites us to think of time not as something passed but as something plotted."

In contrast to the boisterousness of the congregation to this point, during Obama's pause you could hear a pin drop: utter stillness and anticipation. Powerful and moving. Here it is: the pause and the song both.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hodgepodge 29/365 - Salinas: Architectural Gems

On yet another geocaching foray, we were treated yesterday to some lovely houses from the turn of the 20th century in Salinas. I took pictures. Here they are, with brief descriptions:

Steinbeck House: John Steinbeck was born in the first-floor front room of this house on February 27, 1902. He lived here for seventeen years before going off to Stanford University, and wrote The Red Pony and Tortilla Flat upstairs. A plaque by the front door states that he won the Pulitzer Prize for The Grapes of Wrath in 1940, and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.

This house was designed by the architect William H. Weeks. It is a Modified Colonial Style built in 1896 at a cost of $7,500. It was constructed for a District Attorney for Monterey County. He was the first California attorney to introduce the photograph as admissible evidence in a court case.

Built by Peter Bontadelli, a native of Switzerland, this home is the only example of the French Second Empirestyle architecture in Monterey County. Bontadelli was one of the first painting contractors in Salinas. 

This Queen Annestyle residence was the home of one of the first pharmacists of Salinas. Horace W. Austin built this house in 1896.

William H. Weeks designed this Queen Anne–style house for Dr. H. C. Murphy in 1901. The sunburst design in the gable represents optimism. Dr. Murphy was a Salinas physician and community leader from 1899 to 1935. He was the official physician for the city's California Rodeo, which continues to this day. John Steinbeck was delivered by Dr. Murphy at the Steinbeck home a few blocks away. Dr. Murphy's son, John, was a writer, and Steinbeck acted as his mentor.

The Homer Hayward (of Hayward Lumber) House was built in 1920. It copies the thatched roofs of rural Englandthe Hansel and Gretel substyle of the Tudor Revival.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hodgepodge 28/365 - Telephone

We have both a landline and two cell phones. We need the landline because cell reception at our house, which sits at the bottom of a little canyon, is terrible. At home, if a call comes in to my cell phone, I usually just let it go to voicemail, because I know that if I answer, we'll be disconnected in short order. But then I may have to wait until I go to higher ground to hear the voicemail. It's that bad.

But it's okay, because I don't really like telephones. And the very few friends who call me should know to call the landline.

If the landline rings, I check caller ID and pick up only (and I mean only) if I recognize the caller or number. Sometimes I can't be bothered to check, but just let it ring. They can leave a message, whoever they are. Usually they don't. There are so many soliciters out there. Though very occasionally, the caller is someone I actually want to talk to. And then, when I hear their voice, I do pick up. I'm not phone phobic. I just don't care for the contraption.

As for my cell phone, when I'm out where there is reception, I still very often let it go to voicemail, particularly if I'm with a friend, already being social. I don't understand people who think that if the phone rings they must answer. That's what voicemail is for!

I am old enough to remember, fondly, the old days when we had dial phones and no answering machines. If the phone rang and you weren't home, whoever it was just knew to call back. Communication was so much less fraught back then. Eventually, you'd link up. Patience was the watchword.

We still have a dial phone: it's black and white, cobbled together long ago from two phones, one black, one white. I never use the dial phone, but I like having it. It reminds me that I'm not a slave.

A final note, thanks to Merriam-Webster: The word solicitous (manifesting interest, care, or concern) doesn't come from solicit (ask for or try to obtain something from someone), but the two words are related. They both have their roots in the Latin word sollicitus, meaning "anxious." Solicitous itself came directly from this Latin word, whereas solicit made its way into English with a few more steps. From sollicitus came the Latin verb sollicitare, meaning "to disturb, agitate, move, or entreat." Forms of this verb were borrowed into Anglo-French, and then Middle English, and have survived in Modern English as solicit.

Soliciters, in other words, are not solicitous callers.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Hodgepodge 27/365 - Geocaching

I wrote several times in the earlier incarnation of this blog about geocaching, one of my favorite hobbies. It can take you to interesting, sometimes beautiful places; you can learn about local history, meet great people, discover new delights even in your very own community. Plus there's just the fun of the hunt, and of the creativity that goes into containers and hiding places and cache descriptions and log posts.

We recently ran across a "challenge" cache in San Jose that involves finding the twenty most "favorited" caches within a 20-mile radius of a spot—whatever spot you choose. I researched this the other day and learned that I need four caches to satisfy the requirements, my center point of course being our house. Yesterday we took care of one of those at Bixby Bridge, while out . . . um, geocaching. (Yeah, maybe it's my favorite hobby.)

Today, David needed to jump his Miata (another story), and so we decided to take the car for a nice long battery-reviving drive up to Castroville, famous for its artichokes, to find a "virtual cache" that we need for the challenge (it had 99 faves). I'm not crazy about virtuals: they typically involve going somewhere and finding specified information, then emailing the cache owner to get credit for having found the information. There's no container to search out, no log to sign. But oh well. We needed this one.

And it turned into a delightful late afternoon excursion. Here's what I wrote in the cache log: "Every time I drive past this 'giant' artichoke I have to snicker. Granted, relative to an actual artichoke, it's pretty darn giant. But I grew up in LA where there was this giant donut on the 405, and I guess I compare everything 'giant' now to that giant donut. This artichoke: not so giant, relative to that. Though now that I think about it, I guess this isn't really billed as giant. Just the world's largest. Which, how can one quibble with that?" 

Be that as it may, we learned from the young man and woman attending the veggie market/ deli counter that (and this was the information we needed to get from them to earn credit) the World's Largest Artichoke was built in 1972, is 20 feet high by 15 feet wide, and is made of cement, with rebar serving as the thorn tips. 

(Though it might just be the fact that the donut was elevated over all Los Angeles that made it seem so large. Now that I look at them both here, I'm questioning my impressions. . . . Quick research: no, I was right. The donut is 32 1/5 feet in diameter. It retains the Giant crown.)

As if our little giant artichoke adventure wasn't enough, our next stop was the Tin Man of Castroville, a whimsical metal sculpture about four feet high that graces a streetcorner outside an auto mechanic's shop. It is so lovely that people give us these gifts of creativity and humor! They help keep me sane (especially now).
After that we ventured into the ag fields for two more caches, one of which we did not find, the other of which I had already found but David hadn't—and he needed it for the afore-mentioned challenge. And there it was! (It's on the backside of that curious structure, which I gather had to do with switching train tracks when trains were still running.)

And finally: the sunset. 

Like I said, a great afternoon! Thanks to geocaching. (And at each stopping point, for the record, we kept the car running—just in case. It's all charged up now, good to go.)

The hilarity comes from being really
bad at selfies-with-giant-artichokes!


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Hodgepodge 26/365 - Turkeys

In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I'd feature the beautiful bird that, in its wild status, roams meadows and hillsides, woods and gardens, nationwide. Last month we ran across a classy crew of them in Sandwich, Massachusetts. The other day I saw a flock of resplendent toms across the creek from us, working their way up the neighbor's greening back bank. (I just learned: wild turkeys roam in flocks; groups of domesticated turkeys—which of course barely move, never mind roam—are called rafters or gangs.)

Here are some pictures I've taken of turkeys over the years.

A tom's tail feather
I like to think she was dancing, but really she was just stretching
standing on our fence (taken from the bathroom window)
A beautiful hen
Turkey abstraction
Outside my window in Carmel Valley; they proceeded
to fly up onto my roof and stomp around
(yes, it was a genuine turkey stomp)
Turkey in the fog (Mt. Madonna)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hodgepodge 25/365 - B&W Photography

Back in the 1990s I took some classes at our local college in black & white darkroom photography. I very much enjoyed learning to "see" in monochrome. I also enjoyed messing around with chemicals: the slow patience required as you sloshed the paper in the developer, waiting for an image to come up, then the wait while it fixed—all to see if you got the right exposure with the enlarger and if you'd chosen the best contrast of paper (though I confess I tended to use variable-contrast [VC] paper—but never resin-coated [RC] "paper").

I do love silver gelatin prints. I should probably frame some of the ones I have matted—now sitting in boxes, the prints protected by sheets of archival tissue paper; put them up. Even though it's been three years since we built our house, most of the walls are still bare. Some classy b&w prints would be nice. Something to ponder.

In any case, although those days in the darkroom are far behind me, I still have a few of those old b&w photos (scanned), as well as some newer ones (digital from the git-go), in my Flickr archive. Here's a sampling:

Mission San Juan Bautista

Moss Landing

Green Gulch Zen Center, Marin County

San Joaquin Valley

Joshua Tree NP

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, Scotland

Home sweet home

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hodgepodge 24/365 - 100 Strangers

I'm going to cheat today and post something I've posted elsewhere (Flickr, August 9, 2015). But you are a different audience, and anyway, I'm feeling lazy today.

In 2008, when I was quite active on Flickr (I no longer am very much, sadly: I liked Flickr, but Google wrecked it—or maybe my interest just drifted elsewhere . . . oh, hello, Facebook), I joined a group called 100 Strangers. The goal was to take photos of strangers, engage them in conversation, and learn something about them.

I don't take pictures of people very often. And when it comes to taking pictures of strangers, I'm quite shy. Probably because I hate having my own picture taken. I figure everyone feels the same way! (They don't, as it turns out.)

But I liked the idea of the project, and so I took it on, as a challenge to myself, both photographically and as a human being. Thus far, in those almost nine years, I've taken thirteen pictures of strangers! And each time I was so glad I did. There are some wonderful, generous, funny, nice people out there.

Anyway, here's my twelfth subject. I was very moved by his story.

This is Steven Jacques. We met him on a steep trail in Garland Ranch Regional Park in Monterey County, California. As we arrived at a switchback where he was taking a breather, he joked, "Don't worry, you're almost at the top. It's just around the corner." We assured him we knew full well we were nowhere near the top—but at least it was getting closer. What a card.

As we all continued on, he explained that he hikes that trail three times a week, and another coastal trail every Tuesday—in the latter case, with a 17-pound watermelon in his pack to share with a group of people who gather up the hill at "the bench" around 5. The reason: he's preparing to hike the Camino de Compostela. (His pack will weigh 17 pounds: hence the watermelon. It's a potluck donation and practice.) He plans to be in Santiago for his 60th birthday. Steven is an usher at the Carmel Mission, and he has introductions from the head priest, Father John, allowing him to stay in monasteries all along the Camino, rather than the usual hostels and dormitories. Lucky guy. At the moment, he's living in the Carmelite monastery south of Carmel, where he does maintenance and small jobs for the nuns. (He moved there to do asbestos abatement, and although that job's done, they won't let him leave. He doesn't mind at all.)

When we reached Snively's Ridge, I asked if I could take his photo. He seemed intrigued by my project and said, "Ask me anything." I said, "Oh, I think I've got a nice little story to go with this photo." But no: he wanted to tell us more. He was third generation in the area; his father and grandfather had both been carpenters, and his grandfather actually made some of the doors for the restored mission. "They still call me Johnny's boy," he said. He'd been married, he said, with a daughter, but he lost them both in a car crash on I-580 in the Bay Area seven years ago. "I don't think I'll marry again," he said. Sometime after, he started going to the mission, even though he's not Catholic, and a man sitting next to him one day suggested he become an usher. His life changed at that point, became grounded again.

He seemed a joyful man; spoke of looking forward to his late sixties, when he feels like everything will come together. He said now, he's trying new things: learning trombone, going to the ballet. He said he used to think of the ballet as girly—"And of course I'm a guy," he said, flexing his muscles—but when he went to see Don Quixote recently in San Francisco, he was captivated, not just by the dancing and music, but by the costumes and sets, and even the set changes.

Me, I keep coming back to his loss, wondering how one gets over something like that. I'm sure he's not "over" it. But he's continuing to live—and not just that, but he's living large. He's adventuring and exploring. Maybe, in a way, his loss taught him that ongoing lesson that, really, too few of us learn well: you only live once—and you might as well live with as much gusto as possible.

He invited us to come on out one Tuesday afternoon for the hike to the bench. He'll have watermelon to quench our thirst. Or maybe a couple of canteloupes and a honeydew, just to shake things up.

I'm tempted.
As it turns out, we never did hike up to the bench to hang out and snack on melon. And now the bench is probably a pile of ashes thanks to this summer's Soberanes Fire. But I wonder if Steven made that trek on the Camino, and how it went. I bet he made tons of new friends. He's that kind of guy. And, I'm thinking maybe I should spend a little less time on FB and get back to posting on Flickr again. There's some awesome photography, and still a few friends, there.

Monday, November 21, 2016

My 61 Books

Last December I decided to see if I could read (and report on) 61 books: one for each of my years on the planet. I wrote about this crazy decision here. And ever since then, I've been
. . . reading! I have done so well that today, a good two weeks before my 62nd birthday, I have only one book to go. So I thought I'd tally up the list.

I'm impressed with myself, I must say. That said, next year I will not be reading 62 books: that way madness lies. But I think I'll try for 50. With, again, the caveat that some of those books may be picture books (indicated with an asterisk in the list below—eight in all). I am becoming very, very fond of picture books!

My book reports were fun to write—actually reflecting on what I've read is not something I usually do. Nos. 1–10 can be found here; 11–20 here; 21, 22, and 23 in the month of April 2016; 24–27 in May; 28–30 in June; 31–35 in July; 36–40 in August; 41–47 in September; 48–56 in October; 57 is here; 58 is here; 59 is here; 60 is here. And I am currently working on 61: should be posted any day now.

The only two I did not especially care for were nos. 39 and 44. I have worked with the authors of nos. 15, 19 & 37, 38, and 41 (in writing workshops: delightful experiences all), and gave a ride to the author of no. 8 to his parents' house, a two-hour gabfest. The author of no. 7 is my tenant. No. 46 I read in Norwegian, over a period of many months. No. 53 is a pop-up book. Nos. 2, 17, 23, 29, and 55 are YA fiction. Nos. 48 and 58 (and 17 and 29) are classics, I suppose you could say. Male authors: 31; female: 30. I intended to have 61 different authors, but BK Loren snuck in twice while I wasn't paying attention. I have highlighted my favorites.

1. Colum McCann, Thirteen Ways of Looking (2015)
2. E. L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1969)
3. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me (2015)
4. Paolo Bacigalupi, The Water Knife (2015)
5. Jussi Adler-Olsen, The Keeper of Lost Causes (2007)
6. Karen E. Bender, Refund: Stories (2015)
7. Patti Davis, Two Cats and the Woman They Own, or Lessons I Learned from My Cats (2006)
8. Steve Almond, Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto (2014)
9. Marion Winik, The Glen Rock Book of the Dead (2008)
10. Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (2015)
11. Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End (2014)
12. Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic (2011)
13. John Lawton, A Lily of the Field (2010)
14. Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story (1998; rev. ed. 2015)
15. Mark Doty, Deep Lane: Poems (2015)
16. Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2015)
17. E. B. White, Charlotte's Web (1952)
18. A. X. Ahmad, The Caretaker: A Ranjit Singh Novel (2013)
19. BK Loren, Animal Mineral Radical: Essays on Wildlife, Family, and Food (2013)
20. Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar (2012)
21. Mary Norris, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (2015)
22. Elle Luna, The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion (2015)
23. Robert Cormier, I Am the Cheese (1977)
24. Philip C. Stead, Ideas Are All Around (2016)*
25. Geoff Dyer, White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World (2016)
26. Jo Ellen Bogart, with illustrations by Sydney Smith, The White Cat and the Monk: A Retelling of the Poem "Pangur Bán" (2016)*
27. Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi (2010)
28. Sharon Bolton, Little Black Lies (2015)
29. Scott O'Dell, Island of the Blue Dolphins (1960)
30. Krista Tippett, Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (2016)
31. Rachel Cusk, Outline (2014)
32. Maira Kalman, What Pete Ate from A–Z, where we explore the English Alphabet (in its entirety) in which a certain DOG DEVOURS a MYRIAD of ITEMS which he should NOT (2001)*
33. Fred Marcellino, I, Crocodile (1999)*
34. Allen Eskens, The Life We Bury (2014)
35. Henning Mankell, The Troubled Man (2012)
36. Mary Roach, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (2013)
37. BK Loren, Theft (2012)
38. Craig Childs, The Desert Cries: A Season of Flash Floods in a Dry Land (2002)
39. Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train (2015)
40. Phil Klay, Redeployment (2016)
41. Luis Alberto Urrea, Into the Beautiful North (2009)  
42. Daniel Woodrell, Winter's Bone (2006)
43. Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (2016)
44. Jennifer Berne, On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein, with illustrations by Vladimir Radunsky (2013)*
45. Matthew Burgess, Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings, with illustrations by Kris DiGiacomo (2015)*
46. Erlend Loe, Naiv. Super (1996)
47. Alessandro Sanna, Pinocchio: The Origin Story (2016)*
48. Jack London, The Call of the Wild (1902)
49. Robert Olen Butler, From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction (2005)
50. Kimi Kodani Hill, Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata's Art of the Internment (2000)
51. John Hart, The Last Child (2009)
52. Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative (2012)
53. Marion Bataille, ABC3D (2008) 
54. Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves (2008)
55. Ellen Raskin, The Westing Game (1978)
56. Hervé Tullet, Press Here (2011)*
57. Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (2010)
58. William Golding, Lord of the Flies (1954)
59. Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)
60. Elizabeth Strout, My Name Is Lucy Barton (2016)
61. Claudia Rankine, Citizen (2014)

Hodgepodge 23/365 - Yoko Ono

I am proofreading an art exhibition catalogue—a couple of essays—about 1960s Japanese and contemporary Brazilian art (the connection being the 1964 and 2016 Olympics). And of course Yoko Ono is mentioned. I realized I know very little about her, aside from her marriage to John Lennon and a tiny exhibit of some of her conceptual art (her "instructions") from the 1960s I saw . . . somewhere—SFMoMA maybe? So I've been doing a little research and have uncovered some things I will look into more deeply at some point. She seems like a very smart, imaginative, and generous person.

A retrospective at Denmark's
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art,
celebrating her 80th birthday
➣ A short New Yorker piece from 2013 called "Yoko Ono's Instructions"
➣ And another, longer one from New York Magazine, 2015, "Yoko Ono and the Myth That Deserves to Die" (a lousy title)
➣ A Guardian article about her 2014 retrospective at the Bilbao Guggenheim
➣ A précis of her ideas and influence as an artist
➣ A "lyrical biography," Yoko Ono: Collector of Skies
Grapefruit: A Book of Instructions and Drawings (and here is an excerpt in PDF form)
➣ A host of audio recordings about her work, narrated both by her and by Christophe Cherix, curator of prints and drawings at MoMA
From Grapefruit
➣ Of course Wikipedia, which covers some of her permanent and long-term art installations and other stuff
➣ Her official website, Imagine Peace
➣ On Twitter, she is @yokoono
➣ She is of course on Facebook (where you can see her seventeen-second scream in response to the recent election)

That's good for starters. If I stumble on anything else, I'll add it in.

(The other day I wrote about Yo-Yo Ma. I posted the video of him playing with his sister at age 7 on Facebook, and there I noted, "And today Yo-Yo Ma is a Kennedy Center Artistic Advisor at Large. Another reason to be glad our country is OPEN to immigrants." Yoko Ono has been a permanent resident of the U.S. since 1973. I think I'm sensing a new thread for this here blog!)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hodgepodge 22/365 - Anchor Brewery

In my writing group today we were talking about what is now the Silicon Valley, but back in the 1960s. One of our group is writing about that time and place, and she has done beautifully thorough research: her descriptions positively rattle with vibrant detail.

Talking about the taverns of Palo Alto on El Camino Real, another member mentioned how in 1965 Fritz Maytag—great-grandson of the appliance king, and at that time a student of Japanese at Stanford—was in one such establishment when he overheard some patrons say that Anchor Brewing Company, founded in 1896 and once one of many hundreds of San Francisco breweries, was about to become the last one to shut its doors. Maytag immediately set about buying a 51 percent share of the failing business for a few thousand dollars of his inheritance. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The brewery today
That reminded me of the 1980s when I worked for a short time in San Francisco for PC World magazine as a graphic designer (okay, I was just a lowly paste-up and rubylith lackey, but still). Our offices were essentially next door to Anchor Brewery, at the base of Potrero Hill. Every few weeks the air would become saturated with the heady aroma of boiling malt and yeast, as the brewers brewed up a new batch. At that time, microbreweries were not a "thing" yet, so it felt extra special to be so close to a traditional, small, high-quality enterprise like Anchor dedicated to craftsmanship. And yes, occasionally, after a deadline had been met, we would take the afternoon off and visit the brewery for a taste and a tour. The perks of being neighbors.

Here is a 1972 article from the Eugene Register-Guardian about Maytag and his purchase. In it he says he bought Anchor "as a lark," that he knew "nothing of beermaking" but was just "looking for something to do." Fortunately, his "lark" turned the company around and helped inspire a revolution in the art of beermaking. And here is a story from 2010 with more recent information, including the sale of Anchor to new owners.

All this makes me think, maybe it's time for a return visit to Anchor. A taste and a tour: it's been too long.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hodgepodge 21/365 - Yo-Yo Ma

A number of years ago a Flickr friend who shares my birthday, Jodi in NYC, said that as part of her birthday observance she was making a yearlong bucket list: thirty-something goals for the number of years she was turning, to be completed by her next birthday.

I thought that was an interesting idea—to consider some things I'd never done and would like to do, or some things I do all too rarely and would like to do more of.

Me, I was turning forty-something, which made the challenge more daunting. But I slapped together a list. Of which, over the course of the year, I ticked off maybe half a dozen items. If that. But one thing I did tick off was seeing Yo-Yo Ma perform.

I've been thinking about that today, in the run-up to my next birthday. Wondering if I'd like to try another such list, and what sorts of entries it should have, if so. Are there any performers I'd love to see? New places I'd like to go, or old favorites revisit? Would I like to make a trip to New York and attend some plays on Broadway? Try to raise potatoes? Get the motorcycle up and running? Buy a nice outfit to go with my new red shoes? I'm already booked to go to Israel, a long-held dream, and return to Rome and Venice—would it be cheating to put those on the list?

I probably won't make such a list. But I'm glad I did that year, because otherwise I most likely would never have seen Yo-Yo Ma. But I did: he was playing, in San Francisco, with Emanuel Ax, as I gather he does frequently. Piano-cello duets. I no longer remember what they played. Some Beethoven, I'm pretty sure. But no Bach—again, pretty sure. I want to say César Franck, but a list of cello-piano duets is not corroborating that notion. Mendelssohn? Rachmaninoff? Well, who knows. (Fickle memory.) Whatever it was, though, I know I liked it.

The writer Mark Salzman, in an excellent New Yorker profile by Lawrence Weschler, "The Novelist and the Nun," describes seeing Yo-Yo in recital when he, Salzman, then an aspiring cellist about to attend Yale to study music, was sixteen.
I'll never forget how Yo-Yo walked out onto the stage. I mean, most performers walk out completely stiff, like this, and you can sense the sobriety, the utter focus, the intense concentration—the barely concealed terror. And I don't even mean that as a criticism: the technical level expected of performers nowadays is so insanely high that you'd be crazy if you weren't terrified. Yo-Yo, by contrast, came out like this—totally relaxed, guffawing, almost slap-happy, casually waving to friends in the audience, you know, "Oh wow, great, what are you doing here?" Completely, but completely unfazed.
     And then he started to play. Bach—the fifth suite for unaccompanied cello. And his playing was so beautiful, so original, so intelligent, so effortless that by the end of the first movement I knew my cello career was over. I kid you not. People talk about Yo-Yo Ma's superhuman technique. Let me tell you: superhuman technique is only the tip of the Yo-Yo iceberg. What really sank my ship was how much he was obviously enjoying himself: he was lost in the music, freed by it, speaking through it, in love with it. He was enjoying himself as much playing as most of the rest of us do when we're listening, and as I myself never did when playing, not to speak of practicing.
I was so struck by that beautiful description of a man completely and utterly at ease with himself and his art. The profile was from 2000. It was probably around that same year that I went to hear Yo-Yo. Perhaps there's a link. I don't remember.

Anyway. Here is Yo-Yo Ma playing the Bach Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major:

But he's not all about classical music. Here's Goat Rodeo Sessions, also featuring Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Edgar Meyer on bass, Chris Thile on mandolin, and singer Aoife o'Donovan:

And finally, I found this video of a seven-year-old Yo-Yo playing with his sister for John F. Kennedy:

If I do make another list for next year, maybe I'll put Yo-Yo on it again. It's almost reason enough to go ahead and just do it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hodgepodge 20/365 - Calling Washington

As I mentioned the other day, I've never been much of an activist. But this election may be changing that.

A little while ago on Facebook I saw a request for concerned citizens to phone the House Oversight Committee and urge them to conduct a bipartisan review of Trump's financials and "apparent" conflict of interest. (I use the quotes because as far as I can tell, he is one big lurching conflict of interest all by himself.)

The problem in this particular case? "Yesterday Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner sat in on Trump's first meeting with a foreign dignitary, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This is a state meeting and they had no security clearance (and no political experience—runs in the family) and she is supposed to be running his businesses during his presidential term. Can you spell crazy conflict of interest?"

So I jumped on the phone and . . . got a "mailbox full" message. Over and over and over again. (As it turned out, I was not alone. The WaPo reported a tsunami of phone calls today, the last day it will do any good.)

So I sent a fax, via Better than nothing.

And then a friend pointed out a spot on the Oversight Committee's web page called "Blow the Whistle" where I could send a message.

So I did that too.

I like the idea of my fax scrolling out of a machine and piling up on the floor with hundreds, maybe thousands, of other faxes.

Oh, but: what if the machine ran out of paper?

Well, I won't worry about that. I've got bigger things to worry about.

And you can bet I'll be speaking up.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hodgepodge 19/365 - Active Shooter Drill

Today I participated, as a Red Cross volunteer, in an active shooter drill in neighboring San Benito County. The scenario took place at a movie theater: a scaled-down version of the Aurora, Colorado, shootings of 2012. Our job was simply to make sure those involved in the drill stayed hydrated and caffeinated, and it afforded a nice chance to chat with the sheriff, who knew one of my co-workers. They reminisced about a serial killer from the early 1970s, who happens to share my co-worker's last name (no relation) and was active in the county they both worked in. The things you learn volunteering . . .

Glass shard moulage
A few months ago, I volunteered as a "victim" for a larger drill in my own county, the situation there taking place on a "college campus." I happened to be leaning against a classroom door chatting with a friend when all of a sudden it was forced open. If the situation had been real, I suppose I'd have been shot immediately, but as it was I was holding a card with instructions simply "to run." So I ran—straight for the women's bathroom. Once I got in there I realized that that probably was not the best place to go: a total trap. But my card (and the fact that I hadn't been decorated with moulage, or fake injuries) spared me any bloodshed.

Be that as it may, there are, as far as I can tell, two prongs to these drills: first, deploying law enforcement, who—if all goes right—neutralize the shooter; and second, getting EMS on the scene to triage the victims, treat, and transport. So the "unreality" of my escaping was neither here nor there. My main job, in the end, was simply to contribute to the chaos.

Some of the volunteer victims—and at that drill there were many dozens of us—were very good at creating chaos, yelling and screaming and getting in the officers' faces demanding to know where a loved one was. Me, I'm not good at that: pretend is pretend. I don't even think I'd make a lot of noise if it were a real situation. I'd just get as quiet and small as possible, or else run fast. But I believe they were drawing on volunteers from drama departments at local colleges, and this was a great opportunity for those students to act.

I was curious to see what resources there are online about active shootings. I found one video (3:40) from Homeland Security aimed at civilians (potential victims):

And a longer one (9:22) from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office:

One of these videos suggests that anytime you go into a public place you should scope out possible escape routes. Um, no. Maybe it's naive of me to think that all of us in this country are pretty safe, at least from mass shootings—since reality shows that (as the second video points out) since 2006 active shooter incidents with 4+ deaths have taken place every 2.9 months on average—but statistically speaking, the average person is much more likely to be killed by lightning  than by an active shooter (51 deaths vs. 37 annually, according to NOAA/FBI). So no: I'm too old to live under the pall of paranoia. I'll just keep my running legs in shape.

I know I'm fortunate to live in a community that is relatively free of gun violence. I don't have to worry when I leave my house. But who among us is ever prepared for a mass shooting? Whenever one occurs and a gun rights advocate responds, "If people had had weapons, we would've taken care of it!"—well, maybe. But in a dark movie theater? On a crowded college campus? In a night club? Wouldn't more bullets just add to the mayhem? Unless, of course, you're a really, really good shot, in a chaotic situation. That would seem to me to require serious tactical training, not just your odd day-at-the-shooting-range practice. But what do I know?

Regardless, I'm glad, I guess, to know that our communities are training for these (thankfully) exceedingly rare events. And I hope to God we never have to put this training to use here, where I live. Or anywhere ever again—though I know that would be naive thinking.