Friday, October 31, 2008

beware of red heads and mafia angels

written by LJ on October 31, 2008

Beware of Red Heads and Angels in Concrete Cowboy Boots

I feel moronic and heavy as if there is a misguided angel wearing cement cowboy boots sitting on my shoulder. Wouldn’t you know it? That’s the angel who would find me. He’s perturbed because his wings are out of service. Angel and I survey the landscape of humanity through a hole in the clouds, but he won’t talk about his mafia past, so I explain to him that I’m passionately drawn to the cocky redhead glowing above all the other men in the shuffle below. Alas, the redhead doesn’t acknowledge my distant wave. I try again extending both arms over my head and fluttering my fingers in what I hope is a Marilyn Monroe mid-air gyration, but he instinctively turns his shadow to my face.

Although I want him to join us on cloud 10, and I’m willing to boost him up to our level, I realize that I cannot NOT demand the minimum of what I require from his appealing form and electric intellect. Hot as a passionate desire can shout fornicate, a woman needs what a woman needs.

For me, communicating exclusively online is the kingdom of the socially retarded and the interpersonally deformed, so I wondered as the days passed if we would ever speak on the phone. The age-old question a modern woman phrases in a contemporary fashion goes something like this: Is he ever going to ask for my phone number and actually use it or am I deluding myself into thinking he is interested?

I started to see myself as an online cartoon character virtually grinning and strumming the alphabet song for his amusement, an animated figure he could dress up in outrageous red miniskirts that weren’t my style, clad in black leather hooker boots that hurt my feet: adding a sway to my hips at the touch of his mouse. I cried out to be real. I wanted to wear my blue jeans with a small hole in the buttocks. Couldn’t he hear me?

In her world, he was unwilling to break through the screensaver and hold the hand of a Midwestern girl who naively wanted to know him, desperately wanted to ask a million questions about what was churning around in his brain, from the mundane to the colossal, nothing about him was insignificant to that girl.

So much for building a mending wall; dismantling the barricade of mistrust cemented around her feet and rising to her navel. A redheaded masculine tone of voice exuding carbon dioxide was out of her environmental reach.

What does she do when she doesn’t see the eyes of the man on the other end of the Internet connection? She remembers them as being blue. She doubts his intentions and wonders if he’s an online super freak, that boy is super freaky. She hopes that isn’t the case but online communication compounds her distrust.

The red haired boy slips outside the circumference of the cloud peephole at the same instant Angel spots the man who designed his concrete boots. “That son of a bitch,” Angel hisses as his story begins.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

inspire those around you

In a high school English class, I worked with students on a tribute poem about Twister the stub-tailed dog, best friends and a mother diagnosed with colon cancer. I was surprised how their language seemed stuck in high school slang- hung out and chilled- and common word usage. We spoke about expanding their vocabulary and about how selecting the exact word to convey a specific meaning was critical in a poem because the poet has so few words to work with.

Teaching for me is not only about monitoring and assessing, it's about making secondary students aware of the potential clout and force of the words they select to sway their reader, giving them the influence to make their audience sob blood or to cause a stoic heart to beat to the time of the arrhythmia of their word choice. They need to know that it’s their voice, fluency and grace that blends words together to make meaning in the world.

Oral and written language are important for secondary students because they will soon be launched into the adult world where words are power; literacy and comprehending what they read affect the choices they make and these choices contribute to collective empowerment or collective ignorance of tiny communities and throbbing nation-states. Without words, who are we? How do we as teachers instill this love and awe of words into our secondary students' writing habits?

sadly, youth makes a whore of beauty

Excerpt from “Meeting Elise” in the collection of short stories by Nam Le in The Boat
Sadly, youth makes a whore of beauty.

Don’t get me wrong, I like kids- Olivia was thirty years younger than me. I even wanted to have some with her. The problem is there are just too many of them. You can’t throw a brick on this island without concussing one. I wish I had more restraint. But I can’t help but hate how they look at me, how they don’t look at me. I hate their interchangeable bodies, their mass-rehearsed attitudes, their cars that look like boxes, like baseball caps, like artificial enlargements, their loud advertising, their beeps and clicks and trings, I hate how they speak words as though they’re chewing them, how they assume the business of the world revolves around them- how they’re right- and how everywhere this cult of youth, the pedamorphic dumbing-down, has whored beauty- duped, drugged, damaged, pixilated it and everywhere turned it to plastic.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

i am at peace with the way things are

[Being at peace with the way things are leads us to peace.]

Scratching the Itch

It is hardest to cure a disease when the medicine we take itself causes the disease. We scratch the itch, and the scratching only makes it worse, we try to quench our thirst by drinking salt water, and we make ourselves thirstier. This is what happens when we believe that the only way to end desires is to fufill them. A different and liberating insight dawns when we begin to pay attention to this powerful energy in our lives.

-Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith

Sunday, October 19, 2008

just grandma

From: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

(A Tribute to Grandmothers Everywhere)

And , yeah, my grandmother was smart and kind and traveled to about 100 different Indian reservations, but that had nothing to do with her greatness.

My grandma’s greatest gift was tolerance.

Now, in the old days, Indians used to be forgiving of any kind of eccentricity. In fact, weird people were often celebrated.

Epileptics were often shamans because people just assumed that God gave seizure-visions to the lucky ones.

Gay people were seen as magical too.

I mean, like in many cultures, men were viewed as warriors and women were viewed as caregivers. But gay people, being both male and female, were seen as both warriors and caregivers.

Gay people could do anything. They were like Swiss army knives!

My grandmother had no use for all the gay bashing and homophobia in the world, especially among other Indians.

“Jeez,” she said. “Who cares if a man wants to marry another man? All I want to know is who is going to pick up all the dirty socks?”

Of course, ever since white people showed up and brought along their Christianity and the fears of eccentricity, Indians have gradually lost all of their tolerance.

Indians can be just as judgmental and hateful as any white person.

But not my grandmother.

that space between the legs

Dangerous Spaces
Chicas, they are a distraction from the important things, and as Luis says, sometimes to go between the legs of a chica is more dangerous than walking under a bridge in a strange barrio.

The Boat, “Cartagena” by Nam Le

As Lori says, the same is true for going between the legs of a boy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I heard something uplifting today.

The Gaelic language has about 14 words for love and hardly any words for hate.

BBC News podcast from 14 Oct. 08

Why can't we simply be nicer to each other? Would you rather be a novel or a poem? Think about it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Where is Hercules?

What are heroes made of?
[Warning: a nursery rhyme stereotyping the sexes will appear.]

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails.
That's what little boys are made of.

What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice and all things nice.
That's what little girls are made of.

Psyche's House

Ancient heroes from the neighborhood
gather at the corner pub
trading narcissistic strategies
for escape from the siren songs
too eerie to ignore.

Despite Tiger Balm and Tylenol
rubbed and guzzled with pints of golden calories-
it's impossible to turn Helen's head
and launch anew
odyssey at dawn.

Universal Achilles' heels ache in unison.

The Graces failed in their mission:
Outwit Three Fates, or else…
Belly up to the bar boys,
and totter home tipsy.

Hollow victories haunt Psyche's house.
Where's Hercules when you need him?

-LJ, Sept. 2008

Escape Artist

Collapse of the World Order

Rubrics escaped the classroom today
and went wild on spring break.

Each level of performance,
trapped neatly in an isolated square,
sprang off the page-
hit the ground running.

Hooking up with Scrabble bums and
mingling with synonyms of defiant.

Can you imagine?
No more performance anxiety.

The rubric provides those doing the assessment with exactly the characteristics for each level of performance on which they should base their judgment.

The rubric provides those who have been assessed with clear information about how well they performed.

The rubric also provides those who have been assessed with a clear indication of what they need to accomplish in the future to better their performance.

-LJ, Sept. 2008

What does karma mean?

I'm reading "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and it reinforces a message I find hard to hear. People do things to hurt others, and once the damage has been done- the pain inflicted, the torture experienced, verbal arrows released- it is too late. Throbbing memories fade and discolor, but the sharpness of the poke, the insult, the dirty deed remains like a stain at the bottom of a coffee cup: brown and scummy. It does not vanish no matter how much we wish to start over, begin again. Every action affects others, touches lives.

In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by the masters that even a little poison can cause death, and even a little seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: "Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain." Similarly he said: "Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel." Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed "by time, fire, or water." Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened.

- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying from Everyday Mind


I had beans and rice for breakfast this morning while I was secretly desiring pancakes.

Carnal Cakes

Abstract pancake lover
syrup and honey sweet on the tongue
whet my appetite
with cake-like, crepe thin thinking
pancakes bubbling
over with salty butter
round layers tease my palate
gentle stabbing journey
between my lips
slippery hunger
why stop cravings for

LJ (a.k.a. Abstract) March 25, 2008


I saw a flock of pelicans, yellow-billed and droopy pouched, flying through Iowa skies. For those of you who don't live in Iowa, spying a flock of chunky pelicans is not an every day occurrence. Birds still fresh on my brain, I read this poem by Ondaatje on Sunday morning.

Is this itty-bitty poem worth sharing? That's for you to decide.

by Michael Ondaatje

Two birds loved
in a flurry of red feathers
like a burst cottonball,
continuing while I drove over them.

I am a good driver, nothing shocks me.


Jihad and Love

I finished reading the fictional novel "Finding Nouf" by Zoe Ferraris. The action takes place in Saudi Arabia where a 16 year-old Saudi girl has disappeared before her wedding.

I like this re-definition of jihad on page 275 in the hardback edition. It's not militaristic or combative; it re-defines jihad as a peace within, a recognition that fighting is not the answer.

"That was the true jihad, the giving up of goods, hopes, desires, when life demands it, when not to give up would lead to wrong."

Giving up strikes a chord in me and an affinity with my spiritual practice. Giving up things that have the potential to cause chaos in the world is a noble jihad. Here is another passage that moved me.

The 77 Words for Love

"It was disorienting to see such calculation amid such cloying romanticism. There was hubb, which meant love, and also seed; 'ishq, entanglement, and an ivy that strangles a tree; hawa, liking and error; fitna, passionate desire, also chaos; hayam, wandering thirsty in the desert; sakan, tranquility; and izaz, dignified love. Then the list grew darker, from captivation to confusion and affliction, even to depression, sorrow, and grief, culminating in fanna, nonexistence. The page stood out as a work of art…"

Horseshit or the Collective Unconscious

I have always liked the word serendipity, enjoying its carefree and spunky five-syllable trip down my tongue, so this after-sex shower scene from Michael Gruber's "The Tropic of Night" made me smile.

She kissed his neck.

"Serendipity that I called, huh?" he said.

"No, serendipity is when you're looking for something and you find something else that's even better. Penicillin. Columbus too, I guess. What you mean is synchronicity, which is when two independent variables happen at the same time, in a pseudo-meaningful way. Serendipity is scientific, synchronicity isn't."

"Why not?"

She tossed the book on his belly and slipped out of bed. "Read the book."

"Why should I when I have you? Where are you going?"

"The shower, where you can join me, if you promise not to get me started."

Under the lukewarm stream, he soaped her long back, while she held her braid away from the water. He said, "So tell me, why isn't synchronicity scientific?"

"By definition. And Jimmy, I want you to know that you are the first and only man I have ever discussed epistemology with under the shower."

"I appreciate that," he said.

"It was. In any case, science looks for causality. Event B only occurs after Event A, or is associated with it more than chance alone would allow. Lightning always precedes thunder, and so we assume that lightening causes thunder, and we look for a physical connection between the two events, and in that case, we find it, and science marches on. Synchronicity… proposes a linkage between two events that is meaningful without being causal or related in any reproducible or deterministic way… me wanting to get together with you and you happen to call me…"

"It's like luck."

"In a way. But it's supposed to be meaningful on the psychic level, too. The cosmos or the collective unconscious is trying to reach us. Horseshit, in other words." She looked down at him and let out a yelp. "Yikes, get that thing away from me," she cried, and hung a wet washcloth on it, then turned the cold tap all the way up.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

READS that I wanna READ

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Reindeer People: Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia by Piers Vitebsky

Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam

Paris Journal 1944-1955 by Janet Flanner

Check out the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize winners and more...


Look deeply into yourself and come face to face with the primal "Huh?" -Andrew K. Davis (2001)

About Me

My photo

What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.