Showing posts from May, 2009

damn, we nice and slow

The weekend started at the Aquarium of the Pacific , where AK, her sister Lori and I elbowed small children out of the way so we could feed the lorikeets . The bait was taken. But despite their dependence on $3 cups of nectar from tourists, the birds maintained a certain formidable dignity. As did the sisters Ybarra . I'm sort of fascinated with museum signage, like how the Body Worlds exhibit took such pains to explain that the dead guy in a top hat was science not (god forbid) art. So I especially liked the "journal excerpts" posted in the lorikeet forest, in which an unnamed 19 th century explorer washed up on Australian shores and quickly went native with the local lorikeets , which he and his cook, Finnegan, miraculously knew all sorts of facts about. AK and I got a couple of the lorikeets he sketched to sit on our arms. I was going to say that I wish I could have an entire wall of jellyfish in my house because they are like nature's beautiful, mo

three paragraphs about three stories about ghosts and aliens

There was a time when I posted long, muse-y book reviews on this blog, and while they never garnered as many comments as my bitchy recaps of The L Word , I, for one, liked them. I’ve gotten lazy lately, and just posted short little thumbs-up/thumbs-down blurbs lifted from my Goodreads/Facebook reviews . While there’s arguably something to be said for brevity, especially on the internet, some books are just so damn good they deserve three whole paragraphs. (And perhaps a dissertation or two, but that’s not the business I’m in.) So here are three paragraphs about Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham: 1. This is the kind of book I like: While Michael Cunningham is such a linguistic genius that he can and has made baking a cake seem like the most beautiful and meaningful experience in the world, in this book he takes crazy-ass risks and writes about ghosts and aliens. More specifically, he tells three stories with recurring motifs and characters set in three different, difficult time per

sacramento, panini and other miscellany

I am freshly back from Sacramento, where I did some worky things and gave what I think was sort of a lackluster reading at Luna’s Café . Luckily I wasn’t the only one on the bill, so other people kept things lively. It was a warm-up for Reading Season, the time when my book comes out and I bombard you constantly with emails and blog posts about where to see me next. For the record, I’m usually a pretty solid reader, so don’t let the aforementioned lackluster-ness scare you away. I’m warmed up now. More importantly, Sacramento is home to my very good friend Kristi, whom I hadn’t seen in two years. We met freshman year in this ridiculous UCLA class called The Scientific Method and the Search for Life in the Universe, which turned out to be a fancy name for Geology. We bonded over the bummer of that revelation, plus the fact that our class was full of weirdos like the body builder who opened a smelly can of tuna halfway through class every day, plus the fact that we wanted to take balle

i know whose side i'm on

I just don't buy that they're evil, no matter what action movies tell me. (Thanks to Suzanne for posting this.)

there is no hiking hotline

On Saturday, AK, Bonnie, Jamie and I hiked Hoegee's Loop in the Angeles National Forest just north of Arcadia. Except, because we're not good at reading signs, it was more like Hoegee's Zigzag. But look how intrepid we are in our cool REI gear. (Seriously, we were like a walking REI ad: The guy at REI told me this is how your shoes are supposed to fit.... I love my new REI water bottle!... I love my new REI pants!... The guy at REI gave me his phone number. At first I thought it was some kind of hiking hotline. Then I realized he was hitting on me, and there is no hiking hotline. ) "I love how misty the hills look," I said. "I think that's smog," someone else said. The "waterfalls" also kind of reminded us we weren't too far out of the city. But I'm a proud urban hiker, so whatever. AK was official keeper of the guidebook. The trail was dotted with cute little cabins that looked like a WPA project. The next day at my grandma


The biggest highlight of last night’s reading by Brian Castro at the South Pasadena Library was, of course, Brian Castro. He read a lyrical, dreamy (yet kind of action-packed) excerpt from his “fictional autobiography” Shanghai Dancing against a backdrop of old photos, some from his family’s days in China, some he found out in the world. It was lovely, evoking an old black-and-white movie somehow. My CalArts buddy Colin Dickey interviewed him afterwards, and I decided that Castro might be one of the most dignified and thoughtful writers I’ve met. When talking about the not-so-easy process of getting his work published in the U.S. (despite winning gobs of awards in his native Australia), he said, “I’m quite comfortable and proud to say that I’m a writer who belongs with a small literary press.” I was like, Hey, yeah, me too! I very much wanted to be in the good company of Brian Castro. Nevertheless, the second biggest highlight of the evening was the drunk and/or schizophrenic gen

a squared plus b squared equals c squared

I spent a small piece of my afternoon texting with my 16-year-old mentee about math homework. Her: I have a ? wats a hypotenuse. Me [Googling “hypotenuse” because, before I realize we’re talking about math homework, all I can think is, A misspelling of hypotension? ]: Just looked it up: the longest side of a right triangle. i haven’t done geometry in a LONG time! Her: Um do u knw how to find it if 1 side is equal 9 & da other 1 to 12? Me: Pythagorean theorem? i’ll ask my math teacher sister and get back to u! The world’s most roundabout math tutoring session then ensued, with me texting my sister and then texting my mentee. Someone really needs to work on getting “+” and “=” signs onto the text menu. I understand that the square root sign probably has a limited audience. (Shut up, all you people with iPhones. I know you probably have a “+” and an “=” already. You probably have a fucking math homework application.) Is it lame that I felt kind of cutting-edge? I was all, Look

improvisational weekend

What a lovely weekend. Relaxation ruled with an iron fist, though it took us a while to submit to it. We got to see Lee-Roy and his beautiful sketches in I Am That Girl , which screened as part of the L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival . It’s nice to see truly independent (as in financed by the director’s friends and family, not Miramax) movies get some screen time. This one had some bumps but also great characters and a compelling story. On Saturday we saw what you can do with an extra $100 million or so, which is: make steel claws grow out Hugh Jackman’s hands. It was a fairly well-spent $100 million, I’ve got to say, as long you don’t get hung up on details like, Wait, why are Wolverine and his brother feuding? And why are Liev Schreiber’s long pointy fingernails a super power? I have funky-looking thumbs—can that be a super power too? I’m writing about mutants myself right now, and it was instructive to think about the rules stories create for themselves when they break the rule

a readerly roundup

It’s been a week of literary posts, and this is one more. But I guess you’d be watching a vlog if you didn’t like reading on some level, right? Sometimes I have a complicated relationship with literary stuff—talking to other writers, reading about other writers and going to events can feel like work. I mean, of course it’s work, but sometimes it starts to feel like a job . Which it also is. That’s the deep dark secret of doing what you love (or something adjacent to what you love) for a living (or something adjacent to a living): It makes work fun, but it also turns fun into work. But the beauty of fiction is that even if I start out thinking, I really should read this book because it’s for my book club/someone I know wrote it/someone I know published it , I inevitably lose myself in the story a few pages in, and reading becomes the wonderful escapist exercise that got me into this business in the first place. Can you tell I’m ready for the weekend? But here are the books I’ve bee