Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Shall We Loaf, While Loafers Blog?

I didn't get into Bread Loaf this year. Maybe I shouldn't have sent a 2700 word story that uses the word "fuck" 48 times. I mean, 2% of the story was the word "fuck." What was I thinking?

But hey, if I had gotten in, I wouldn't have had the mindblowing experience I did at Lynda Barry's class. (Her educational sidekick says, "Blow your mind...with your own mind!") So I have no regrets. And thanks to the blogosphere, I can get the Bread Loaf experience once removed, without sleep deprivation or mosquito bites.

So, here they are:

Mary Akers is a regular Bread Loaf staffer, who gives not only an inside scoop, but also very detailed accounts of the craft classes. Ursula Hegi sounds like an awesome instructor!

Cliff Garstang is returning to the conference as well, and finds that he can relax a bit more as a result, no longer compelled to do every social event. Sounds like he has found some good insight on a story that he has been struggling with.

Laila Lalami was a waiter last year, and now with a successful book under her belt, is a fellow. She taught a craft class on cross-cultural narrative, has been fighting back big mosquitoes, and is enjoying time away from the computer.

Katrina Denza is there for the first time, and has gained inspiration to work on her novel.

And poets have their moment in the blog spotlight too, thanks to the poetry foundation, who has recruited several dispatchers, starting with the head waiter, who has a new appreciation of the feather boa.

Hey, and if that's not enough, you can read The Crumb, the daily newsletter.

Stone Mosaic by My Old Classmate Leslie Samuels

Wouldn't you love this for your bathroom wall? My friend Leslie designed and built it. We studied performance art together in the MFA program at UC San Diego. Boy, I remember some wild spectacles put on by her and other friends, both in San Diego and here in NYC. I got to be in several of a carnival barker, or a flying angel (hanging by bungie cord--it was FUN!), or a Vestal Virgin.

Like all of us, Leslie has continued to play with materials and images, even if performance is a less frequent endeavor. I turned to writing (and craftaholism), and she turned to stonework. Her years of experimentation with jobsite scraps is really paying off; she definitely knows her way around it, cutting complex curves, veiny leaves, making tabletops, foyer floors, bathroom walls, backsplashes. Check out her new website, my description does them no justice. What a life, on the top of a mountain in North Carolina!

Do you need a new fireplace? Swimming pool? She's available for hire, and might even bring her big, cute Newfoundland to work with her. Or, smaller pieces can be shipped for your local handyperson to install. Sorry, I have no pics of the dog.

It's so fun, watching talented people evolve.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Glitter Folk!

Guys, check out Mr. Solo. I can't stop singing along to his his songs "Genius" and "Industree." Such verve! Such a voice! What haunting eyes! Move over Gary Glitter and David Bowie, there's a new sheriff in town, and he's wearing a big, beatiful cape.

Recommendations on "PK Lit?"

I started Allan Gurganus' PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS this morning, and I'm kicking myself, thinking, why didn't I pick up this book before? I just happened across it, appropriately, in the fabulous book section of Housing Works Thrift Shop on the Upper West Side. Glad I grabbed it. Anyway, one of the characters is an artist-PK (Preacher's Kid) like me, and it's an interesting, sensitive, funny portrayal through the eyes of his less-Lutheran friend. The book opens with the PK dying of AIDS at St. Vincents Hospital, asking his caretaker-friend to clear all the sex toys from his apartment before the parents show up for a final visit. Poignant, funny--dildoes stacked like "cord wood" in the broom closet--I can't wait to read on.

What does being a preacher's kid do to one's identity? This is one of the themes I'm playing with in my new novel project. And in life, I suppose, though I have other identity "themes" there too. My broom closet is way more boring, but I still identify with the character's impulse to "clean up," even when that seems like a silly notion.

So now I'm brainstorming, trying to think of other works of literature with preacher's kid characters or authors. Any suggestions? I have the complete oevre of James Baldwin on the shelf, and most of Tennessee Williams and Darcey Steinke. Also have Marilynne Robinson's GILEAD on my to-be-read stack. Any others you have enjoyed?

Oh, How I Love My Writer's Group

I just got back from write club, where as usual, I learned a lot. You incredible women! You keep me honest! You read deeply! You write deeply! It's a joy and an inspiration to read your work! And I feel fiercely protective of your work, like I do about my friends' children. You midwives! We all know it's hard, and we're in it together, breathing our Lamaze breaths as the raw, bloody stuff hits the page! We cradle it, clear away the mucus and gunk and gush over the beautiful living thing! Oh, how exciting it will be when the world gets to meet your material!

Thank you!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Proj Rock! Mudpies, The Grownup Kind.

Have you ever made hypertufa? It's equal parts peat moss, cement, and sand. Add some water and you have some wonderful mud. You can make just about anything out of it...planters, water features, etc. It's porous, so it grows algae and moss nicely, depending on where you put it.

I'm making stepping stones. The molds are rings of cardboard. I line them with garbage bags, which gives them a smooth finish. Ideally, you have a level place to do it, but I don't. It's a crapshoot. Mostly I like mixing the cement.

I put rocks inside them. Hopefully they'll look cool when the cement dries. This is my first experiment with rocks, so I'm not getting too fancy with the design. These are used lava rocks from the barbecue, plus a couple I stole from the beach.

You dump the mud in, then slap it with the tool to get out the bubbles. It looks like jiggling fat! And check it, the two stones together look like a butt!

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Visit from Mad Max!

We just had a wonderful visitor, Max the Cat! He and his person were passing through Brooklyn on the way home to Maine.

Max has had surgery near his spine and so stuff below the waist doesn't work so good. But he gets around just fine, especially when food is involved. You should have seen our feral cats react to the prospect of a paraplegic feline. Like the way young children react to the disabled--what the hell is that!? Plus, he does send off that anger vibe. Though he is softening in his old age.

Only one serious squabble, when Max came near Wilbur the Dog's food. Willie did like he does with dogs: the growl, then the bigger growl, then the full-on attack. Poor Max shit his pants. Only he wasn't wearing any.

Here's Max set up in the passenger seat on his way home. He loves to go for a ride. But you better let him choose the tunes.

A New Era in Security Theatre

Is flying naked the only thing left? I have to thank blogger and securitologist Phil Libin for introducting me to the term "security theatre." It's that that weird post-9/11 paradox where taking visible security measures actually compromises security. Face it: check points of all kinds give us a false sense of safety (that is, if you're not from a "questionable" demographic), and create exactly the kind of human bottlenecks terrorists love. And recent allegedly-thwarted events have launched a new wave of it.

Will hairstyles change now that we can't travel with gel? Will the airlines have enough water to hydrate the passengers? What kind of air rage will ensue when we are denied our own choices for inflight entertainment (ipods, laptops, or even books and pencils), and have to watch the stupid censored movies?

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for thwarting terrorist plots. I saw and breathed some awful stuff downtown 5 years ago, and I do consider myself lucky to be here. But in my opinion, the only effective security measures are invisible ones. Which have their own ethical quagmires. And what thwarts terrorist attacks is not metal detectors, it's plain old espionage, efficient sharing of intelligence, and being awake enough to identify a serious threat. In other words, real intelligence, the kind you have between your ears.

Here are a couple funny archive posts from Phil's blog, Vastly Important Notes. In one, he analyzes the security theatre at a Jamaican airport. And in another, he introduces Mr. Driver's License.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mark Pritchard's Interviews--I've Joined the Party

If you haven't discovered Mark Pritchard's WAYWO (What Are You Working On?) interviews, check them out. He's just added me to the corral of hard-working writers. While you're at it, look at his blog. Thanks, Mark!