Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Movies Seen

Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell
A friend mentioned this movie is one of her favorites, as well as the book, so I thought I'd check it out. I'd only seen the musical Mame years ago. Mame lives and loves fully, though she can be calculating about it. I don't know, the movie classics don't grab me in the way they did in my twenties. Now that I've seen more theater, I can see more of the theatrical acting in these older movies. It strives for a different kind of authenticity than contemporary movies.

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan A Martin Scorcese Picture
I enjoy music when it's there, but I don't seek it out much. I got out of the habit of music during my early years of zen practice. I was doing that zen thing of just eating when eating, just doing dishes when doing dishes, etc. I still do that quite a bit, but not all the time, like I needed then. You could count the number of live shows I've been to on my two hands, but that doesn't mean much because those particular shows were a bit random, like my first show, during college. My housemate asked me if I wanted to see Ferron with her. I got tipsy on Tequila Sunrises (this was Santa Fe) and we held hands. We were both mostly hetero females at the time, but this was Ferron, and the energy was filling the intimate barroom stage. Almost the only non-random show I sought out was the double-billing of Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. Sadly, the sound was horrible. It was just a bunch of noise, with sort of recognizable cadences that were possibly songs I knew. It wasn't Dylan's fault, it was the venue.

This documentary more than makes up for it. I thought I might watch and listen while I did other things, but this turned out to be a vital piece of American history, and some music I'd never heard before. From the first, I was hooked in by Dylan's account of his musical influences, and his discovery of Woody Guthrie. Dylan "didn't want to give himself away" when he recorded his first album, so he didn't record his own stuff really. He stole his buddy Dave van Ronk's version of "House of the Rising Sun," who couldn't sing it anymore because people would say he stole it from Dylan. Van Ronk got a good laugh when the Animals did the same to Dylan. (They didn't say stole...but told the account of Dylan asking permission after the recording was done.) There's great footage from Dylan's and fans' archives in the 208 minute 2-part documentary, never before released.

This director has a bit of the darker side of the Brothers Grimm in him. It will push buttons for those wary of not-so-secret pedophilic messages. He talks about his use of eight different actors for the part of the 13 year old Aviva who wants to get pregnant in this online interview. I think this movie would have deeper meaning for me if I'd spent more time in my life pondering the structures and implications of palindromes as a symbol. Maybe I need to watch it with someone who likes to delve into symbols and patterns.

Happy Accidents
I have a soft spot for time travel movies. I like to ponder those implications, the life-not-lived, or the life-that-must-be-lived and how that all works when someone goes back to make something happen a different way. Of course it helps to add love to the mix, and "strong emotions" were the key to allowing a change in the time continuum. I've never been pulled one way or another by Vincent D'Onofrio, but there were a couple of scenes in which I so wished I could have been Marisa Tomei. One where he explains time travel with his hand and her leg, and another where his whole body reached for her kiss as though he would melt or disappear or crackle into pieces if he wasn't completed by that kiss. I believed his love.

White Light, Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
(on HBO now)
See it. You will cry. Find someone who has HBO if you don't. I have never been to a talk by a survivor. This one has the stories from many. First-hand witnesses of a nuclear bomb must be heard, must be seen.

I don't remember hearing of this movie when it was released. I would have been entering high school. I do remember a lot of talk of Chariots of Fire winning Best Picture that year, but not this one for Best Directing. I didn't even know Warren Beatty had directed anything. It's long, but a must-see. He brings a hidden history to life through a love story in the midst of American Communists connected to the Russian Revolution. At least I knew of Emma Goldman...not that I knew much. The witnesses were a brilliant touch: Beatty interviewed people (very old already then) who were witnesses to the lives of John Reed and Louise Bryant. I wished they'd had the names, but I understood the explanation in the dvd extras (done in the same style as the witness interviews) that they didn't want to bring some kind of hierarchy to the recognition of names, and for that, it worked well.

Into the West
Two Dublin kids keep a horse their Grandpa gave them. The cops take it away, and sell it illegally. It is a magical horse, according to Grandpa. It certainly can jump, and a rich man buys it for jumping. When the kids see the competition on television, they steal the horse back. Magical horse? What do you think...this is Ireland we're talking about.

Oregon's Covered Bridges
This would be a snooze if I weren't doing something else while I watched. This would be a great travel video for someone who loves covered bridges. I did learn something about the unique structures of covered bridges, and I learned that waysides still exist. I've bemoaned the loss of them in Wisconsin, long-time readers might remember. Many of these covered bridges in Oregon have wayside rest areas next to them. I checked this out, thinking it might be nice to see some bridges. The narrator said they're not all alike, but his somnambulistic voice made them so, reminding me of those educational films from grade school.

Books Read

Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America's Obesity Epidemic by Eric Oliver
The author begins his project trying to find out why Americans are getting fatter. What he found was that the issue of weight is inseparable from politics. Regarding the question, he kept covering some well-worn explanation as to why we're fatter, then would prove it's not quite that. The plethora of ads? No. Fast food nation? No. Larger portions? No. More sedentary? No. What about corn syrup? No. What he does seem to conclude is that our more sedentary ways make us more prone to snack. We snack more, something we didn't do in the old days, and those snacks have the very things that contribute to heart disease and insulin resistance: trans-fats, and refined carbohydrates (what we called "empty calories" when I was a kid...nothing new there). Review at ILiberty.org. A commenter at BigFatBlog remarks that it is a recap of Paul Campos. I haven't read that yet. In my search for "Fat Politics" I found this blog. It looks like fatfu is keeping an eye on fat politics as it arises in the media for us.

I am fat and I am polyamorous, two characteristics that society deems it okay to judge negatively. Author Eric Oliver notes, "Over the past three years, I've heard scores of unsolicited invectives of disgust and contempt for fat people, particularly from educated, middle-class folks who otherwise pride themselves on being rational and fair-minded. Even more interesting is how they assume that I, as an affluent thin person, naturally share their horror."

Bottom line, it shouldn't be about weight management, it should all be about health management. Weight, and it's ugly cousin, BMI, are not good indicators of good health. Insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels are, and they have not been shown to be caused by extra weight, but connected to.

Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black
I was glad of my visits to New York last year. The subway scenes were made that much more vivid for me. How many fairy tales are there set in New York, I wonder? While Good Fairies of New York was amusing with shades of A Confederacy of Dunces, this one was a runaway teen meets fairy dust story. Drawing upon the lore of "don't eat the fairy food" these street kids are doing fairy dust like drugs. There is some nobility to be found, and as is often the case, not all fairies can be trusted. Shades of Beauty and the Beast in the relationship between the Troll named Ravus and the questing Val. Holly Black is a drug...gimme more.

Pedal Power: A Legal Guide for Oregon Bicyclists
I skimmed through the 4th edition from the library, but this link takes you to the pdf of the 5th edition. This will only be interesting to people in Oregon, not only to bicyclists I hope, but to drivers who care about bicyclists, and to pedestrians...there's good stuff in here on the rights of pedestrians. This one online has clarifying info about the crosswalk law that went into effect in January 2006.

Powers by Deborah Lynn Jacobs
I liked it, a quick read. Two teens find themselves repulsed and drawn together like magnets. The more they get close, the more they can tap into their respective powers: reading minds and receiving visions of the future. Much like horses for little girls, these supernatural powers are all about sexual energy and love.

Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
It's rare for me to read a book twice, but I'd forgotten I really did read this before. Sadly, my brain is getting more like a sieve and there were many parts I did not remember so I just kept reading. Do not let my leaky brain be a sign of the book's merit, because it is a good book for teens, a bi-girl coming of age story. A prestigious summer school for gifted kids provides the backdrop for all that teen drama. I look forward to reading the sequel. I don't know how this woman does it...works full time as a librarian (and she's a great librarian), writes teen novels, writes zine comics, and keeps a blog.

Shredderman #1: Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen
Kid's book, great for the reluctant reader. A geeky boy is inspired by a class project to report on the class bully. He creates a secret identity website and comes up with a way to tell the whole school about it. It sparks great changes in him and in the school.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Google Meet Portland. Portland, Google.

How cool is this? Google maps now includes bus stop information. Click here for the Central Library in Portland. Zoom in, choose either street map or hybrid view, and see the little white and blue icons for bus, train, or streetcar.

I've known for a while that Google was incorporating mass transit into its offerings. Portland was the first according to this article. Now Google Transit includes 17 cities. I haven't used it though, as I either use the phone to find out when the next bus is coming, or I use Trimet.org to plan my trip.

With it incorporated into the maps feature now, I know I'll use this more often. The best thing about Google is the one-stop usability of it. Plug anything into the google toolbar, and you can get the weather, local phone listings, maps, as well as websites. Now with this map I can click on the little icon...go ahead and do it...and find out when the next bus is due. I can do that from the Trimet site, but not via the map like that. What Google is still missing though is an interface with Transit Tracker, the real time estimate of the next bus arrival.

I suppose it will be awhile before Portland gets Google's street level maps. Combine that with the bus stops, and you could know exactly where your unfamiliar bus trip is going to take you.

Neighborhood Changes

Less than a month ago I started watching the progress of a house down the street getting remodeled. They gutted the insides down to the studs. I was astonished to walk by one day and find they'd removed half the roof. A day or two later I started taking pictures because Steve was interested, but hadn't the time to see the place before they built it back up again.

August 8:
If you look closely you can see they nailed plywood right over the siding. They've already begun the second story that is replacing the right half of the roof.

The view from the right:
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I believe it was on that day I spoke to the contractor. I think he was the company owner or at least the lead guy. He always seems to be there, and he was the last one there that day. I told him I'd been wondering why they didn't just take the whole thing down. Was the wood still that good, did it save them some money? He told me they were just under the wire with the amount demolished to still be classified as a remodel, rather than a new building. That saved them $90,000. I know nothing of the details, but I'm aware the difference in classification makes it a completely different thing with the permits and whatnot. He had a magnetic sign on his truck: Wood Dog Rebuilders.

Nine days later, the house is taking a new shape, as viewed from the right:

They will have quite the view of their neighbor's roof:

This weekend, it's looking pretty well enclosed, but that siding is still showing in places. I wonder if they have plans for those spots, or just haven't got the plywood cut yet. Earlier, such spots on the right-hand side did get covered:

The view from the right:

I like the Native American Flag. I wonder if that is temporary until the roof is finished. I wonder if it belongs to one of the remodelers or the new owners. I don't even know if there are new owners. (Pause while I look at portlandmaps.com.) There was never a For Sale sign. Portland Maps does not yet reflect a sale. The house next to it recently sold for $325,500. That house had even less square feet than this one before improvements, yet this one did not have as great a value. This gutting will surely raise the value by $200,000.


The house next door is seeing some changes too. The second story is getting a balcony, I guess. A couple of years ago I'd walk past tsk-tsking, looking at that window with the broken glass that went unfixed for months on end. Now here the new owners removed the wood below (hmmm) and put in a door.

That's not all. Another house down the street lost its roof too:

That was August 16. The next day, morning:

and evening:

The Division Maytag that has been on Division forever has moved. Sadly, they can't compete with places like Sears for new products sales. The new occupants have a bunch of reclaimed stained glass windows and "architectural details" for sale.


Maytag moved just a block away, to the retail hinterlands, you could say. There is no ramp to their back door. How'd they get that fridge there?


The Maytag guy is still cheerful:
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Just a small sunken storefront next to the tattoo parlor and Food Fight Vegan Grocery. Let me say this is not the hinterlands for Food Fight, because I'm sure people come from around the city to shop at a vegan-dedicated store.

Just so you know, there is junk food in the vegan store too:


Another neighborhood change, a new horse. I was sad a couple months ago to find this white horse in pieces. She did like to hop down into the street at times, and must have been in the wrong place when a car drove up. (I thought I took a photo but can't find it now.) Now, this black beauty has taken her place.

Finally, a gift left on the sidewalk. Sanskrit, meaning just what it says:


Monday, August 20, 2007

Books Read

The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life by Lynne Twist
I really only skimmed through this, didn't read it. A few things I want to remember:
Myths about money:
"Scarcity is a lie." or "There's not enough."
"More is better."
"That's just the way it is."

The reality is, "sufficiency is always available." She says money is like water: know the flow, direct the flow. "When all is said and done, they want to put their money in flow. Philanthropy at any level enables people to get back in touch with that relationship with money." Tad Hargrave: "Charity is complete when it is grounded in solidarity."

Saying from the Achuar people: "Change the dream." It was because of a dream that they sought out help from the author in understanding Western money, so they could meet "civilization" rather than get swallowed up by it. Lynne Twist said, "They say that we really can't change our everyday actions because at their root will always be the dream we have for our future and we will always act consistent with that dream. However they say the dream itself can be changed in the space of one generation and the time is now to do the work that will change the dream."

This reminded me of the defensive driving skill of looking where you want to go. If you go into a skid for some reason, look at the road where you want to go. Don't look where you think you're headed, like the ditch or that tree. Look where you want to go, and your hands will send you there. It is when we trust our instinct, act without thinking, when we change the dream before the thought, that is when we can change things. Sheer force of will, that causes so much heartache, coercion, and violence.

Inuit wisdom: "Words do not label things already there. Words are like the knife of a carver: they free the idea, the thing from the general formlessness of the outside. As a man speaks, not only is his language in a state of birth, but also the very thing about which he is talking."

Finally, the reason I checked out this book was due to the great workshop on fundraising at the BPF Member gathering last year, given by Kristi Nelson. If I did anything, I wanted to see the poem she found in the book, and quoted in the workshop:

I lived on the shady side of the
road and watched my neighbors'
gardens across the way reveling
in the sunshine.

I felt I was poor, and from door
to door went with my hunger.

The more they gave me from
their careless abundance the
more I became aware of my
beggar's bowl.

Till one morning I awoke from my
sleep at the sudden opening of
my door, and you came and
asked for alms.

In despair I broke the lid of my
chest open and was startled into
finding my own wealth.

Rabindranath Tagore

Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics by Jennifer Baumgardner
I didn't read this book either, just skimmed it quickly. For a book about feminist politics, it seemed very self-absorbed, more of a memoir of Jennifer Baumgardner, about her self-involved experience as a twenty-something in New York. Confused or exploring your sexuality, learning to "look both ways?" Then you're excused from treating your girlfriend like crap. That was the impression I got. I was pleased to learn that Edna St. Vincent Millay was a "major rake at Vassar, seducing all the girls, and was reputed to be the model for Lakey in The Group by Mary McCarthy." Now I have to check that book out.

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This Shadow Children series got rave reviews by librarians as books kids will like. As I read it in the break room, one of my co-workers said he tried to read it but he didn't get far and it didn't pull him in. It did me. In some indeterminate future where worldwide famine causes the Government to go dictatorial, laws are passed that make third children illegal. Luke Garner is one of those accidental children that must never be seen by outsiders. When his family is forced to sell some of their farmland for new houses, he can no longer even go outside. He is pushed to the edges of his own family, who for fear of discovery have him live in the attic and sit on the stairs for meals. His family is poor. The new neighbors are rich, but he discovers they have something in common, a third child too. It is a very quick read, for kids after all, but I liked it enough to send for the sequel. It's nice to have something for those times I want to have something to read that won't distract me for days on end.

Tales Out of Oregon by Ralph Friedman
This was a fun book to read while I was traveling. I got this via bookmooch, a wonderful experience in itself. (Mentioned briefly back here.) The author invites you in, encourages you to set a spell. It was published in the year of my birth, and while on the first page I thought there were just too many adjectives, after a bit I was pulled in by the folksy flow of it and found myself wondering why we don't use more adjectives these days.

He reminisces about his wandering in the 30s around Oregon, following the seasonal jobs. He quotes Joseph Conrad as the reason for his wanderlust at the age of 18, and looks back with the wisdom, and the good storytelling, of a well-aged anecdote. When I got to the section that came from his days of writing travel articles, it wasn't quite as good, so while library books call, this book sits waiting to be finished.

Greywalker by Kat Richardson
There were some first-time author mistakes in this book. The first-person past-tense narrative for hold-your-breath life-or-death scenes didn't quite work for me. For those kinds of scenes I as a reader don't want to notice the narrator sure had a lot of time to notice a lot of details . I also shouldn't notice the author trying to be a clever author, for example saying "potato-headed" instead of "couch-potato." I kept reading though because I really like the world she created. A private investigator has a near-death experience (not once does the author call it that...wasn't she clever?) and comes out of it with the paranormal ability to walk in the grey world between life and death, where monsters, ghosts and vampires walk, and where magic glows as snakey tendrils of force. I liked noticing some things I think may be quintessentially Pacific Northwest (it is set in Seattle) such as gothy chicks who like ferrets, but at the same time groaned with the kinky cutie undertones of gothy chicks who like ferrets.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

HNT #27: Zine Symposium

A couple days ago I posted photos and said a little about my first time tabling at the zine symposium. Today K. sent me a photo she took of me there. A couple (a few?) years back I was interviewed for an article on GLBT Buddhists in Just Out. I was nervous before, but relieved after. It felt good to be more out. I knew though, that the sort of people who would read Just Out would be more accepting in general of my choices in life.

Bringing my non-monogamy in the form of a zine to the zine symposium is yet another step in being more publicly out. I found the community of zinesters quite accepting, as it is full of people who bare their innermost thoughts in a way they know will never be censored.

My library is one of the first to purchase and catalog zines for checkout. Others got zine collections before us, but none as far as I know had made them part of the card catalog and available for checkout. The next step to outing myself more would be to get my zine in the collection, if that's possible. That's a hard one. I work there. In a public card catalog, there would be no more selectivity to my self-revelations. I know, this is pretty public too...but someone has to be looking for this, and I try not to attach my full name to this. I also need to think about the effect it could have on Steve and K.

Tabling at the zine symposium was a test of sorts. People would ask me questions that required me to find the essence of this my dual spiritual path. They would ask the questions, but were they the student or the teacher? Is there a difference? They challenged me, I challenged them.

They asked, of Buddhism and polyamory:

"What is the connection here, in a nutshell."
"Liberation can be found," I responded.

"What is the Great Activity?"
"Love." oops, oh, they were asking about the subject of the zine.

"I never thought to put Buddhism and polyamory together."
neither did I! it's just how my life played out...
I said something about trying to show they're compatible.

There is something naked and pure about selling your ideas to strangers. You sit, looking up at the browsers walking by. They pause. Some take a sticker. Some have eyes only for the zine. Conversations develop, sweet open faces. We are in this together, no barriers of publishing houses between our words and each others' minds. We are not strangers, we are funky iconoclasts who recognize our differences in each other. It is easier to reveal here in front of a computer screen. There we give each other the gifts of acceptance and vulnerability when we meet in person.

Happy HNT, all. Click on the Half Nekkid Thursday button in my sidebar for more HNT revelations.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Zine Symposium Experience

Last year I went to the Portland Zine Symposium for the first time, just for a few hours on Sunday. This time I went for it and reserved a table.

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It was definitely more relaxing than being in charge of a whole Buddhist festival. Back in the 90s I did a zine called Sangha Jewel. I wanted people to send me whatever they'd like to share with the wider Sangha world. I suppose I wasn't yet confident enough to create a zine all about me, all about my stuff. After a year, year and half, I lost the momentum, just as one Zen teacher from back East predicted would happen.

I sent that zine to Factsheet 5, and got a favorable 3-line review. I sent it off to a few people that way, and made some connections through those Zen teachers. That connection from a distance is definitely different from this cross between a conference, trade show, and family reunion.

I didn't expect to sell much, my subject of Buddhism and polyamory being a pretty esoteric one. I had plenty of time to watch people selling their "product" and the connections were so warm and engaged, I more fully realized what a community this is.

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The young woman across the aisle from me, Tina with the zine Cough, told me she makes a zine because she just loves the symposium. I found myself glad for my last-minute brainstorm, free stickers, because that gave me a reason to begin a conversation. A good half of the people would sidle on by, I could see their reluctance to meet eyes. buddhism and non-monogamy, don't let me get hooked in. There were a good amount though that were friendly, and interested in the concept. More than I'd figured.

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Some people were just not interested in stickers. One even said, "I don't want to take something if I'm not buying." Most people were happy to receive one, and I gave away around 140 stickers, and around 90 of those were the Buddha-peace stickers. The difference between my Buddha-peace stickers, and my Buddha-peace-polyamory stickers gave me a reason to bring up the subject of polyamory. By the end of the symposium, I finally had my schtick down.

"I've got free stickers."
"Free?!" They pause to examine the many colors. I point.
"These have pi for polyamory, and these just have the Buddha and the peace symbol."


My neighbors to the left, "Legal Underage Pornography" had their schtick down long ago, including a comedy sketch routine, no less.

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Many already knew what polyamory meant, some asked. Toward the end, somebody said, "So that's where all the peace stickers were coming from." Surprisingly more people were interested in the poly stickers than I expected. I also sometimes had this conversation:

"I didn't know pi was a symbol for polyamory."
"When I went looking for polyamory clip art, that's what I found. There's not consensus on a symbol though. I also found the heart with an infinity symbol intertwined with the legs."
"Oh yeah, I've seen that before."

I liked pi because I could easily float the symbol in a text box over my jpeg of the peace sign with buddha. Some people liked pi because they were math geeks, or they knew somebody who was a math geek. Some people chose that sticker not because they were non-monogamous, but they had a good friend who was.

I saw the laws of Influence at work with my free stickers. I could see that most people who accepted stickers felt obligated to give my zine or my buttons or mirrors a glance, at least. Funny thing was, more people seemed to expect free stuff later on Sunday. Several people confused "stickers" with "buttons" and tried to take a button for free.

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That didn't happen on Saturday, though it could be people thought that while I was away from the table.

There were a few dogs that visited the symposium. This one was the most darling. Creature, that's his name, was too quick for a photo. He seemed quite docile until I aimed for a photo, then it was zip zip look around what's that? those people there, i want to see everything. Creature's blond friend said he did alright even at Comic-Con. She carried him around in a bag and when she finally wended her way to my table I told her I'd been looking forward to meeting her dog.

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This one was also too quick to pose. Emilo was his name.
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And here is Pepper.
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Later I caught Creature climbing on his friend's shoulder, perched there like a cat or a kid, but as if he knew I was clicking from a distance, he started moving too quick to catch a shot.

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I sold, traded, or gave away 36 of my first zine, and 38 of my second.
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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Movies Seen

The Persuaders
Available online. It's all about branding, and about limiting what truth is easily available. Example: the persuaders marketed the estate tax as the "death tax." Suddenly Americans don't want the "death tax." That tax only affects the very rich, but it was brought down successfully by marketing to the poorer majority. There's now so much advertising, so much clutter, the advertisers must cut through that by telling us less.

The Stepford Wives (1975)
With the new movie already out awhile, I thought I'd like to see the old one first. If I saw it as a child, I was too young to know what it meant. With 'stepford wife' commonly used to identify a certain type of woman's life, I felt it my duty to go to the source. Now I'm not sure I want to see the new movie. This one was great. I don't know but I'm willing to bet there's a whole subset of kinky folks who love to role play based on this movie.

Bridge to Terabithia
How'd I see a 2007 movie on dvd already? A co-worker gave me the heads up to put a hold on it, so I got it as soon as it came out on dvd. Not quite as enchanting as Narnia, but this was about imagination rather than an alternative world. I liked what they did with the arch-nemesis from school as a troll.

Little Miss Sunshine
The little girl really sparkled, and that mostly is what it's all about. When it came to the moment she really needed to, I thought she didn't, so it kind of fell flat for me. Maybe the point of that was, even when she didn't sparkle, she just keeps going.

Whisper of the Heart
Unlike Studio Ghibli's other fantasy movies, this anime is a story about a girl in junior high who finds herself and the stories inside her waiting to be written. No otherworldly action, just the imagination of a girl and a first love. Oh, the cat just might be otherworldly. Sweet movie.

U.S. vs John Lennon
Would that there were a musician with the drawing power of John Lennon today to give voice to an anti-war movement. Would that there were media drawn to a bed-in to film the word peace on superstars' wall as they made their honeymoon a means to protest the war. Maybe it has happened but nobody paid attention because all the media does is follow the lives of misstepping starlets and discuss the latest intimacies of a faux-reality show. I checked this out because I was reminded by Rosie that everyone must see it. I wonder if she was influenced by John Lennon when she chose to speak her views frankly on The View.

Ladies in Lavender
A young man is washed up on the shore of Cornwall between the World Wars. Two spinster sisters take him in while his broken ankle heals. Based on a short story by William J. Locke, the director confesses that he made the ladies a little older, in their sixties rather than in their forties. I thought that made it all the more interesting. Judy Dench showed sublime talent portraying an old lady falling in love with a younger man.

I loved this movie, even with it's muted British undercurrents. At first I pegged it for a tale of Odysseus from the other side, an older Circe seducing the mysterious young traveler with her hospitality. What was the young man's past? Did he even remember it? Did he know where he was meant to go?

A neighboring woman, suspect because she was German, took an interest in him as well. The director called this a fairy tale, and her character was the wicked queen fairy, and thus a dazzling beauty. I could see that. The young man already seems to have a bit of the fairy in him with his almost otherworldly talent with the violin. Perhaps he more belonged with the fairy queen, and the spinster sister with her unrequited love seemed to recognize that.

Archetypal undercurrents aside, it's a daring movie to have an older woman fall in love with a younger man, and to have nothing happen with that except that he leaves the town, as was always expected.

Sir! No Sir!
They tell us that Vietnam Vets were spit on when they returned home, but that's an urban legend. The vets were welcomed into the anti-war movement. And there was an anti-war movement among the serving troops. This movie reveals Jane Fonda was there with the troops, not something the Fonda-haters would have you know. Underground newspapers, refusal of orders, sabotage, fragging, all talked about here.

A couple of guys were asked by their neighbors to shoot their daughter's Quinceañera. They told each other that somebody needed to make a movie about this. They turned out to be the somebodies. I finally got this after hearing about it on the IFC Spirit Awards. It's a glimpse into a world I know nothing about, and in the movie, the Latino gay boy makes reference to that to the gay men gentrifying his hood. The older man says, "You live in a whole other world don't you." The Latino says, "No, you do."

There's a scene that keeps echoing in my head: girl with boy on bike on a hill. Very much like a scene in Whisper of the Heart. A Quinceañera is much like a wedding, with the celebrating girl walking down the aisle created by her flower-holding court. The movie begins and ends with one, I like that, as though the movie is creating the space for the story's own coming of age.

Books Read

The Alchemist by Donna Boyd
Back in May during my birthday party when I found myself pleasantly tipsy on vodka and fizzy juices, talking to my Buddhist friend who was not imbibing because she's "taken vows," I had an epiphany about books written for teens versus books written for adults. I realized I gravitate toward reading books for teens because these books expect readers comfortable with ambiguity. Young people have not solidified their identity yet. They're working on finding it. Books that appeal to them will explore possibilities for the future. They will be ripe with promise, or with pitfalls. They will steer a reader toward finding their own true path.

Mainstream popular fiction for adults, on the other hand, will appeal to the readers' certainty in themselves. Such books will confirm solid views of the world. The adult reader of popular books will seek confirmation of their sense of self and of the world in the books they read, not open-ended possibilities. Not always, but generally.

I was reminded of this insight when I read this book. About halfway through I realized the story felt a little flat. Not much fizz in the buzz. It was interesting enough as fantasy goes, hearkening back to Egyptian legend of Nefertiti and carrying it forward to the present day, weaving a story of powerful magicians, but I realized the core message the author shared is that no matter how advanced, humans will still sow violence, still do harm in the name of ideals, still perpetuate the usual ills of the human condition. That may be true, but it seemed a shallow message, and designed to satisfy the adult craving for certitude in moral judgement.

Influence by Robert B. Cialdini
I read this quite a while ago, but I took notes. As individuals we are easily influenced, and those typical influences rely on our innate sociable wiring. The author took jobs such as car salesman to find out how the "compliance professionals" do it. Marketers use this book.
These are the ways:

  • Reciprocation: If someone offers you a favor you feel obligated to return it. Someone offers you a can of soda, you give money to their cause.
  • Commitment and consistency: If someone gets you to commit to something small, for the sake of consistency you stick with it. Heh. I've done that with love. Chinese in Korea got American prisoners of war to write pro-Communist essays by holding contests. They didn't always reward the Anti-American essays, but sometimes did, and the prizes they offered were small. That was key. Oranges, cigarettes. If a large prize, a prisoner could avoid having to be consistent by convincing himself he was going for the prize. Small prizes made it more their choice, and likely to stick with the opinion.
  • Social proof: when in a group, if one person acts, others will. If no one does, no one will. Also known as the bystander effect. This was brought to light by the famous Kitty Genovese murder, where dozens of witnesses did not call the police.
  • Liking: similarity, appearance, compliments, familiarity, and association all foster liking.
  • Authority: unwilling to contradict the one in uniform, the one in charge. See Milgram.
  • Scarcity: newly scarce are more valuable rather than those things that were always scarce.
Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
Found this at bookshelves of doom. Short stories of the twilight zone-ish horror genre. I don't usually read such, but Leila of bookshelves was so glowing in her review, I sent for it. I didn't have enough time to read the whole thing, wasn't excited enough to get it from the library again, but I was pleased with the retelling of The Snow Queen.

Gravelight by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Three people wind up in this place in the Appalachians for different reasons. This is the 3rd book in the Witchlight series (yes I read the first 2, and they were good enough to send me back for more). Recurring character Truth Jourdemayne is there with the professional parapsychologists looking into the nexus of paranormal happenings. She, as revealed in the other books, is a descendant of the fairy race, and is learning to become adept at magick. A pain-ridden drunk finds himself stranded there, probably trying to drink himself to death. An actress seeks her family history, and finds herself with too strong a connection to a magical ancestor. Together, they must deal with the cause of the sinister disappearances, an open Gate to magical realms.

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett
Quick read for a non-fiction book. It was interesting to get an intimate look at a woman who was a very sickly child, and who spent her life seeking the face that was destroyed by her childhood cancer. She had this expectation of care by others, and seemingly no thought of the future. Perhaps that was to happen after she got her face. We talked in our book group about how in spite of, perhaps because of, her fallen-in face, she had this charisma that attracted such loyal people around her. She was a user, and treated her "angels" like doormats, but as one person put it, this was a kind of friendship that was beyond such concerns. Or so Ann Patchett might have us think. One person in the group did some research and found that Lucy Grealy's family was mad because Ann basically left them out of the book, and they contend that Lucy didn't think much of Ann.

Wright 3 by Blue Balliett
I usually don't like to read a later book in a series before I've read the first, but I did here. I think I was assured by a librarian that it wouldn't matter, so this is the first book by this author that I've read. Indeed the author gave enough details from past stories that I could tell what was going on, as could any child that sought a story with mystery and extra-worldly speculation. Interesting stuff in here about the Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Illustrations were based on the actual building. Otherwise just a book for kids.

Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar
This is another one of those books I checked out due to a librarian's blog, but I can't remember which one now, maybe bookshelves of doom again. The humans here are sometimes petty, rarely endearing, and not very heroic, except maybe the bag-lady who thinks she's an ancient Greek hero. The particular properties of her boot-polish cocktail allow her to see fairies, and include them in her war strategies. Some Scottish and Irish Fairies find themselves in New York after a bender. They like their alcohol. This gets them in trouble with some of the native fairies. They're also somewhat inept with their fairy abilities, sort of like the humans they're trying to help. I liked it, found the pub-going flavor amusing, but thought the author missed some of the transplanted-in-New-York opportunities. Plus, he had an American say "truncheon" rather than "stick" or "club." Who do you know says truncheon?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Zine Symposium this Weekend

I've been busy putting together a zine. Like my last one, it includes some writings from here, and some new stuff. I tried to tie it together with the theme of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, especially sangha, or community.

Here are the contents:

  • Finding Refuge in the Three Gems
  • This Space of Love
  • Unconditional Love Found
  • A Monogamous Friend Responds
  • Myths About Polyamory
  • The Public Conversation
  • Buddhism Meets Polyamory
  • Polyamory: Lessons Learned by guest writer Mon-Mon Keekah

I'll be at the Portland Zine Symposium this weekend. Those of you in the Portland area, I hope you'll stop in to see me, and the other zine writers.

If you would like me to send you a copy of the zine, drop me a line. The first one is also available.

Now that I've finished that, I'll have time to catch up on other stuff. I've read a bunch of books, but my reminder notes have been gathering dust.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Farmers Market Showcases

It was just a quick shopping trip today to the farmer's market. I picked up the usual: potatoes, green stuff, tomatoes, blueberries, corn on the cob....

There were some visitors of note, and they gave me some refrigerator magnet swag:
(the blueberry sticker was from last week...I created a magnet from it.)

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It is easy to be green in Portland, but a person could always be greener. We have curbside recycling. The plastics taken curbside only include items with necks. It is possible to recycle all other plastics, but I've been too lazy to take them to a recycling station, and don't have the space to hang on to them for plastic roundups. I discovered though that there is a full-time drop-off location fairly near to my home. I could do better.

The metro folks also had a mobile garden there, all about natural gardening. Of course this was the day I didn't bring my camera, so blame the Motorola Razr for the poor quality:

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Not only is it ecologically sound, I like the idea of native plant landscaping because it should be very low maintenance. For various reasons I am not a fan of gardening.

My special animal was featured:

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Finally, there was a big green bus. I wanted to get in and out of the market quickly so I didn't stop, but I should have. They were the Dartmouth students traveling across the country in The Big Green Bus. I did see and like the lettering on the side that said, "Powered by Veggies." That didn't seem a big deal to me, seeing as I have a friend who bought a diesel truck so she could convert it to run on vegetable oil, and there are a lot of biodiesel folks in Portland.

As I drove home (usually I ride the bus with my pink rolling crate, but today Steve stayed home from work and I have so much work to do on my zine) I thought about the message of bio-fuels. It isn't enough to think the answer to oil wars is bio-fuel. Already higher demands for ethanol have led to corn shortages in Mexico. I thought about Kettle Chips and its company fleet of biodiesel cars. They use the oil from their chips to run their vehicles. What if Ruffles or Lays did that? What do those mega-companies do with their used oil? Frito Lay has a systematic plan, cites lots of percentages of Greenhouse Gas reductions, but not many specifics on what they do, and no mention of the vegetable oil waste. What a giant fleet of cars those companies could run on their own waste. That could have a meaningful impact, even if it wouldn't be feasible for every single person who owns a car to convert to biodiesel.