Liu Xia: “June 2nd, 1989”

— Liu Xia dedicated “June 2nd, 1989” to her husband, Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned since 2009 on the charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” It’s in her collection Empty Chairs, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern (Graywolf Press, 2015)

The poem begins:

This isn’t good weather
I said to myself
standing under the lush sun

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Against the Odds: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 15 February 2017

An unexpected victory? A snapshot of an unlikely moment? This week, show us something that defines the odds.

— Michelle W., The Daily Post

Last year, on the 2nd day of self’s trip to the UK, her camera shutter stopped opening all the way. Rather than buy a new camera, self decided to see how far she could push that old thing. And it lasted till the very end of her trip.

One of the last places she visited before returning home was Bletchley Park, about an hour train ride from London. Bletchley Park is where the World War II codebreakers did their work. According to the visitors’ brochure, “the Codebreakers’ efforts helped to shorten the war by up to two years, saving countless lives.” The codebreakers worked year-round in unheated wooden huts. “The first Enigma ciphers were broken in early 1940.”

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Bletchley Park: June 2016

Self took the picture below in Chinatown. She forgets which street it was on. It was either on Grant or on Stockton. Look closer at the words, and it turns out to be about Filipino immigration: the first immigrants faced discrimination. Caucasian women were not allowed to marry Asian immigrants, most of whom were single men. Yet, those early immigrants endured. Their descendants are all over California.

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Wall Mural, Chinatown, San Francisco

Anne-Adele Wight coordinates a monthly reading series at Head House Books in Philadelphia. She is a published poet. Just before June’s event, she hurt her knee and had to wear a brace. But — the show must go on!

She is fantastic.

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Anne-Adele Wight introducing speakers at the Head House reading series, which she coordinates: Philadelphia, June 2016

So there are self’s examples of “Against the Odds,” which is a very, very interesting photo challenge.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Anticipation: 2017

  • It is the Year of the Rooster. Kung Hei Fat Choy!
  • There will be a Trainspotting 2! Also a Baywatch movie! Also a Barbie movie! Also another Star Wars movie!
  • EU will abolish roaming charges for cell phones!
  • The world will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, today’s most bestselling author!
  • Museum of the Bible becomes DC’s newest museum!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Debut Novel, University of Hawai’i Press

THE CHARM BUYERS, by Lillian Howan, is a novel that describes extraordinary beauty and turbulent change: Tahiti during the last years of French nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 1990s. Tahiti in the 1990s is a place where a supernatural, shamanistic reality exists together with the traditions of the Hakka Chinese, set against the background of the French colonial past and the Ma’ohi struggle for independence. It presents a world in transition and its people — black pearl cultivators, artists, taro farmers, politicians, smugglers, and shamans.

The Charm Buyers is a thought-provoking insight into a time of cultural change. It captures an essence of existing between reality and surreality, dreaming and wakefulness, the past and the future. (Foreword Reviews)

Book Launch!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017
5 p.m.
Maier Room, Fromm Hall
University of San Francisco

FREE AND OPEN TO ALL

Sponsored by the Master of Arts in Asia Pacific Studies, Asian Pacific American Studies, and the Center for Asia Pacific Studies.

AMERICAN GODS p. 67: “the best lies”

  • “That is why you are a good fortune teller,” said Zorya Utrennyaya. She looked sleepy, as if it were an effort for her to be up so late. “You tell the best lies.”

Solitude 2 at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore

  • “Solitude is the place of purification” — Martin Buber, quoted in The Daily Post
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Anonymous, C. 1960: figure carved from a single apple tree trunk. The artist was a British mental patient who had a distinctive, concaved chest.

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Isadore Waber: CanCan 1990 (Made out of coffee cans and a bicycle), seen at the American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore

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Sailing Away In a Beautiful Balloon, at the Jim Rouse Visionary Center in Baltimore: the space is cavernous and crammed with all kinds of grown-up whirligigs.

Repurpose: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 27 January 2017

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is REPURPOSE.

“I’m fascinated by birds and their nests. Imagine being able to craft the perfect home for your family with just a beak and twiggy feet?” — Krista, The Daily Post

Self’s friend Mary Ellen Campbell used twigs to represent a forest in a book about wild swans (The book’s language is either Finnish or Icelandic):

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Wild Swans: A Book by Artist Mary-Ellen Campbell

Self saw the artwork below while walking New York City’s High Line, December 2016. Every time she looks at this photo, she thinks of the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.

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3-D Graffiti made of iron re-bar by Artist Damien Ortega: High Line, New York City

Finally, just for fun:

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Christmas Party, Queens, December 2016

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Next 3 Books on Self’s 2017 Reading List

Self began reading Ape House, by Sara Gruen. It really plays with your head because right away, the bonobos are introduced with such clearly human traits, and we don’t see them as “animal.” (So what is the point? If they’re already human, why are we reading? Dare self say — because on p. 11 there are already seeds sown of a romance? Ugh. It’s not that self hates romance. It’s just that she wanted to read a story that was primarily about bonobos) But, no denying, Sara Gruen really goes for it. She bare-knuckles her story and you either buy her point of view or you don’t.

Self then began reading the next book on her reading list: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. And, OMG, he doesn’t pull any punches either. He goes straight for the mythopoetic, quoting from a book on American folklore (and, eerily, finding the exact quote to reflect what self has been thinking all these years, which is: why are there no tikbalangs or mangkukulams in the United States? Is it because these creatures cannot get on a plane?)

So, because self is always searching for certainty, and she just finished reading Peter Lovesey’s Skeleton Hill and it was excellent, and self thinks she might be on something of a run, she decides to be truly daring and pick up the third book on her 2017 reading list: Phil Klay’s Redeployment. And here’s yet another writer who doesn’t pull any punches. His stories of men fighting in the front lines in Iraq — they will not thrill you. For instance, the title story: “We shot dogs. Not by accident.”

Which to read first? In point of fact, self already has six books lined up: the other three books on her current reading list are by Mary Beard, Francis Parkman, and Edward Gibbon. Eminent historians, all. Self hasn’t read so much history in a very long time.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: Iowa Review, Spring 2015

Excerpt from “Turtle”

by M. E. Hope

Seaman Recruit Robinson was a petite black woman
always smiling, though few met her eyes.
On first look you saw the scar, her entire
face was burn — a healed swirl of pink
and brown, a nose less nose than placeholder
for the center of her face. But her eyes
and smile — those calmed every one
of us. And she did know us all, knew
names and with every small conversation
remembered our stories.

WSJ Bookshelf: 24 January 2017

William F. Bynum begins a review of Is It All In Your Head? by Suzanne O’Sullivan with this amazing paragraph:

Over a century ago, Alice James (1848 – 1892), sister of the novelist Henry and the psychologist and philosopher William, spent her life going from doctor to doctor with vague symptoms, tiredness and pains most prominent among them. Like Henry, she eventually gravitated to England, where she was happier, because “the god Holiday (was) worshipped so perpetually and effectually.” There at last she got a definite diagnosis: breast cancer. Although it was her death sentence, she was ecstatic, recording in her diary: “Ever since I have been ill, I have longed and longed for some palpable disease, no matter how conventionally dreadful a label it might have.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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