Chuckle of the Day

Ok, Jamie Foxx sometimes seems like an arrogant, misogynist asshole (have you ever listened to his XM radio station???), but this had me crackin’ up this morning.

And speaking of musical improv . . . last night Ryan and I went with a friend and our neighbor Ineva to Monday Night Karaoke at a little neighborhood bar down the street from our apartment.  None of us sang, but Good Lord some of those folks were talented, and talent or not, everyone was havin themselves a good time.  Mostly middle-aged Black folks.  Mostly Motown/R&B/soul, with Erykah and Jill Scott and the Temptations and Marvin all making appearances.  If you know me and my outdated musical tastes, you’ll appreciate the extent of my enthrallment.

What A Poem

I originally found this great blog, 2 Eyes Open, through This Is A Takeover, Not A Makeover.  Hadn’t checked up on it for months.  Then today, I found a treasure (even for someone who’s not a huge fan of poetry).

Wrote This On a Plane to Houston, On My Way To Guatemala

I like to pretend sometimes,
that I got this hunching spine
from working so meticulously at my craft.
Each day carefully placing my toolbox on the table,
unfolding the lid and curling my soft pink fingers into their positions
to forge these words into some kind of weapon,
to whittle at these ideas until they pierce the chest.

I like to pretend sometimes
that this glow is a kiln,
I wipe my brow, and it makes no matter
that my hand comes away dry.
Because this feels like the work of a workman,
and I make like I’m adjusting my spectacles
and gripping my tweezers
as I deftly shift another syllable.

I like to pretend sometimes
that I’m just like that man I watched
crack firewood with ballet strokes,
cut grass finely with a dull machete,
coax coffeebeans to fall with massaging fingers,
like the spider spindling the fly.

Continue reading

Good Friday

Happy Good Friday to those who observe it! To celebrate, here are two good Internet things.

One: Tibetan youth resistance hip-hop music video.

With gorgeous lines like:

  • “Get used to me! I am the decadent breath of your uncontrollability.”
  • “We are the sharp wisdom that your lectures and speeches haven’t reached!”
  • “We are the smooth darkness that your flame and power hasn’t absorbed.”
  • “I am very light, in your imagination. I am very small, in your vegetable patch.”
  • “Get used to dreaming. Get used to unlawful damage and uprisings. Get used to this way of living.”

And Two: this powerful, deep, soulful project by my friend Mahfam: Watch Me Cultivate.  Honest, raw, and mad intelligent, she offers daily reflections and chronicles her own growth and change, symbolized by the literal growth of her hair, which she buzzed off 78 days ago (and counting).

Enjoy! Have a great weekend, folks — see you Monday.

Bessie Smith, Hideous Umbrellas…..and Look Out For Monday!

Still sick as a dog, folks, so I’m letting Bessie take over for me today.  Found this gem through the James Baldwin essay I mentioned Wednesday.  Just amazing.  I love the way she draws out her first “You can’t trust Noooooooo-body/ You might as well be alone.”

LONG OLD ROAD Bessie Smith 1931 Bessie Smith rec June 11th 1931 New York It's a long old road, but I'm gonna find the end, It's a long old road, but I'm gonna find the end, And when I get there, I'm gonna shake hands with a friend. On the side of the road,I sat underneath a tree, On the side of the road,I sat underneath a tree, Nobody knows a thought that came over me. Weepin' and cryin', tears fallin'on the ground, Weepin' and cryin', tears fallin'on the ground, When I got to the end, I was so worried down. Picked up my bag, baby, and I tried again, Picked up my bag, baby, and I tried again, I got to make it, I've got to find the end! You can't trust nobody, you might as well be alone, You can't trust nobody, you might as well be alone, Found my long lost friend, and I might as well stayed at home! [Lyrics from] (Contributed by Peter Akers - May 2009)

Speaking of the blues, in a way: have you ever had a very hideous umbrella?  Not as a backup in the closet but I mean like your main public umbrella.  Currently I’m saddled with one.  i can imagine equally ugly models, but none uglier.  it’s large and striped like a circus tent, yellow and white.  the yellow isn’t a pretty saffron or gold, but like this really awful chemical lemon-drop yellow.  the fabric is also torn off the spokes in one or two places.  anyway, the reason i bring this up is that thursday morning i had a revelation about my very hideous public umbrella.  before now, the two qualities counting in its favor were (a) that it was free, and a gift from my dad: i think he gave it to me one day when i was unprotected; and (b) that it is big: i think it was originally a golf umbrella, possibly one of the freebies they give you at the end of a swanky tournament (but not too swanky, i guess, since this one doesn’t have any sort of country club logo printed on it).

Random ugly umbrella on flickr; mine not shown. Would you be able to lose this? Didn't think so.

yesterday, however, i realized that the ugliness itself is also an advantage.  because, like so many of us, i’ve lost uncountable umbrellas in my lifetime.  uncountable.  small, shitty ones; big, precious ones.  but this guy i’ve hung onto longer than usual.  why?  precisely because i’m embarrassed about its hideousness.  wherever i go, when i set my huge, janky, chemical lemon-drop umbrella on the floor, i remain mildly self-conscious about it the whole time.  so i never forget to bring it with me when i leave.

has the Hideous Umbrella CurseBlessing ever happened to you?  what do you think of my theory?




Finally, I leave you on an exciting note about fresh news to come on Monday: I’ll be reporting back from the first action of the new East Bay Solidarity Network that I helped to start up with four friends.  We’re taking on a case of a comrade of ours who was unscrupulously fired from his live-in job, and summarily kicked out into homelessness.  Next week, the fightback begins!  I can’t share more details now because the action has to be a secret reveal, but I am suuuuper pumped about getting this production rolling.  Already the organizing feels so solid and healthy with this quality team, based on the excellent, proven “recipe” for solidarity networks that comes out of the Seattle Solidarity Network, or SeaSol.  It’s compassionate action with people power to back it up.  I’m about to learn a TON through this project, and can’t wait to share it with y’all as it unfolds.

SeaSol logo, links to nifty web site

One note: since EBSol needs to get some more groundwork in place before our grand opening in mid-April, we’re not yet having open invitations to meetings or actions.  But we will in a couple of weeks!  So if you’re in the East Bay and want to help neighbors win stuggles against bosses and landlords, definitely hit me up and we’ll get you into our contact list!

love, solidarity, and no hugs for the moment due to unending nasal drippery,


Friends, Meet Imani


Folks, I’m going through it a little bit this week.  Just a lot of complex stuff coming up.  Haven’t found the right words for sharing it here, yet.  But in the meantime, this video of my friend and fellow Goddardite — vocalist, composer, interfaith priestess, and cultural worker Imani Uzuri — made me smile today in a full, full way.  Not only does Imani bless the world with mad artistic skills (including, but not limited to, the most moving voice I’ve ever heard in person in my whole entire life: no lie), she also illuminates the people around her with her spiritual reflections, historical insights, unbeatable hilarity, and genuine compassion.


Here, she reminds us of the importance of exploring and loving our always-complex selves.  It reminds me of an essay I read yesterday in the current issue of make/shift: a piece by Alexis Pauline Gumbs called “M/Othering Ourselves: A Black Feminist Genealogy, Or, The Queer Thing.”  The essay in turn takes its inspiration from a line from Audre Lorde: “We can learn to mother ourselves.”  Gumbs asks:

What would it mean for us to take the word mother less as a gendered identity and more as a possible action, a technology of transformation that those people who do the most mothering labor are teaching us right now?

I hear this question (and its associated family of questions) echoed in Imani’s 120-second share.  (And enacted, unwittingly, in the sweet out-takes in the final few seconds.)


Imani’s work itself is powerful enough; being in her presence during Goddard residencies, and seeing the mind, soul, and radical self-mothering behind the music, has been an extraordinary gift to me.  She’s real and grounded, as well as spiritually developed and crazy talented.  Quite the combo.  Check her out, and join me in celebrating the friends who inspire us, even unknowingly, while we’re slogging along.


Potato Head Blues

One of my favorites from the Hot Sevens.  Recently arrived as part of a mix-CD gift from my friend Hozan Alan Senauke (of Berkeley Zen Center and Clear View Project).  I had it playing this week when my friend Cat was over for tea, and we both looked at each other with a little jolt of recognition at the final, extra-long, lovely solo on this record, though I couldn’t remember the name of the song.

Last month, while Alan was over’ our place for our Working for Liberation retreat at the Fools (can’t believe I still haven’t written a full piece about that . . . dang), he noticed the two posters hanging in my room: one of Louis Armstrong and one of Billie Holiday.  And so he offered to make me a mix.

Jazz of this calibre is what made me first fall in love with music, for real.  It wasn’t until high school that I started staying up late into the night, listening to the same album over and over, letting it soak in.  I can still practically sing along to the entirety of Kind of Blue.

Much gratitude to Alan, a musician at the mind- heart- body- and community- level.

Happy Wednesday, y’all!

Billie’s Wisdom, Rumi’s Insight

Good morning, heartache
You old gloomy sight
Good morning, heartache
Thought we said goodbye last night
I tossed and turned until it seemed you had gone
But here you are with the dawn

Wish I’d forget you
But you’re here to stay
It seems I met you
When my love went away
Now every day I start by saying to you
Good morning, heartache, what’s new?

Stop haunting me now
Can’t chase you no how
Just leave me alone
I’ve got those Monday Blues
Straight through Sunday blues

Good morning, heartache
Here we go again
Good morning heartache
You’re the one who knew me when
Might as well get used to you hanging around
Good morning, heartache — sit down

Stop haunting me now
Can’t chase you no how
Just leave me alone
I’ve got those Monday Blues
Straight through Sunday blues

Good morning, heartache
Here we go again
Good morning, heartache
You’re the one who knew me when
Might as well get used to you hanging around
Good morning, heartache — sit down

Reminds me of that famous poem by Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Guilty Pleasure: Cee Lo’s “F*** You”

Guilty aspect number one: I actually prefer the radio edit version to the original. Not because I’m so scandalized by the phrase “fuck you,” but because I like the lilt provided by the extra syllable in “forget you.” Am I alone in this preference? Both versions are below; help me out, folks.

Guilty aspect number two: I like the video, even though it’s full of classic patriarchal tropes, also reflected in the lyrics themselves. As assets, women’s beauty and bodies are comparable to men’s money. Yeah, we get it. Still, I’m feelin the vignettes and backup singers/dancers — what can I say.

Guilty aspect number three: Not so guilty but actually kind of rad, when I first heard this song on the radio and knew nothing about it, it struck me as a genderfucked kind of affair. The singer’s voice seemed androgynous to me, and I couldn’t really tell, from the lyrics and who was being addressed with a “forget you, and forget her, too,” whether a girl had left her girlfriend for another girl, or a girl left her boyfriend for another girl, or a girl left a translady for another someone, or what. So even though I now know it’s a typical script, I still have positive associations of driving my parents’ car, hearing this come on the mainstream radio, and all smilin like, “Are they really playing this so casually on the radio? Neat!”

[Update: Oh, also! The sobbing/singing interlude? Could easily have turned out annoying, but I actually find it very impressive! Musicality and vocal control with the bawling. Nicely done, Ze Lo.]

Hits-of-the-90’s Friday

Lately the 1990’s have been coming back to haunt me. In a good way. A friend is throwing a 90’s-themed party tonight, and while I was visiting my parents’ house this week, my mom pulled out my Young Author Book from 5th or 6th grade. I wish I had it now so that I could quote the author bio page precisely, but I do remember that it included a sentence like, “Her favorite colors are silver, turquoise, purple, black, fuchsia, blue, and white.”

And also: “Her favorite song is ‘Truly Madly Deeply’ by Savage Garden.”

Well, young self, here’s to your happiness.