Jan 26 2015

Movie Review: Selma

selma movieReleased: 2014

Directed by Ava DuVernay

Description (from Letterboxd):

Martin Luther King, Lyndon Baines Johnson and the civil rights marches that changed America.

“Selma,” as in Alabama, the place where segregation in the South was at its worst, leading to a march that ended in violence, forcing a famous statement by President Lyndon B. Johnson that ultimately led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

It astounds me that Selma was not nominated for more than two Oscars. Ava DuVernay has put together an excellent biopic, subtly fitting in many layers of history, including disagreements between different aspects of the civil rights movement (such as the SNCC) and the planning and focus required to steer events to a particular outcome. It was a smart move for the movie to focus on a single issue of the movement — the work to secure voting rights — as it give the audience a clear sense of the conflict at hand and something to rally for. I also liked the decision to overlay events with typewritten messages from the FBI’s monitoring of King and the movement, which was an unsettling and brilliant addition to the film.

David Oyelowo is fantastic as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., revealing his uncertainties in facing the enormity of the task before him. He really embodies the man and brings humanity to the character, even as he gives iconic speeches.

selma movie still

If there is one thing that bothered me, it was that sometimes it was hard to keep track of timelines. I’m not really clear on how much time passed, from when King first appeared in Selma to the final march from Selma to Montgomery. I’m assuming months, or at least weeks, but I’m not sure. It was a minor problem anyway, as I enjoyed and was moved by the movie.

My sister and I had a great conversation following the movie, talking about the history of racism and how it applies to today’s current events. Isn’t generating discussion what a movie like this is for?

selma-bridge movie still


Jan 26 2015

Forward motion is forward motion

I spent Saturday night in San Francisco with my friend An Xiao Mina, who happens to write a tech blog about meme culture and many other interesting things. We spent the afternoon eating sushi, getting lost in the city, and watching a fiction reading in a little cafe.

Sunday was primarily consumed with my minimalism efforts, as I trolled through stacks of old magazines deciding what was worthy to stay. It was a long, boring process, but it feels good to have most of that out of my house.

What I’m reading

I’m still working on Ancient, Ancient, by Kiini Ibura Salaam, and  Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon.

Both I have been slowly enjoying and both I’ll be finishing this week.

What I’m Writing

I’ve worked on poetry in some form or another everyday this week, but did not finish anything.

I’m okay with that. Forward motion is forward motion.

Goal(s) for this week: Type up one to two novel poems. Finish and send out a submission of four poems to Poetry Magazine.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

The crisp cold days, full of blue skies and a plethora of imaginatively shaped clouds.

Opportunity of the Week

The Emerald Tablet is looking for original work that in some way reflects an influence of your choice as part of an ongoing reading series (so you would need to be able to perform at an upcoming event. The submission requires that poets and writers include an original fragment of fiction or poem that shows how their own works were influenced. I rather like how poems can be in conversation with one another, so this appeals to me.

Linky Goodness

Dissolving barriers between the real world, the digital world, and the creative world, a look at the 365 Project as a Creative Process, by Marisa Goudy.

“Certainly, a year of photos taught me to see my life from countless new angles. Early in 2014, my newborn and I were trapped inside by the polar vortex, tested by a four-year-old who was stuck in the Frozen vortex. With one creative outlet to depend upon every day – my 365 project – I kept the walls from closing in on me. Later in the year, as I rediscovered my public self, I was able to look at my world with new wonder and discernment, knowing I had to capture at least one moment of each day.”

I tend to be terribly inconsistent with daily goals, but I love the idea of them.


Jan 19 2015

Need to turn off the procrastination station

I planned to see Selma over the weekend in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but a lot happened this weekend and it didn’t work out. I will see it this week, however.

Among the many things that happened, I took a couple of hours to sit down with a friend’s daughter, who just graduated from college and is considering what she wants to do with writing or editing. It was interesting to look at her situation and see how it related to my situation before I finally landed my day job. Trying to get a job fresh out of college and feeling like you’re caught in a experience needed catch-22 was so familiar to me.

Perseverance and a willingness to explore unexpected avenues of writing and editing employment can open up amazing opportunities. I never expected to be working at a technical trade magazine, but it’s been a fantastic experience so far.

What I’m reading

I’ve just started reading Ancient, Ancient, a collection of beautifully written, sensual tales by Kiini Ibura Salaam.

I’m still working through Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon. It’s full of fact, which my overloaded brain will only accept in small increments at the moment. It’s fascinating though and disheartening to know that human being allows such horrible things to continue to be done to fellow human beings after the Civil War.

What I’m Writing

Progress was slow this week, which is to say, I can’t quite remember what I accomplished — which is to say, probably not much at all. Not where I want to be.

I partially blame Letterboxd for the bulk of my procrastination. It’s a social website for tracking movies watched, posting and reading reviews, and (my favorite part) creating lists of favorite movies and other such goodness. It’s bright and shiny distraction, so I’ve been having a bit of difficulty trying to shake it. (My LB profile is here, for anyone who wishes to procrastinate with me.)

Part of the distraction has been that thinking about movies has me thinking about writing movies. Ideas, oh so many ideas.

However, as I mentioned at the beginning of the year, spiraling off into a new BIG project would be just another distraction. It’s important for me to refocus this week on the BIG project I’ve already started.

Goal(s) for this week: Type up one to two novel poems. Send out a submission of four poems to Poetry Magazine.

What’s Inspiring Me Right Now

Cleaning out and decluttering my room. I’m going (sort of) systematically, section by section through all of my things to see what I can release. I’ve already filled three paper bags full of clothes and shoes I know I’ll never wear and I’m working toward an ultimate sense of open space.

The open space makes me fell more mentally clear and relaxed, which helps me have better head space for writing.

Opportunity of the Week

Submissions are open for Dreams from the Witch House, an anthology of Lovecraftian fiction written by women. Payment for accepted stories will be 5 cents per word up to 5k words, then 3 cents per word over 5k up to 10K words. Deadline is January 31.

Linky Goodness

Upworthy currator, Rajiv Narayan, posted “This Doesn’t Sound Like The MLK I Learned About In School,” which looks at and quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 “The Other America” speech.


Jan 15 2015

Best Picture Nominees Announced (and some itty bitty initial thoughts)

The Oscar nominees are out. I have only seen one of the movies nominated this year, The Grand Budapest Hotel and I find it interesting that it has been sweeping the awards as much as it has, since I remember enjoying, but not loving the movie.

I’m also surprised to see that Selma isn’t receiving nearly as many accolades, with no nods for Best Actors or Actresses, nor a Best Director Nomination. Hrm. (“2015 Oscar nominations show lack of diversity in a year when films didn’t,” Washington Post.)

Anywho, here are the Best Picture Nominees, along with a few initial and superficial thoughts.

Continue reading


Jan 14 2015

Book Review: Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente


“Things that are unsightly: birthmarks, infidelity, strangers in one’s kitchen. Too much sunlight. Stitches. Missing teeth. Overlong guests.”

Palimpsest is the story of a city that exists between dreaming and waking, full of living trains, mechanical bees, houses grown from trees, rivers made of coats, and other beautiful, ugly, wonderful, and dangerous imaginings. One of the most interesting aspects of the novel is that access to the city is achieved through sex, as four characters — a woman who loves trains, a man who loves locks and keys, a woman who tends bees, and a man longing for his lost wife — living in different parts of the world discover after chance encounters. As each one longs more desperately to reach the City of Palimpsest, they find they have to put them in increasingly compromising situations with a multitude of complications and consequences.

“Do not ask, he thinks, and tried to clench his throat around it. But the question is a lock and it seeks the key of her and he cannot stop himself, even though the taste of it is like the Volkhov, muddy and reedy and cold.”

The language in Palimpsest is often beautiful, poetic, rich and thick as honey. It’s perfect for the surreal other city of Palimpsest, though for the “real” world it can have feel of distancing, the focus more on the labyrinth of the words than on the characters. At the beginning, when we are just getting to know the characters, I think it creates a distancing effect, making them hard to relate to, their quirks feeling exotic and strange rather than relatable. So, I had a hard time with the novel at first, as it felt more like a complex poem that I couldn’t quite penetrate.

“Every morning she pulled a delicate cup from its brass hook and filled it, hoping that it would be dark and deep and secret as a forest, and each morning it cooled too fast, had too much milk, stained the cup, made her nervous.”

After a certain point, though, when the threads of the characters’ stories began to come together, twisting through the labyrinth of Palimpsest toward the conclusion, I began to really enjoy the novel. I varied between needing to compulsively read and needing to take a break to absorb one or another beautiful phrase. While the ending wasn’t as satisfying as I would have liked, this was still a great journey and one I will reread in the future.