Sep 20 2016

To Nashville and back

Last week, I took a business trip that took me through Nashville, northern Alabama, and into Kentucky. I spent quite a bit of this trip driving from location to location and with all the work meetings and industrial site visits, there was little time for hanging out.

I checked out the Nashville City Cemetery and would have loved to have explored it more, but it was sweltering hot and humid out and I couldn’t handle it. Not even in the shade.

So, I journeyed to the air conditioned realm of the Frist Visual Arts Center, which featured three displays that day — an exhibit of pottery and embroidery created by women at the turn of the 20th century, a collection of classic Italian cars showcasing the styling and beauty of the engineering, and a small exhibit featuring the surreal art of Inka Essenhigh.

Most importantly, I made sure to get my good eats on while at Nashville by visiting Hatti B’s for some great fried chicken and Biscuit Love for some bonuts.

The Nashville City Cemetery.

The Nashville City Cemetery.

Bonuts from Biscuit Love.

Bonuts from Biscuit Love.

What I’m Reading

China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station presents an incredible detailed portrayal of one of the strangest fantastical cities I’ve read. There’s a strange mixture of magic and science combined with a gritty seedy feeling — the entire city being filled with grime and refuse and other more disturbing images. It’s not a nice place to visit (or live), but it’s also beautiful in its way. The characters, too, are rather interesting — one being an artist pursuing a dangerous commission and the other a scientist of magic (it seems) who has been provided with a seemingly impossible challenge.

Still reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, as well.

And I’m reading The Plant by Stephen King — an unfinished novel about a plant that invades the office of a small publishing house — for THE POEMING (which I’ll talk about below). I’m sure many sinister things are abound to happen in the story, although I’m not sure how deep into the story it goes before it just drops off into unfinished territory.

What I’m Writing

Due to the traveling, my writing was sporadic last week. I attacked some poems in an attempt to meet an anthology deadline, but trying to combine the submission process with being on the road stressed me out. So, I let it go for now. But at least I have a couple of solid poem starts that might find homes elsewhere.

At the moment I’m getting prepped for THE POEMING — an October challenge in which 50+ plus poets have been each been assigned one of the 50+ novels written by Stephen King. Each poet will write/create a found poem from their assigned novel (mine is The Plant) and will post one new poem per day in the month of October. All of the poems will be shared on Tumblr — my challenge page is Tendrils of Leaves.

Goals for the Week:

  • Work on that short story or one of the poetry collection projects

Linky Goodness

Carina Bissett beautifully shares her thoughts on Finding Beauty in Brokenness.

8 Female Surrealists Who Are Not Frida Kahlo

5 lessons I learned while submitting to literary journals, by Icess Fernandez Rojas


Sep 6 2016

Through the Walls

The Cito.FAME.Us open mic event last week featured a special screening of Through The Walls: A San Quentin Film, a documentary produced by Change it Up media about how inmates in San Quentin prison were (and are continuing to) use music to overcome loss and create change. POISE, a rapper and activist, presented the documentary and discussed his own time in prison and his work with music and activism. He explained that documentary was made in secret, using one of the rooms the inmates were allowed to practice and perform in.

The documentary follows a specific group within the prison that is attempting to not only change their own lives, but pledging to work to change the communities they grew up in once they leave prison. Part of the philosophy is that as much as music is a reflection of the world, music also has a powerful effect on the world — so the group is attempting to write positive lyrics that share the truth of the prison life they’ve lived and of the world as they see it, as opposed to feeding the fantasy of being a gangster, and hopefully affect change.

Through the Walls is still in progress — the plan is to extend 45 minute version shared at Cito into a feature length documentary. I hope it gets some traction, because it’s a great film. I think the movie could be an interesting tool in classrooms, where it could be shown in order to spark discussion with students. You can check out the trailer for Through the Walls behind the cut.

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Sep 2 2016

Thoughts on the Whole30 Thing Now That It’s Over

Whole30 cat memeFor those who haven’t been reading the weekly posts, here’s the simple scoop on Whole30. Essentially, it’s a 30 day challenge to eat clean — as in no sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, dairy, or certain additives (carrageenan, MSG, sulfites), or re-created junk food — as well as to detox, change, habits, and so forth. There’s more to it than that, lots of philosophies and perspectives and addendum and such that fill and entire website with essays and blog posts about the challenge, but that’s the essential gist.

I didn’t really have any expectations when I started this challenge, so it’s easy for me to call it a success — and on the whole, I’d say it was. I followed the rules for 30 days, even when certain family members begged me to quit so that I could drink with them, even when I sat helping a friend put together grab bags of candy while she ate cupcakes, even when I was getting really, really bored and feeling really, really over it.

I’m not going to passionately rave about how great Whole30 is, like I’ve seen other bloggers do. But I will say the experience was worth it for me. Three days after the challenge has ended, and I’m still feeling pretty good.

For anyone interested, my here are my week one, two, three, and four breakdowns of what I spent on groceries and so forth. My overall thoughts and feelings are below. It’s a little random, but that’s how I roll.

It’s Not as Hard as It Seems

Okay, I know I said I had no expectations going in, but I guess I had one — that it would be hard as hell.

That was one expectation I was glad to have proven wrong. The Whole30 did take more work, requiring time and energy to meal prep for the week and cook after getting off work. But when I looked for it, the willpower to say, No, to candy, chips, and other junk food was there. One reason was that I was in the right headspace for this. When a sister roped me into trying to do this two years ago, the entire concept annoyed me and I didn’t really try, which had me quitting at the end of the week (better than my sister, who quit after two days). This time around, I was ready to commit, which made things go smoothly. Another reason was that I had already stopped buying some of the things on the banned list (such as milk and bread).

The hardest part was reprogramming weird habits that are almost like muscle memory. Like grabbing taquito off of my nephew’s plate to take a bite and show him how good it is and that he should eat it, too (which never works). Or, snagging a piece of candy out of the dish at the doctor’s office. In all of these occasions, I didn’t even particularly want the thing I was grabbing, but latched onto as a reflex. I caught myself immediately, but was surprised how I could act without making a conscious decision to do so.

The other challenge was that eating Whole30 is more pricey — with my grocery costs at least doubling what they were before the challenge — although not too bad when you can buy things to last you a couple of weeks, such as bulk items and meats that you can freeze.

Feeling Clean

The best way I can describe how I feel after all this is clean. The best way to describe it is the opposite of when you eat fried food and junk, when you feel heavy and dragging and like your skin is producing grease. It’s a good, light feeling, one I’d like to hold on to — which is one of the reasons I don’t have any immediate urges to runout and consume copious amounts of junk food.

No Cravings

The only thing I desperately wanted to have in the final two weeks of this challenge was corn (specifically corn as part of a Chipotle said) and a beer. Not the worst things to be craving as things go. I am not, however, dying to have chips or cupcakes or chocolate or any of the other things I used to want to have ALL THE TIME. In fact, if a cupcake were set in front of me, I wouldn’t even really want it right now (although I would probably be tempted to take a bite, which would likely lead to more bites). It’s kind of cool and makes me feel more in control of

There’s Sugar in Everything

I kid you not. Read the labels. It’s added to salad dressings and lunch meat and all kinds of things you wouldn’t think sugar would be in. It was one of the hardest things to avoid.

Also, wheat, which is also in a ton of things — although since most of those things are processed food items that I wasn’t allowed to eat anyway, it was easier to avoid.

Apparently, I Can Cook Things

I have been known to be a lazy cook, the kind of cook that just throws pre-made frozen food into the oven and sets a tim, the kind of cook unwilling to do anything that requires even a hint of additional effort. My mom and sisters have consistently made fun of me (in a loving way) for my complete lack of interest in this regard, as they are all rather good cooks in their own way.

But on the Whole30, I had not choice but to prepare my lunches at the beginning of every week and cook my dinner every night. So, I planned out that required small amounts of effort and time and was able to come up with a number of good eats that often took me less than 20 minutes to make. This included super easy stuff like chicken salad wraps or lettuce-shell chicken tacos to slightly more complicated meals like sausage and zucchini-bell-pepper-cauliflower stir fry, baked salmon with brussel sprouts, and a beef patty and portobella mushroom burger. After three weeks, I was even starting to get a little creative, mixing together ingredients without double checking a recipe first.

My favorite meal was a sausage sweet potato hash with a friend egg on top (I do not have a photo of this, I’m afraid as I got lazy about taking food pics toward the end) — something I would never have thought to make prior to this challenge. This breakfast is sweet and savory, and I love the egg yolk mixed up in it all. It’s just so good and supper simple. (If anyone wants the recipe, then I’ll provide it, but honestly it’s just sweet potato, yellow peppers, and sausage in a pan with a fried egg).

I Freaking LOVE Almond Butter

No, seriously. I didn’t know how good this was, so blinded was I by the standardized peanut butter.

A Balance Between Healthy and Happy

Finding a good balance between healthy and happy is the next step. What this balance looks like is different for everyone. Theodora Goss has a great post on this concept and presents an example on what works for her. For some this balance may involve sticking strictly to something like the Whole30 plan, for others it may mean eating whatever the hell they want when they want, and for still others it might mean something in between.

balance

It will probably take some time to figure out exactly what sort of balance works best for me, but this is what I do know:

  • I want to stick to having most of my meals consist of primarily meat and vegetables, with an addition of some grains like corn, quinoa, and so forth. I feel like this would work well for me, since I probably need some additional carbs beyond meat and veggies in order to power my running. I’m also happy having various kinds of fruit for a sweet kick with dinner or whenever.
  • I want to keep the habit up of cooking my dinners most nights. It feels good to be in control of my own cooking and it’s great when I get a tasty meal just right.
  • I’m going to have beer, wine, whiskey, or other booze when I feel like it (even if Whole30 says its a no-no, as in never). Enjoying a drink from time to time is a part of what makes me a happy person, as long as I’m keeping it (mostly) in moderation.
  • I am not going to play an is-it-worth-it game every time I want to have something less than the usual healthy. That kind of game would probably just make me miserable in the long run, feeding the kind of guilt spirals I just don’t need.
  • That said, I don’t want to fall into the eating-junk-food-because-it’s-there trap, which was something I did quite often before I started this challenge.

I’m sure I’ll have to change things around and re-adjust in the coming months as I continue to explore what sorts of food works for me, and as I face peer pressure again. (It’s amazing how much easier it is for me to say “I can’t because I’m doing Whole30” than it is to say “I’d rather not.”) Already this week, I’ve had a glass of beer and some sushi and other non-Whole30 items — and I’m still feeling clean, still feeling good.  Let’s keep it that way.

Tell me about your own food journeys in the comments. Whether you’ve done the Whole30 things or have tried other kinds of plans.

_________________


Sep 1 2016

Culture Consumption: August 2016

It’s been a great month. One of the highlights this month was the All Womyn’s Showcase (write up here), which I not only attended but also participated in. I love attending live events (even if they sometimes exhaust me) and I keep telling myself that I want to see more of them.

Books

Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki is such a wonderfully strange graphic novel. For most of the book, each page represents a single vignette, a tiny story about one or more of the characters from the Academy. At the beginning the vignettes jumped between so many different characters, it was difficult to keep track of who was who and what was going on, which made it a little hard to get into. But, as I continued reading and the characters began to repeat, I recognized a main set of characters I could connect and resonate with, allowing me to settle into the odd and beautiful stories at this strange school which features an array of mutants and magic and science.

Some of the vignettes are anchored in ordinary teenage angst (like crushes and school dances and friendship) that makes them easy to relate to, while others are simply, delightfully bizarre (such as the everlasting boy, who throughout the book experiences a variety of deaths and rebirths and eternities). There’s a lot of wit and wisdom present (sometimes beyond what I would expect from a typical teenager, though these are not typical teenagers). Taken as a whole, Super Mutant Magic Academy is really a fabulous book, which doesn’t allow itself to be anchored by any single storyline, but lets itself fall into the chaos of teenage-dom with all its weird wisdom and foolish obsessions.

SuperMutantMagicAcademy1
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Aug 30 2016

All Womyn’s Showcase

All Womyn's Showcase
Admist a great many other things that happened last week, on Sunday I attended and performed at the All Womyn’s Showcase — which featured five hours and more than 20 performers of poetry, music, and art, as well as booths for artists and community activism. It was a stellar day, one that I felt so honored to take part in.

Some of the amazing poets included Arlene Biala, Santa Clara Poet Laureate, with two moving pieces; Christina Springer; Jaqunasty, a spoken word poet with a powerful voice and words full of feels; and Aasha, who performed several kick-ass poems, as well as co-hosted the event alongside Estrellita Munõz. Also, Nicole Henares shared a poem from Madrid with Bianca Rodriguez performing flamenco alongside — there was something powerful about seeing two such different forms of art performed side-by-side, with ever staccato-ed flamenco step punctuating the words in the poem.

There was so much great music, too — Socorra floored me with her foot-stomping rock; Claymoon wowed me with the growl of the lead-singer’s voice and the emotion in their lyrics; Astralogik made me want to sway to their soulful electronica; Bird & Willow shared some lovely folk; and as always Q&A made my world a better place with their beautifully strange, folky tunes.

"It's typical, predictable . . ." – A great performance by @birdandwillow at the #AllWomynsShowcase this afternoon.

A video posted by Andrea Blythe (@andreablythe) on

One comedian, PX Floro, also took the stage and she was hilarious.

This is really just the short list, as there were so many other amazing poets and artists who gave wonderful performances at the All Womyn’s Showcase as well. Thank you so much to Robertino Ragazza and Quynn Nguyen for organizing and hosting this amazing show!

In other awesome event news, I also attended Cito.FAME.Us hosted by the hella famous Lindsey Leong on Thursday night for the first time in many months. I read a few poems and listened to a variety of comics, musicians, and poets share their works. There have been some changes with Cito — the event remains a weekly, free open mic taking place at Iguanas in San Jose, but the hours now run from 8:30 – 11:00 pm, with signups starting at 8 pm. It a great venue for South Bay poets and artists to come share, with all forms of work welcome, from poetry to music to comedy and dance (as long as it’s family-friendly, i.e. no cuss words). Sometimes they even set up a screen to share short films and other media — as they will be doing this week with the screening of Through the Walls, a 45-min documentary filmed at San Quentin State Prison that shows how inmates are healing through music.

What I’m Reading

I’ve come back to Gateway by Frederik Pohl, a book I started reading many months ago but only got a few pages into before the time limit expired on my library loan. The story seems to center around a man, who continues to be haunted by his time working on Gateway, some sort of space travel station (though I’m not clear yet on how it operates, since I’m still in the beginning).

Still reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and the nostalgia is strong.

What I’m Writing

I honestly can’t remember what — if anything — I wrote last week. So, that basically means that I didn’t write anything, which is not where I like to be.

Goals for the Week:

  • Work on that short story or one of the poetry collection projects

Linky Goodness

Webster Dictionary on when words stray from their roots:

“Many complain when the word ‘awesome’ is used to describe things that are not, in fact, deserving of awe. Yet few object when ‘awful’ is used to mean something other than ‘full of awe.’ … There have been a number of people who have inveighed against this loose sense of awful over the years, but their ranks are thinning, and most of us seem to not mind its use very much. If you have taken these conflicting positions about awesome and awful, you needn’t feel bad about it (and you probably don’t); one of the only things that is as resolutely illogical as the English language is the way that most of us feel it should be used.”

The fabulous Ursula Le Guin will become one of the few living writers to be inducted into the Library of America canon for her literary work, The Complete Orsinia.

Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids At Perceived — But Unreal — Risk?