Saturday, October 27, 2007


The Rock'n'Roll Camp for Girls benefit dinner was a blast: excellent company, more wine than we could even drink, delicious food, good times, money raised, all lyrics remembered, the right beats percussed. Even got a writeup in the Willamette Week!

(For the record, it is Electrodoméstico, one word. But the quotes around "band" are accurate.)

Friday, October 26, 2007


WHEN I LOVE TO TALK ABOUT WRITING: At the bar, over coffee, standing in the kitchen during the party, walking the dog, driving toward the coast, in a classroom, on the phone while I sweep, when I really should be writing, popping cheese cubes and drinking wine out of a plastic cup. For starters.

WHEN I DO NOT LOVE TO TALK ABOUT WRITING: Sitting barefoot in a gown on that cold vinyl padded bench/bed thing, all my clothes draped on the chair, in a tiny clinic room with stark white walls, fluorescent light buzzing overhead, a basket-weave pattern in the beige carpet that ripples when I stare at it, and the doctor is holding a clipboard to which she is paying no attention, pen slack in her hand, and talking about how she wants to "get more of [her] stories out there" and wishes she had more time to work on the novel she's been writing for ten years, she doesn't have enough time to write as much as she wants, she wishes she'd planned sooner for early retirement, she hadn't expected that she would be opening a private practice but here she is, sigh, and where did I go to grad school, and she wishes she had gotten an MFA but she was studying hematology at the time--and I, captive and courteous, must play the part of Sympathetic Ear, murmuring terse words of encouragement, while I shiver under the thin gown and wonder if my mounting flight urge is jacking my heart rate.

I am so glad that doctors and therapists and other people who fix us have artistic and writerly aspirations. But when I go to them to get care, when I'm physically and/or emotionally naked and I'm alone in a room with them, I really just need the part of them that is a doctor.

Look, I want to say, You're OK. We are all anxious about writing. You will never feel you have written enough. Now please pick up the stethoscope, stop talking, and listen.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Today I was informed by my college students that "cool" is no longer used literally. We're talking about arguments of definition, so I assigned them "The Coolhunt" by Malcolm Gladwell. I said, Cool is a good example of a shifting definition because by its very nature it's constantly changing.

Yeah, like how nobody uses it to describe temperature anymore, said Cory.

I laughed kindly and clarified that that part of the definition is still fixed: We still say it's cool outside--that hasn't changed.

Emma raised her hand. She looked confused and concerned. (For me?) I would never say that, she said. Much murmured concurrence.

What? Really? You wouldn't? None of you?

They all shook their heads. One said, My mom would say that. I wouldn't. It just sounds weird.

The weather is rainy and cool. That sounds weird?

A unanimous yes.

I felt both astonished and delighted by the discovery of this generation gap. Be ye hereby warned: Cool as a temperature is the new slacks.

P.S. Here is the salamander Iris & I found hiding under a wet leaf in Forest Park.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


All right, time for another Incident Report from the Park Rapids Enterprise. I could pretty much run this one verbatim, it's so rich, but here's the cream:
A Park Rapids caller reported kids fighting at the skate park and a semi that's been running for two days; A small purple bike was reported left at a Park Rapids park for several days, it's now in caller's garage; A car surrounded by kids was reported to be a traffic hazard on 12th Street, "looks like they may have a problem"; A couple of teenagers in Park Rapids appeared to be hot-wiring a car; A school bus stop arm violation was reported in Park Rapids, six kids on the ground; A caller asked to speak to an officer after his neighbor threatened to kill him; A Park Rapids store employee reported an intoxicated individual stealing and sexually harassing her with a Playboy; Half-empty cans of paint and paint thinner were reported in the ditch in Crow Wing Lake Township; A White Oak Township resident reported a man checking out his place with binoculars and "engaging in other suspicious activity"; A pickup with its hood up was parked in a Park Rapids lot for about six hours, occupant appeared to be sleeping; A hole was cut in a Henrietta Township fence; A Henrietta Township resident reported someone dumping gas in her garage; A caller reported that the "neighbor is once again cutting the trees down in her yard"; A white car with no license plates was reported parked in Park Rapids, "looks suspicious"; A minivan was reported parked on Riverside all week, "doesn't belong to anyone at Cornerstone"; A Park Rapids caller reported a female "finished it off," referring to vandalism that had been interrupted by officer intervention the night before; A Park Rapids caller reported former tenants are backed up to his shed and are in the process of stealing items.

I've spared you a particularly depressing Animal-related section, which involved loose cows, several injured deer, and a dog beating. (Or maybe now I haven't.)

Main Street, last December.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


The Learning to Love You More book arrived today!
I have two contributions in it.
I took a picture of Seven under the bed,

and drew this guy, way back in '02.

Morgan Rozacky's neighborhood field recording (Assignment #2, and cause for above Assignment #12, "Draw a tattoo of one of Morgan Rozacky's neighbors") still holds as the one of the best things on there, and maybe should be in the Whitney.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I have sent out a call for stories from rock campers about how the Rock'n'Roll Camp for Girls has affected their lives, and man, are they sending me throat-lumpers and tear-eliciters. Like this excerpt from Madison, a 15-year-old guitar player who lives in a small town on the coast:
When I entered the Rock 'n' Roll Camp For Girls, I was a shy, quiet little girl who had been home-schooled for three years, moved 10 times in her 14 years of life, and had hardly even made friends in the city she was currently living in. But when I left the Rock 'n' Roll Camp For Girls, I was a brave, noisy, strong girl.

Thank you, Rock 'n' Roll Camp, for changing my life, and the lives of hundreds of others. Because of you, I can defend myself, and speak my mind. Nobody can bring me down.

If you want to fill the world with more brave, noisy, strong girls, consider this. We're holding a swanky benefit feast in Portland on October 25th, featuring food by the illustrious Simpatica, a silent auction full of awesome items and services (an Emily the Strange electric Epiphone guitar donated by Dark Horse Comics, a Fender electric guitar, keg-and-multiple-pizzas party-in-a-box, and more), and a solo performance by Carrie Brownstein. It's $100 per plate. It's going to be so worth it. Here you can reserve your ticket/pay/donate (do it soon--must RSVP by October 20, and seats are limited!) Spread the word.

Also at that link, you can watch a great little montage of clips from last year's showcase, starting with the Electric Ligers, who start off with the battle cry, "Scream if you hate captivity!" and then burst out from their cages. The tiny guitarist plays her guitar with an electric toothbrush.

Right here you can see Silo 24 from this year's second session singing "Wanna Be Free." I think they are eleven. They are a three-piece: just drums, guitar, and vocals. At this point, they had existed as a band for exactly six days.

If this is the future, I feel a lot better about the world.

(That's Sticks and Auzzie, the Silo 24 drummer and guitarist, in the foreground of the photo at left.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


E. coli has struck the Park Rapids* water supply! Foul! Pamida (shabby regional medium-box store chain) has helpfully posted this sign:

(*My hometown in Minnesota, pop. 3000, for the unaware.) (Photo by Jean Ruzicka for the Enterprise) (Btw, Pamida is named for the entrepreneur's sons, Paul, Mike, and Dave, and is pronounced accordingly.)

Onward! To the good stuff. From the Enterprise, the most recent INCIDENTS:
Farden Township caller reported a grandson came downstairs and found a male sleeping on the couch; A trailer house being towed by a pickup was reported dragging on the highway, losing pieces of frame; A caller reported a male walked in front of her car, she stopped and he used an obscenity and punched her windshield, breaking it; A male was reported sitting on Highway 2 with a rifle, proved unfounded; A "missing guest" was reported in Lake Emma Township, went out jogging and did not return for a reception; Caller reported males hunting in his cow pasture, he asked them to leave and they argued with him; Two kids were reported peeking in a Park Rapids window; Someone was reported writing on a car with a blue marker in Park Rapids; Kids were reported "messing around in vehicles" in a parking lot; A bike with flat tires was reported parked in front of a Park Rapids store; A man was reported to have severed his finger at the Henrietta Township tractor pull, en route to hospital; A male fell into a drain pipe in Park Rapids, is out but injured; A bottle was reported on fire at 8th and Main, fire was out but caller asked that it be checked out; A deer stand was reported stolen from the woods; Donkeys were out on the road in Rockwood Township; A Nevis caller reported her granddaughter's at her home and there's a big, black dog in the yard.

I would like to make a movie called Incident Report. Based solely on true incidents reported in the Park Rapids Enterprise, it would take place over the course over a single day/night and dramatize each incident in brief, no more than a few minutes each. There may need to be two volumes, Winter and Summer (those are basically the only seasons in northern Minnesota), so as to encompass the distinct and equally significant lake-and-sweltering-boredom-related incidents and snow-and-frozen-boredom-related incidents. I guess Fall (hunting season) could be a featurette. That one might be a little drunker and bloodier. Definitely would require a shot of the towering stacks of deer hides at the gas station and the carcasses roped to the tops of cars parked on Main.

Sunday, October 7, 2007


The sci-fi horror of the rape rampage happening in Congo right now is unbelievable.

According to victims, one of the newest groups to emerge is called the Rastas, a mysterious gang of dreadlocked fugitives who live deep in the forest, wear shiny tracksuits and Los Angeles Lakers jerseys and are notorious for burning babies, kidnapping women and literally chopping up anybody who gets in their way.

United Nations officials said the so-called Rastas were once part of the Hutu militias who fled Rwanda after committing genocide there in 1994, but now it seems they have split off on their own and specialize in freelance cruelty.

I had in my class this summer a 24-year-old woman from Congo, an amazing writer with shoulder-length braids and a mellifluous African-French accent, quiet in class (self-conscious about her English) but driven and outspoken outside of it. I learned at least as much from the essays she wrote as she did from anything I assigned. She managed to get out of her engagement at 15 to a much older man by stalling with education: she said she did not want to marry until she had finished her education, then proceeded to earn more and more scholarships and degrees until finally six years later the man gave up in exasperation. Now she has married for love, emigrated to Portland, and added English to her roster of fluency (five languages now).

I know she is not from this part of Congo, but I think of her immediately whenever I read about it. Knowing someone from another part of the world instantly makes you care about it in a different way. I thought about that a lot in Norway last summer.

This image haunts me:
Recently, [United Nations peacekeepers] initiated what they call “night flashes,” in which three truckloads of peacekeepers drive into the bush and keep their headlights on all night as a signal to both civilians and armed groups that the peacekeepers are there. Sometimes, when morning comes, 3,000 villagers are curled up on the ground around them.
Read it all. It's not long.

We talked about the word "rape" in my writing class on Thursday and the students told me that in [some enormously popular interactive video game--maybe Halo?] people casually use the word "rape" all the time; it's become vernacular. You'll see it come up multiple times in an hour. I wish I could invent a computer virus for this game where every time someone types in the word rape, the game would freeze and this article would fill the screen. Then a different article or image every time, until the geniuses finally get it and choose another word among the quarter million English has to offer.

Friday, October 5, 2007


On yesterday's Fresh Air, an epidemiologist made a disturbingly convincing case for the brain-cancerous potential of cellphones. I tend to be skeptical/dismissive of such claims but when she offered the eerie explanation that "the cell phone uses the head as an antenna," and described how the microwaves of the cellphone actually warm your brain an inch deep into your skull, and how it is illegal to sell cellphones to anyone under 16 in India and restricted in England due to child-brain-development concerns, and that the main research asserting their brain-harmlessness was based on a study of non-business users from 1987 to 1995, I started tallying in my head (many minutes I use per month) x (six years since I got it) = invest in quality headset immediately. Als0: texting for health reasons, bring on the hypertrophied thumbs.

I want my head to be my antenna alone.

Last night Holmes and I hit some First Thursday, PDX's monthly galleries-open-late night. A certain five-year-old I know once casually (and aptly) referred to First Thursday as "Butt Zone." We chose our targets carefully though and saw amazing stuff.

Chuck Close prints at Augen Gallery.

An installation at Portland Art Center:

Also: tributes to lost loved ones at Reading Frenzy, Shayla DJ'ing at Upper Playground in her spectacular new spectacles, and Leslie's great bunny and chipmunk astral-projection comic at Floating World.

Then a Madonna tribute night at Holocene, highlights being the Gay Deceivers' synchronized dance moves and hand-painted T-shirts, and Mirah + TJO as I had never seen them before, the former in corset and garters and bondage hood and the latter in mustache and pomaded hair, doing a most otherworldly and amazing cover of "Erotic" while sexy girls swiveled and fondled around and upon them.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


Getting Around Town In Russian: Situational Dialogs was published by Slavica in 1987. I had to get it in college, and by then the Soviet Union had dissolved but none of our texts had caught up (my big red language textbook immediately gave us the vocabulary "collective farm" and "samovar" and "little hedgehog," but did not contain the words "sad" or "angry" anywhere in its pages.) I like to return to Situational Dialogs, a slim white paperback with no ISBN or price on it, printed in a small and slightly corroded-looking Helvetica. On the left page is the Russian, on the right page is the English. Recurring themes are: waiting in lines, things not working, things being out of stock, and disapproval with one's conduct.

Here are some excerpts.
- Hey buddy, how 'bout getting a light off you?
-What's that? I don't understand.
- Got a match, got a light?
- No, I don't. I don't smoke.

- Could you tell me where the nearest restroom is?
- There's no restroom here.
- Well excuse me.
- Go into the nearest cafeteria, they always have a restroom.

(A policeman can address you with a megaphone.)
- Young woman in blue jeans, why are you going through a red light, are you tired of living?
- Young man in the raincoat, turn back, this is not a crosswalk.

- What are you doing coming into the snack bar wearing a wet jacket?
- Well where can I put it?
- Jackets and raincoats have to be checked in the cloakroom.
- Where's the cloakroom?
- Downstairs, in the basement. On the right as you enter.

- Young woman, why don't you have a coat tab? Here inside the collar there should be a little loop, it's called a
- In America, we don't hang things up by tabs.
- But we do. You have to sew one on, or else I won't take it next time.
- I'm sorry, I'll definitely sew one on.
The chapter of (thwarted) telephone conversations is also a treat. As are the black and white photos scattered throughout. Next time.

I think there ought to be a companion Situational Dialogs for Portland. A solid start might be the actual sign posted by the cash register at Crema.
- We will not make you a 16-ounce cappuccino. If you insist, we will make you an extra-foamy latte.

The chapters "Conversations Among Lesbians" and "At The Dog Park" will be extra rich.

Meanwhile, a visual accompaniment: A Soviet Poster A Day!