Friday, October 31, 2014

two recommendations + a very brief update

It is raining in Sitka, harder than it's rained in a while. It's 11:47 a.m. and you could tell me it was 6 p.m. with the sunset four minutes away and I'd believe you. It's that dark.

There are four journals I'd like to recommend to all of you. The first is called Consequence, a journal dedicated entirely to addressing the consequences of armed conflict.

The second is The Bellingham Review, which advertises itself as "Literature of Palpable Quality." You can read the whole current issue online. Beautiful paintings accompany the pieces.

Thirdly, I recommend the current issue of the The Baltimore Review, because I am published in it.

Fourthly, a lovely small art company in Minnesota makes extremely short movies out of poems. They are wonderful to watch. The website is, and one I picked for you all to watch is "Having Merely Intended to Pick on an Oil Company, the Poem Goes Awry."

Lastly, here is my very brief update. On Monday I'm leaving Sitka and flying to San Francisco. After a few day there I will be going, in chronological order, to North Dakota, Montana, LA, Chicago, Indiana, Virginia, and Maryland. And then I'll return to Sitka.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


This parable was re-told by Martin Buber.

Rabbi Susya, who had long been a pious man, became fearful as death drew near.

His friends chided him, "Why are you afraid? Do you think you'll be reproached by God for not having been Moses?" they asked Rabbi Susya.

"No," Rabbi Susya replied. "I am afraid I will be reproached by God for not having been Rabbi Susya."


"The truly new looks truly wrong at first."
-Alice Fulton

Saturday, October 25, 2014

where i am now

I've moved from house-sitting for Carolyn & Dorik, to now house-sitting for Tina & Marty. This is their house. You can see from this photo how much Sitka is completely in the middle of wilderness. This picture is also a classic Alaskan home picture. Boat in the yard. Net in front of the garage.

 This is the net. I was mending it the other day. I'm doing some work for Marty at the moment, to earn some money. I finished mending this net and now there's another one in its place that I'm going to start mending.

 Here's their front yard decoration. I don't know what it is, but I like it. See how their front yard is a mere few feet away from the oean?

 This is the plane across the water from their house. Also classic Alaska.

 The view standing on the other side of the street from their house.

I took this picture standing in front of the house just now, standing at the living room window.

So, that's where I am right now. For the next 10 days. Then I come back to the States for a little while.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

here for ya

I haven't recommended anything to read in a while. But tonight I have two recommendations. The first is the website The Onion. The second is Marilynne Robinson's new book, Lila. Which I haven't read, but it's Marilynne Robinson. Case closed.

Monday, October 13, 2014

margaret atwood's super awesome advice for writers

1 Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can't sharpen it on the plane, because you can't take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.
2 If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.
3 Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.
4 If you're using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.
5 Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.
6 Hold the reader's attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don't know who the reader is, so it's like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates A will bore the pants off B.
7 You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you're on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine.
8 You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You've been backstage. You've seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.
9 Don't sit down in the middle of the woods. If you're lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.
10 Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visual­isation of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.

weekend in sitka

This past weekend here in ol' Sitka, I went on a three-hour cruise! It was a fundraiser put on by one of the hospitals in town, raising money for local women who don't have insurance and need mammograms and other breast cancer preventing medical stuff. A local boat company donated the 3-hour cruise, and a bunch of local people donated deserts, and then all during the cruise there was bidding on the deserts. The top one went for $400! Pretty darn cool thing--a community supporting the women in town without insurance.

Here are photos I took on the cruise:

Alaska is on a scale that is hard to comprehend if you've only ever seen the Lower 48. Certainly, Canadians could relate more to the scale here. The tininess of humans in relationship to the land is part of what makes it so appealing to me to be here.

And here, as a bonus, is my favorite sign in town:

video of the day & stuff

This is such a nice video. It's only two minutes! Watch it! I think it will bring you good cheer! Meanwhile, I went on a mini-cruise a few days ago and took photos, which I shall post shortly.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

weather forecast

One of my primary forms of entertainment in Sitka is reading or listening to the weather forecast. It is so funny! Because with perfectly straight faces the forecasters say the exact same thing over and over. It's like listening to the weather forecast in San Diego: "Yes, folks, it's going to be sunny today. WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU EXPECT IT WOULD BE?" Except here in Sitka, obviously, it's rain.

I sort of think that all the weather forecasters (which, I mean, there must be about 2.5 weather forecasters here, so) should issue a public statement that says, "Comrades, we live in a rain forest. Sitka is situated in the Tongass National Forest which is a rainforest. Therefore, you can probably imagine to yourselves what the weather is going to be today, tomorrow, the next day, and for time immemorial, or until climate change completely jacks up everything. Plan accordingly."

At the house where I'm staying, I get a daily newspaper. I will now tell you, in reverse order, what the forecast is each day in the paper.

Oct 8: Rain likely
Oct 7: Mostly cloudy
Oct 6: Rain
Oct 5: Rain
Oct 4: Rain
Oct 3: Rain likely
Oct 2: Rain likely
Oct 1: Mostly clear
Sept 30: Showers likely
Sept 29: Rain
Sept 28: Rain
Sept 27: Rain
Sept 26: Some rain
Sept 25: Rain likely
Sept 24: Chance of rain
Sept 23: Mostly rain
Sept 22: Rain
Sept 21: Rain
Sept 20: Rain
Sept 19: Mostly rain
Sept 18: Rain likely
Sept 17: Rain
Sept 16: Chance of rain
Sept 15: Rain
Sept 14: Partly cloudy
Sept 13: Partly cloudy
Sept 12: Chance of rain
Sept 11: Chance of rain

See what I mean? Very entertaining. By the way, on the days when I just put "rain," it's because it's the weekend paper and they don't have room for words, only for pictures. And on those days there is simply, with no need for further explanation, a picture of rain droplets falling from the sky.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

recommendation of the day

Comrades, my recommendation of the day is a series of photographs recently published in the New York Times. They're not political--don't worry (I know things have been a bit politically heated here lately)--but they are moving and beautiful.

Here is the link.

And thanks to my brother for sending this link to me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

oh to still be teaching critical thinking

If I were still teaching Critical Thinking, I'd bring in this video for my class to watch, and then we'd slow it down and see if we could figure out when the speakers were making fallacies, what arguments they were actually making, what strengthened those arguments and weakened them, etc. Alas, I'm not still teaching Critical Thinking, although I'd like to again someday soon. Until then, I'm curious to know what y'all think. This is a clip of a discussion between Bill Maher, Ben Affleck, Nicholas Kristoff, and Sam Harris, about Islam/Islamaphobia. I might as well tip my hand right here and now and say I'm firmly on the side of Ben & Nicholas. I think that Ben is so angry (understandably) that he's having a hard time stating clearly what he believes, but right in the last few seconds he and Nicholas say really clearly what they're saying....this conversation is such an excellent example of the kind of racism that condemns black urban people because "statistics show" that black people commit more crimes.

Monday, October 6, 2014

gaslighting: a term I want us all to know

My article recommendation of the day is short, and I sincerely hope you'll all read it so that we can talk about it. It's called "Why Women Aren't Crazy," by Yashar Ali (a man). Thanks to Mel for recommending it to me.

One of the things that Ali talks about in the article is gaslighting. Is this a term y'all are familiar with? I don't think I'd heard it before. Gaslighting is when you (intentionally or unintentionally) do something to make someone else think that they're crazy. You do something to undermine or dismiss their emotional reactions, or to make them think that their reactions or observations are disproportionate or insane. It's something that women have done to them (mostly by men) constantly. I grew up among men who constantly did this to the women I grew up among. Daily. I've experienced it so so often in my own adult life.

It's so good to have a term for this. Language is powerful. Being able to name something allows us to be able to recognize it, talk about it, change it.

I hope you'll all read the article and then write what it makes you ponder and consider and feel.

Friday, October 3, 2014

laughalong friday

As you my dear and faithful readers know, my posts are often quite serious. And that is why I am implementing a new policy: for better or worse, on Fridays I will post something to attempt to make you laugh.

Today, for Laughalong Friday, I am posting a link to a conversation between The Bloggess and John Scalzi. It made me laugh out loud for quite a while. It even made me want to join Twitter, which has never happened before! Maybe we should call this Something New Happens Friday.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


“If organic farming is the natural way, shouldn’t organic produce just be called “produce” and make the pesticide-laden stuff take the burden of an adjective?”
– Ymber Delecto