Wednesday, June 28, 2006

San Francisco Gay Freedom Day

Kent and I didn’t get over to San Francisco till two on Sunday. Looked like the parade had just ended. A few of the metal barricades were being collected. There was a lot of glitter in the gutter. And the cold water bottle vendors were knocking a dollar off their festival prices. But there were still a lot of people. More as we walked up Market Street to Civic Center Plaza where all the community booths and tchotchke booths were snuggled amongst a still pressing sea of humanity and the music stages were pumping loud distortion overhead.

I’m sorry we missed the parade entirely. I like to watch it. Not the whole thing, but enough for a taste. The cheerleaders doing a quick pyramid or a giant penis made of helium-filled balloons or something.

But the weather was nice – sunny with a cooling breeze, the fog holding off. We weren’t there long enough to get sunburns. I got some vibes, got to wade in the gay, and that was the goal. Why live across the bay from SF if you never take advantage of it?

Saturday, June 24, 2006


The Berkeley Public Library has affixed to every item in its collection an RFID tag. (RFID = radio frequency identification) Yes, in daily shifts we all stripped the silvery radio transmitting i.d. stickers from their slick backing and pressed them onto the covers of the books. (I wasn’t involved in affixing the RFID “doughnuts” to the CDs and DVDs or the long strips that went into the VHS tape cases.) It was a big chore, took months, but the idea was that patrons would take over the check out process. The library had too many people doing the same simple tasks over & over and getting repetitive stress injuries. And, frankly, check out is boring. I sure don’t mind having the patrons handle it so I can do other projects – or have time to answer informational questions.

When the RFID check out machines work they’re great. And when they don’t?

It ain’t much fun. I suppose it’s not much different than when we were supposed to check out every item to every patron. But now that we’re not supposed to do that we are assigned other tasks. A new and popular service, for instance, is the option of calling a book on the shelf at West Branch to Claremont Branch (or any branch). We search the shelves for between ten and twenty such requests twice each day. Didn’t do that this morning at Claremont. The self-checkout machines were down.

Perhaps as a consequence every library item that went out the door set off the RFID gates. EEP, they squeaked again & again. The lady holding one book I’d just checked out to her using the staff RFID checkout machine would look over her shoulder at me. And I’d say, “It’s OK. Go on through.”

Friday, June 23, 2006


Wednesday I plucked from my p.o. box a letter from my friend Diana. Included in the envelope is a snapshot of herself & her adult daughter standing outside a gallery in Healdsburg. When I got home I found the latest issue of AAA's travel magazine, VIA. Illustrating an article about Healdsburg is a photo of the same gallery from virtually the same angle. I rather wondered why Diana & Karina weren't in the frame.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

comments on "Bubble bejeweled" version 5

Those of you who also can tinker endlessly probably know what's going on here. One little tweak and the poem is vastly improved. Isn't it? Even if it's just slightly improved, surely that's good, too! Worth inflicting on my loyal readers? Oh sure. Nothing's too good (or too minor, or too ... bad?) to offer up to my long-suffering and short-tempered dear readers.

I decided the grammar of the last version could be read to have my face "breaking open," rather than the water ... while amusing in a horror movie sort of way, I thought I ought to try another arrangement. Long as I was changin' I threw in that "my" I mused about in the last comments and switched "its" for "the", deciding the possessive made the water seem an agent (if it were the water's skin) whereas "the" struck me a bit more ... neutral? definite? ... whether it was my skin or the water's.

Stanza two is starting to wear thin. I mean, is it really clear what's happening? ... "feeling" ... didn't I just say I didn't want the water to seem an agent? if it's not a creature then what's it doing "feeling"?

"Bubble bejeweled" version 5

   Having poured the water 

bubbles all
through it and
breaking it

I lower my face to the glass

my closed eye
feeling the skin

Friday, June 16, 2006

comments on "Bubble bejeweled" version 4

Maybe "my closed eye" rather than just "closed eye" ... I rather like the last word of the previous stanza being "open" and the first word of the next being "closed" but the bare "closed eye" sounds artificially shorn. Otherwise this version has a good feel to it.

The poem was first written twenty years ago when I put my face to the seething mineral water I'd just poured from a bottle. Yesterday when I emptied a can of seltzer water into a glass I replicated the gesture. Tiny cool dots touching the skin of my eyelid. Before I did that I'd been considering the word "flinching" ... wouldn't the unexpected misting on my sensitive eyelid cause it to twitch? ... it didn't.

"Bubble bejeweled" version 4

Having poured the water I lower my face to the glass

bubbles all
through it and
breaking it

closed eye
feeling its skin

Thursday, June 15, 2006

translating at the fruit stand

Today at the Farmers' Market an elderly anglo woman asked the vendor, a middle-aged mexican, "Do these keep?"

He didn't understand. "No entiendes?" she asked ("You don't understand?"). But that seemed to be the extent of the Spanish she could martial to her dilemma.

Frankly, I didn't understand. I thought she meant the strawberries, but she meant the loquats. My little mind went searching around in its drawers for a Spanish version of the word "keep" ... "Mentener?" I suggested. The vendor corrected me, "Mantener?"

"Is that how you say it?" the lady asked me. But what did she want to say exactly?

"You want to know how long the loquats will keep in your fridge?" I asked.

"Mine only last a day," she said.

"How long do you want them to last?"

She blinked. "I guess I hadn't thought this out."

"Mas que un dia," I said. "More than one day. Right?"

"Mas que un dia," she repeated. "Would they last three days? En el refrigerador?"

"Tres dias en el refrigerador," the vendor agreed.

The thing about useful translation. Merely translating a word is not useful. What is the thought you are trying to convey? The woman wanting loquats wanted to know how long they'd be good for. But it seemed to me she already knew they wouldn't last long. How long was it acceptable for them to last? That seemed to me the easiest way to ask with my own limited Spanish. God knows I stumble over expressing myself in any language (though I do OK in this one) but I am pretty good at thinking my way around one word when that word turns out to be a locked gate rather than an open door.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


“what poet wouldn't be embarrassed by the prospect of their scraps showing up in print” – from an essay about the new collection of Elizabeth Bishop’s resurrected writings.

But it’s okay in this case, says Meghan O'Rourke, because “Mastery … is the real mystery.”

Um. Whatever that means?

I wouldn’t be embarrassed by the prospect of my scraps showing up in print. What would motivate anyone to pursue that project anyway? I post scraps here; if you’re a regular reader you know that. And I work them over. I’ve abandoned a few; others I’ve kept harrying until they’ve outrun me.

I’m not one who thinks the greatest poet is the poet whose life’s work would fit in a thimble. The proof is in the reading, isn’t it? "Reading, after all, is a voluntary labor." per Logan

Monday, June 12, 2006


There are more resources for self-publishing these days. You can format a book on the home computer and print it out on the inkjet printer, staple it, and you have a little book or chapbook (chapbook is a shortening of "cheap book", but sounds cooler).

Kent did this for me several years ago. I sold the books for two dollars apiece. And sold fifty of 'em, I think. But a computer crash killed the formatting for the books and we never made an attempt at resurrection. I'd carried copies around in my knapsack and offered them up and poetry readings. After awhile I just wasn't getting any response when I waved them around and I got tired of doing it. (I'm not a tireless self-promoter; I'm an easily tired self-promoter.)

There are more printing companies accessible via the internet. Some specialize in small print runs (one copy!) and offer print on demand so no boxes of books have to sit around flirting with mice, mold, and the sudden urge to throw them out and be that much lighter. I've heard good things about (Here's an example.)

At the last two Alternative Press Expos I picked up fliers for cafe press and comiXpress. There are bloggers who use cafe press to sell tshirts (an example) -- you design the shirt and it's displayed on the web looking like a shirt. No actual shirt is created until someone orders one. Presumably cafe press has lots of white shirts just waiting to be printed on. But the flier also insists with cafe press "you'll fully leverage the power of self-publishing." Fully leverage? (This looks handsome, for instance, and not unreasonably priced.)

Over at comiXpress the comics look pretty good. (This looks like the work of a professional, for instance.) Prices aren't bad. I don't see shipping & handling charges, although I'm sure there are some. Online stores seem loath to allow you to see shipping charges. I think I won't be drawing my own comics any time soon, but it's nice to see the barriers to publication are coming down.

Friday, June 09, 2006

comments on "Bubble bejeweled" version 3

Hm. This is fun. With another poem I versioned on the blog I used the title for exposition. I like the technique.

"Bubble bejeweled" version 3

Having poured the water I lower my face to the glass

bubbles all
through it and
breaking it

my eyes closed
the water
feeling skin

Monday, June 05, 2006

squirrel battles

I stepped out on the back porch a few minutes ago. Sure, I'd been hearing the chittering of the squirrel(s) but I was surprised to discover a squirrel crowd ... no ... battle going on in our trees. I counted six squirrels. And after the pause to evaluate my threat level they got back to business. I saw one high in the pine being blocked on its branch by another advancing. Then three swarmed up the acacia next to it. The leaves thrashed and suddenly a body dropped, spinning head over tail, and THUMP hit the concrete (the pad at the foot of the second floor stairs). I couldn't tell quite from how high up but more than ten feet for sure. The squirrel lay where it fell, its tail sticking partly through the fence.

Sundy & Sutra had come out with me but neither seemed eager to get involved. Until Sutra at last noticed the one on the ground and went to investigate -- I shooed him away. Then I came in and got my camera. The squirrel blinked and slowly changed position, pulling its legs under its body. After I'd taken a few pictures Sundy came up to me (I was only five or six feet from the squirrel) at which point the squirrel pulled itself together and leaped onto the stairs, then to the stair railing and into the trees. A slightly smaller squirrel had been concerned about the grounded squirrel's fate, had come quite close while it was down but was wary of me. They seemed to make a pair. But it's hard to tell squirrels apart. I think the second picture is of the one who fell ... but I'm not 100% on it.