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Friday, April 28, 2006

Gone Soakin'

I'm going away for a few days. On a long-planned and much-anticipated hot springs retreat. I won't be posting blog entries, or within reach of a computer, for the next week.

Have fun while I'm away :-)

US Navy murders 400 dolphins

off the coast of East Africa. Hundreds of dolphin bodies have been washed up on the coast of Zanzibar. No evidence of poisoning. It's pretty obvious: death from sonar blasting by US submarines, patrolling East African waters in "counterterrorism operations."

It makes me so angry I want to punch something. There's nowhere in the world you can go to escape this hideous empire and it's all-encompassing killing machine. Not even deep underwater, hundreds of miles out to sea.

touch as end

The fundamental error is believing that touch is a means to an end. It is not. Touch is an end in itself.

Gloria Steinem,
Revolution From Within

Set The Truth Free

Read my coverage of Wole Soyinka The Activist on the latest Pambazuka News.

a kind of tenderness

wells up in me towards my body when it gets sick.

Especially towards the parts I most count on for work - hands and voice. I realize how hard I drive them, how much I expect from them, how little attention and care I offer in return. Today, as I nurse my mute sore throat, breathe deep and slow to stave off coughing, I think: If someone treated me, in a relationship, the way I treat my body, I'd dump them.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I woke up yesterday with a sore throat. Today, it's full blown painful speechlessness, plus achey body, plus heavy head, plus coughing and sniffles.

So far, I have taken:


Ascorbic acid in my drinking water (to saturate the cells with vitamin C, according to my friend the alternative remedy expert)
Echinacea tea
Throat coat tea
Lemon ginger tea
Tulsi ginger tea
Lemon echinacea throat coat tea
Gypsy cold care tea
Slippery elm tablets
Afternoon nap
Raspberry sponge cake

I'm bored now. I'm missing a friend's birthday party tonight. I missed a dance class this afternoon. It's always astonishing to me how a little virus can turn me into whiny self-pitying baby.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

wole soyinka

on Saturday night at Cody's Books in Berkeley, astonished me with his energy. He's 70 years old, has been through gruelling physical trials, including 22 months in solitary confinement. He's on a book tour so jam-packed with interviews, readings, signings, speaking gigs, it would wipe out a 25-year old. And everyone seems to ask him the same questions over and over again:

What do you think about the conflict over oil in Nigeria?
Is there hope for democracy in Nigeria? In Africa?
What are the responsibilities of The African Writer?
What Can We Do About Darfur?

Then there are the self-important idiots who don't even have a question; they just want to trumpet their tiny nanosecond of African Experience:

I was in Ghana in the Peace Corps in 1972.......
I visited your country in 1981 and I was told it was a very dangerous place for Americans......

Yet, he fields it all. With grace, humor, energy, presence, attention. Stays awake. Stays engaged. Stays responsive.

I want whatever he's on. And I want to still be on it when I'm 70.

I have learned not to worry about love;

but to honor its coming
with all my heart.
To examine the dark mysteries
of the blood
with headless heed and
to know the rush of feelings
swift and flowing
as water.
The source appears to be
some inexhaustible
within our twin and triple
the new face I turn up
to you
no one else on earth
has ever

Alice Walker
, Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pleasure -

which includes erotic joy but is not limited to it, is the opposite of power, because it is the one quality that cannot be coerced.

Marilyn French
Self-Respect: A Female Perspective, The Humanist, November/December 1986

attempt if see

On Truthout this morning:

April 24, 2006 | A US-Iraqi inspection team photographed prisoners at an Interior Ministry detention center in Baghdad on February 16th. Abuse of prisoners was found at all the sites visited through February, including severe abuse at two of the detention centers. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pledged that US troops would attempt to stop inhumane treatment if they saw it.
(Photo: AP)

Would - ATTEMPT - To - Stop - Inhumane - Treatment - IF - They - Saw - It?

What the fuck does that mean? Who is the occupying military authority in Iraq? Who is responsible for the administration of detention centers? Who oversees them if not US troops? Who staffs them if not US military grunts and Iraqis on the US-occupation payroll? WHO IS DOING THE BEATING, MAIMING AND TORTURING?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

blog slacker

is the term my friend Pablo just lobbed into my in-box.

What's with all the from-the-archives nonsense? We demand new posts!

It felt just a tad unkind. OK, it stung acutely. Not all of us have endless reserves of energy, like my friend Pablo. Not all of us can hold down a professorship, publish, put 40 hours a week into caring for a new baby, write poems, dance salsa, save the world, and still send out christmas letters. Like my friend Pablo.

Some of us need time to stare into space, and pick our noses. Some of us need time to watch junk TV, doodle with crayons, and wonder if we'd actively dislike our overachieving friends more if we admired them less. If they didn't have the capacity to inspire us and make us laugh, even while accusing us of slacking.

I'm making a case for honorable slackerhood. Or at least I will as soon as I'm done trawling through my archives for my next recycled blog posting.

From the Archives, 12/1/04: Project Pride

"I don't want to read my words – they're stupid. OK – I guess you can read them for me. When you read them, they don't sound stupid. Maybe they're not that stupid. Everyone listened at the performance when you read them. I don't feel like my words are stupid any more. Yes, next time I'll read them myself. " Dana R., Project Pride Resident

Dana (name changed) is a 21-year old woman who has been in three of my workshops at Project Pride. During that time, I've watched her come into her voice and claim the validity of her words for the first time in her life.

What I hear back from the women at Project Pride, over and over again, is that these workshops affect them on two levels. The first is personal: the process of finding their own voices, telling their stories, claiming their words and life experiences, and sharing them on a public platform. Each part of this process empowers them as much as it challenges them. Each stage draws new skills or dormant talents out of them, accompanied by visible growth and delight as they flex these newfound muscles.

Then there's the group process, the impact of the workshops on the dynamics and relationships between the participants. We, the facilitators, watch each woman take the risk of sharing her truths and vulnerabilities with her peers through her writing. Inevitably, she is met with an outpouring of affirmation and caring from the other women. Colleen Wimmer, primary counselor at Project Pride, tells us this new understanding and support between the women fosters their group process in all other parts of the program. The women themselves tell us how different things are `downstairs' (in the communal residential space) after each KQED workshop – how the whole environment becomes more communicative, cooperative and caring. It seems that the workshops allow participants to move beyond personality clashes, daily irritations, scarce resources, competing needs, to connect more deeply through shared pain and joy – of past abuse, of mistakes made, of hopes for the future, of longings for their children.

It is humbling and amazing to witness the women's commitment to the process. Despite sleepless nights, crying infants, dramatic upheavals during the workshops (on one day, a woman went into labor; on another, a participant had grand mal epileptic seizures), they stay on track. In their determination to craft their self-expression into strong effective final presentations, they move to new levels of creative skill. With each successive workshop, they integrate and build on the writing and performance tools we share with them, and dive eagerly into new forms, such as third person narrative, and dialogue.

Obstacles crop up every day of the workshops. Some of the roadblocks we encounter: "I feel stupid doing these exercises. We're tired. I'm going to look dumb in front of an audience. We don't get the point of this." The women began to understand that all these factors: resistance to the unfamiliar, boredom, feeling ridiculous, tiredness, fear of looking stupid, exploring multiple approaches; are essential components of the creative process. We emphasize that all artists, from Grammy-winning singers to complete beginners, go through this cycle with each new creative work.

Some women ask us, the facilitators, to read their work for the final performance, because "it sounds better in your voice". A chorus of encouragement from other women in the group convinces them to claim their own words. More experienced women coach and mentor the new participants. With each successive workshop, the women have taken on more of the facilitating skills, stepping forward to MC the performances, coordinate the lineup, and put together a coherent and powerful show.

They also demonstrate great generosity towards each other. One woman missed the final rehearsal on the morning of the last show, even though she wanted to practice her piece, because she volunteered to do everyone's hair. Every month, several women voluntarily miss the workshop in order to cover childcare, meal preparation, and other support functions for the women in the workshop.

The show itself always surpasses our expectations. Audience members are moved to tears by the women's renditions of "thug love" scenarios, past abuse, self-empowerment, and visions for their children. Each show ends with a Q & A session, so the audience can tell the women what impact it had on them, and hear from the women about their experiences of the workshop. The feeling in the room at the end of the last show was summed up by one of the workshop participants:

"I shed a trunk fulla junk today. It was a cleansing. Now we know each other like this, maybe we can smile a little more, be kinder to each other. I'm gonna be more mindful of my sisters in the house. I kinda love alla you now."
Shailja Patel. patterned sari border
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