Friday, December 31, 2004

Tsunami Relief Effort Info

AKA--places to go to find out how you can give money to help with relief efforts in South Asia, Thailand and Indonesia. As a fundraiser, I was impressed that Doctors Without Borders was honest enough on their 'donate' page to say they actually have raised enough money for their South Asia Tsunami relief efforts. And Google has posted a page full of links to relief organizations throughout the region.

One note: I would discourage folks from giving money to USAID groups, since their aid often comes with repressive and fucked up political and economic strings attached.


Why do we Blog?

I just read Bino's eloquent and impassioned blog about...blogging. The purpose of it, what service does it provide to the world? Does it create good? How does it affect our lives?

I also just noticed right before I visited Bino's blog that he is my highest referral site, as well as Eileen's and perhaps Jean's as well. Yes, clearly many people visit and read El Serenito's naked thoughts. And thank God/dess. He often has fascinating and thought-provoking things to say. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for every blog I read, but that's okay. Human communication is a complex thing.

I've wondered some of the same things Bino has when I read others' blogs. Especially in the time leading up to the election, I was sometimes disgusted at the lack of political or even reflective blogging on what was clearly an event that could affect our lives for decades to come. But then, I haven't blogged about the horrible disaster and loss of human and other life in Asia due to the tsunami last weekend. I've spent most of my blogs talking about my holidays, my birthday, my new year's resolutions and my life. In short, blogging about me.

But then, isn't that what a blog is? An online 'confessional' of sorts, a public diary where we spill our guts. I have no illusions that my blog is a completely self-oriented thing; something I use to hash out my issues, to make public thoughts that I think are important and need to be known, and sometimes--especially around politics--to preach a bit from my tiny little virtual bully-pulpit when I feel strongly about something.

Of course, it's not that I haven't felt strongly about this great cry from the Earth's depths that has devastated the lives of millions of people. I have talked about the tsunami every day since it happened with friends and family, have prayed every day for the spirits of the victims and for the people who are walking around without potable water, with no food, in danger of dying of typhoid fever and other grotesque diseases that follow such disasters.

I haven't blogged about the tsunami because, for one, I know people are reading about it endlessly in the newspaper (as I have) or online, or watching it on the news. I am in no way an authority on tsunamis. I don't feel like my blog could be much more helpful to the relief effort than the many other things I can do to help. So no blogging about the disaster in Asia. I'd rather folks not read my blog and visit CNN or the web site of an NGO which is gathering supplies to aid the survivors. My blog is not the place to find that information.

For two, I believe that we as survivors of this disaster must go on. We must acknowledge the terrible loss of life and help as much as we can with relief efforts, we must honor the dead, and we must find ways to make sure that we can safeguard communities against future calamities. As someone who lives on the Pacific 'Rim of Fire'--and quite close to the beach as well--this has been on my mind constantly since last Sunday. Do our governments have our safety in mind? Does the War on Terror leave enough money in our budget to upgrade tsunami warning systems on the West Coast and elsewhere? Can we learn something from this awful tragedy?

I hope so. So, on this rain-drenched New Year's Eve, I publicly pay homage to those thousands of men, women, children, old people, tourists, mothers, wives, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, birds, animals that were killed in the tsunami that struck with little warning. I hope they find peace beyond the veil of this Life. And I pray that we learn from the mistakes of the past, learn to respect Mother Earth and listen to her cries of despair, and move forward together to build a world where love for the Earth and all of her children, for each other, is at the forefront of our collective consciousness.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Happy Birthday (and New Year) to Me!

My birthday is the one day out of the year that I (officially) spoil myself rotten. I do whatever the fuck I want, I see who I want to see, and I let myself play. My Mom instilled this fierce birthday-pride in me from a young age. She never blended in my birthday gifts with my Christmas gifts, she had big parties for me actually on my birthday until I was seven years old, and then after that always had cake and my favorite dish ready for me on the big day. I think it's healthy--especially for overworked, Type A women of color like myself--to take at least one day to spoil ourselves rotten, love ourselves silly, and have a damn good time.

Three years ago, for my big 30 birthday, I was determined to leave my 20's with a bang. Luckily, some friends threw me a surprise party that started December 2001 off right, then on the night of my actual birthday I had a salsa dancin' night out with some good friends, and then threw myself a slammin' house party a couple weeks later. I've recognized that every birthday is different, and that each year, depending on where my spirit is at the time, I celebrate my birthday a little differently. Each year it's all good. This year should be fun: H. has some special plans for me tonite, and later on we'll be going to the Elbo Room to hook up with some folks for live music and (of course!) salsa dancing. And yesterday I had a really sweet time with my Mom in North Beach, where she regaled me with stories from her San Francisco past and treated me to some yummy gnocchi with wild boar bolognese and a lunchtime glass of Chianti.

This time of year is for me--being winter, the time of rest and rejuvenation and visioning--about reflection, evaluation, and setting goals and aspirations for the coming year. I don't call these goals resolutions, per se, although they function in much the same way. My hope is to use this winter-time of rest, relaxation and meditation as a time to figure out what I need to be doing more of in the coming year to become a better person, to live up to my own dreams, to fulfill my destiny. The fact that New Year's Eve is the day after my birthday is significant; my day of birth neatly coincides with that of the turning of the calendar.

So what did I accomplish this year? I think I've become a better listener, especially to my partner. I am still far from perfect, to be sure, but I have grown tremendously in the past year. I have learned to be mindful of my anger and how it affects me and others. Unfortunately, this lesson came after more than a few particularly explosive outbursts that I don't regret, but that were humbling experiences. I learned a new dance (one of my goals from last year), salsa casino rueda, which is popular in Cuban dance clubs. I took a Tagalog class (finally!). I got a poem published, and sent out a bunch more for consideration. I started working at an organization that moves me deeply and treats me with the respect and integrity that I deserve. I have become a better person, at least just a little bit.

But of course there is always room for growth, improvement, a fuller blossoming of who I am.

So what are my goals for 2005? I have about 25 books I want to read, including lots of poetry and spirituality books. I want to build relationships more conscientiously with people in my life who nurture me and help me grow, who are positive and who challenge themselves as well as me, who are doing what they want to be doing in life and not letting their dreams lie stagnant in some forgotten recess of memory. I plan to take up a regular Kali practice again (hear that, Gura>), expand my yoga practice to daily sessions (I'm already close), and make my writing the center of my life.

Big goals? Maybe. Necessary? I believe so. Possible? Definitely.

Blessings for a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year,

Monday, December 27, 2004

Welcome to the 21st Century

Yes, thanks to our good friend (and great gift-giver) D., we have our very first DVD player. We're still holdin' on to the VHS because of the sentimental value and because we still have tons of VHS tapes, like a couple taped-off-TV episodes of ANTM, Gladiator, Crouching Tiger and The Red Balloon, among others.

So now I can set about getting my long-awaited DVD collection together, although it will take me a while since I'm not made of money:

The Godfather Trilogy DVD Collection
The Sopranos Boxset (notice a pattern here?)
America's Next Top Model (not even sure this is out on DVD, but it should be, dammit!)

My maiden voyage into DVD-dom was the copy of "Fahrenheit 9/11" I'd originally bought for my mom, and have since snatched back. I know she ain't gonna watch it anyway, so what the hell. I am such a social justice nerd, I watched almost all the features already as well as the whole movie, in one sitting. Thank God it was raining all afternoon yesterday, made me feel less guilty about it.

In other digital media news, I also just bought my first Joe Bataan CD, after listening to him on tape and on other folks' soundsystems for years. I got the classic "Subway Joe" CD at Amoeba Records in Frisco, which had five or six of his other albums on CD, not sure about the vinyl stuff.

And I still have a gift card for Tower Records, woo-hoo! So more new music's on the way...


Happy Birthday, Gura!

It's Gura M.'s birthday today, and I'm sure she's livin' it up in Vegas with her fams. I think this is the big 3-0? Maybe not.

And thanks, Gura, for the 'early' birthday wishes. Fellow Cappys know how to honor each other! Belated birthday wishes also go out to D., and to my sister, although I did get to celebrate with her with a little Hornitos tequila. Yum.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

An Unexpected Christmas Eve

I hadn't put much thought into Christmas Eve plans. In the past I've mostly spent my Christmas Eves wrapping presents or baking cookies. All of which I did yesterday, but got finished at around 2:30pm. This year was going to be a little different, I knew, because H. was scheduled to DJ at a new lounge in Berkeley from 10pm-2am. Whoa. I kept thinking to myself, No one's going to be there, it's Christmas Eve! But found myself thinking, Well, maybe lots of people go to clubs on Christmas Eve, who knows? It has been a while since I could call myself a party girl.

So I finished up all my Christmas prep, put out all the gifts under the tree, and took a walk with H. at Fort Mason Park, which made me finally understand why rich people love to populate the Marina. God, the views were gorgeous. The mist shrouding Mount Tam and the bay were amazing, and the park's gentle slopes were sensuous and very San Francisco.

H. and I packed up to head over to Berkeley for his DJ gig at around 8:30pm. He has to bring turntables to this gig so we were fully loaded and ready to rock. It's freezing in Berkeley when we get there, and downtown is super DEAD. I'm wondering again, Is anyone gonna be at this place? Then I think, No worries, this is a paid gig and H. has a commitment from the promoter. Right. I should've known better.

We get into the bar and a cool dreaded brother comes up to us and says, 'You want a drink?' and I think, 'Wow, how friendly.' The place is dead. There are two older dudes sitting at the bar a few stools away from each other, engaging in obligatory drunken banter. There's dude sitting on one of the velvet chairs reading out of a binder. I'm guessing he works there. The dreaded brother doesn't realize that H. is the DJ for another minute or two, and then he says, 'Oh, you don't have to stay.' H. and I looked at each other like, 'Is this guy for real? Did we not just haul over a box plus two bags of records and two turntables from San Francisco to DJ this muthafucka?'

I know the guy is just a bartender so clearly there's been some miscommunication. 'Oh, didn't he call you?' Referring to aforementioned party promoter. No, H. attests, no call. We waited around for a little while and checked out the slightly spooky interior of the hotel that the lounge is located in, then took off when it was clear that Mr. Party Promoter was no where to be located via cell phone. So much for global communications.

A bit dejected (I had gotten all dolled up, but mostly I felt bad that H. got stiffed) we headed back to the City and dropped off all our stuff, then walked over to the Video Cafe, where I ate breakfast at 11pm and we watched 'Ace Ventura, Pet Detective'. The guy in the next booth laughed even louder than we did. That Jim Carrey is one kooky white dude.

Ain't nothin' like some fried potatoes to cheer me up, so after gobbling down my hash browns and finishing the movie we walked back home and cozied up on the couch. Our tree looked so cute with its multi-colored lights and random Christmas ornaments that we had bought from Casa Bonampak in the Mission and elsewhere, and with all our presents for folks piled under it. I love our tree.

Finally, we settled into bed to finish reading Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, which we've been reading together off and on for the past six months or so. It's one of my favorites and I wanted to share it with H., who isn't big into reading books. I knew he'd dig it, though, and once we got past the difficulties of reading in deep Black Southern dialect, we had a grand time.

Last night we read the climactic two final chapters. You'll have to read it yourself because I'm not spoiling it for you by telling you what happens. Suffice it to say that Janie and Tea-Cake (the novel's two main characters) have a deep and abiding and laughter-filled love that finds its unexpected resolution in these final pages of the book. They leave you crying and smiling at the same time. I'd forgotten how quickly Hurston wraps up the book after 19 chapters of adventure and whimsy and romance, but it is in these final two chapters that Hurston's genius is at its most brilliant.

I fell asleep after H. told me he had to "check his emails". Right, on Christmas Eve, you're expecting some news from a client? I knew what that meant. He hadn't celebrated enough Christmases to be smooth enough to sneak my present past me, which meant he had to wrap it while I was in bed. That was cool with me, even though I whined to him about not coming to bed with me on Christmas Eve.

I slept well, although I had some crazy dreams, and woke up this morning not quite feeling like it was Christmas. But then I went out to the tree, plugged in the lights, and smiled at the sight of all the gold and silver and red and green wrapped gifts laying there. Almost on a reflex, I peeked around to see if anything new had appeared in the night. Had Santa come to visit us?

And there, on the right hand side of the tree, wrapped in gold with silver ribbon and a sprig of flowers on top of it, was a present that I knew was for me. The gift tag read: "To Janie. From Tea-Cake."


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Goings-On About (Blog)Town

While Gura gets girly, trying on Chanel perfume no less, her fiance Tatang mellows out and celebrates a friend's gay wedding ceremony at a drag bar (I loved T's description of another friend as 'a powder keg of funny').

Meanwhile, Jean posts a couple of amazing images, including one of Joe Bataan, one of my musical heroes who is enjoying a revival of his music lately. I even heard an album of his (not sure if it was a collection or a re-issue) on a listening station at Amoeba Records the other day. Wow! His stuff is off the fuckin' hook. Pin@ys reprezent! You need to check his stuff out if you are in any way a fan of tropical/latin/r&B music. Full of fire and funk.

And Leny didn't make it into Hedgebrook either. Sorry, Leny, maybe next year we'll both get in and be there at the same time! Now that would be nice, considering I've only met Leny once and for about five minutes, while her words are quite familiar to me via her blog and emails.

El Serenito is taking a blog-writing break of sorts (the myeow-bernation I believe he's calling it) but is posting some cool pics in the meantime. And Oliver de la Paz is stuffing himself silly with homecooked Filipino food (mmmm, yum), reminding me of the yummy pancit I had last night at my Tagalog class party and the delicious bangsilog I had the other day Carmen's on Embarcadero.

Boy, is it fun being Filipino, or what? What great lives we lead. And since it's Christmas-time, the best is yet to come. After sending out a submission of my poetry (not saying where to 'cuz I don't want to jinx it) I'll be stuffing myself silly at Mom's on Christmas day and dropping off cookies and gifts to friends 'round town.

Hope your holidays are blessed and warm,

Sunday, December 19, 2004

I Love Eva the Diva

Originally uploaded by mandirigma9.
Isn't she absolutely gorgeous? Eva is my new Idol. (Eva's on the left; that's Tyra Banks with the crazy permed hair on the right).

Yes, the time has come for me to wax philosophical about the lovely Eva the Diva, the newest Champion of America's Next Top Model's fierce competition. I was rooting for Eva early on in the series (along with Toccara, the plus-size model who was equally gorgeous and likable) because she was beautiful in an offbeat, intriguing, not-so-conventional way. No doubt that Eva's short curly hair, crazy-beautiful caramel-colored skin, and gorgeous hazel eyes that glinted just so make her irresistible to watch. But it was her attitude and straightforwardness that made me love Eva the Diva the most. She is a true Diva in the best way: fierce attitude, strength like steel, powerful energy. She has flaws, yes, but Eva is both honest about them and willing to re-examine the way she presents herself to the world in order to be a better human being. She is willing to say 'I fucked up' while at the same time allowing other people be who they want to be. (Remember her one-on-one moment with Norelle in Japan, when she apologized for wishing that Norelle had been eliminated?)

In contrast to Yaya, the other ANTM finalist, who was so snotty with her Harvard-educated ass (why is it that almost everyone I've known who's attended Harvard has this snobby attitude? Berkeleyites can be snobby too, don't get me wrong, but I think Harvard wins the elitism contest hands-down), Eva was warm, approachable and funny. I wanna hang out with Eva!

And during the last episode, as Eva and Yaya finally warmed up to each other and let their defenses down (so beautiful when women of color bond) I liked Eva even more, because she opened her mind to liking and appreciating this other woman who had been so cruel to her at times. (Remember when Yaya told Eva--who had approached her to try and mend differences--essentially, "You mean nothing to me?")

I literally jumped up and down for joy when Tyra Banks announced Eva as America's Next Top Model (she wins a Ford Models contract, a $100,000 Cover Girl contract, and a fashion spread in Elle magazine). Really, H. can testify. I was a crazy woman. Because, in the end I realized, I identified with Eva. Here was this tough little girl who had clearly been hurt and betrayed in the past, who walked in to those TV studios and had all-out attitude like, 'Here I am, I am the shit. You can take me or leave me, but if you leave me it's your loss.' And then grew and transformed into this lovely, dazzling creature with heart and vulnerability and spirit. That is what true and lasting beauty is all about: finding that tiny golden seed of beauty within you, beneath all the pain and suffering you've endured, and coaxing it out, watering it, bringing it out for all the world to see.


Entering the Fray

Welcome, Crazy Cathy to the Blogosphere! A fellow CFJ comrade and a 2004 election refugee, C. was in the trenches in Ohio and is presently being screwed out of her reimbursement check by her old bosses--which I know must hurt because organizers spend a lot of their own fuckin' money running these campaigns. Check out her posts and patronize a fellow lefty who rocks.

More power to you, C. Write on!


Saturday, December 18, 2004

I am a Sorceress

Thanks Gura for the cool link. Check it.

The Sorceress

Which Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction Character are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

I kinda wanted to be an Amazon like Gura, but the Sorceress is pretty fuckin' cool. And I think more fitting. I'm a schemer--I mean organizer!--at heart after all. ;-)


Thursday, December 16, 2004

O Christmas Tree & Other Good News

I came home last night to find that H. had bought a Christmas tree (surprise!) for our home. It's so cute! 2 1/2 feet tall and perfect in all its green finery. This is definitely the highlight of my holiday season so far, because I haven't lived in a home with a Christmas tree in it since 1991!

H. and I grew up with very different experiences of Christmas--it wasn't a priority for his folks to celebrate, while my family (and in particular my step-father, for various dysfunctional and quite tragic reasons I won't get into right now) was somewhat obsessed by it. We had 8-foot-plus flocked trees every year, dozens of gifts for each child, decorations up the wazoo and endless Christmas carol records playing on the ol' turntable.

I'm looking forward to sharing a bit of my Christmas tradition with H. this year, and it feels so sweet that he got the tree all on his own; I can tell he's catching some of the Christmas spirit.

In other good news: I was overjoyed when I watched the finale episode of America's Next Top Model last night (yes, it is my favorite show). Eva the Diva is the new Miss ANTM, and ain't no stoppin' her now. I'll post more on my favorite ANTM contestant later, but let's just say that after the elections, this may be the best upset victory I've ever witnessed.

Go on, Eva-girl, serve up some of that hot stuff for the whole world to see.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

List: What Never to do to Christmas/New Year Babies

First off: HAPPY BIRTHDAY H.! I love you.

An unusually high number of my family and friends (including myself) were born in the latter part of December and early January. Sagittariuses and Capricorns. Which makes us exceptionally interesting people, of course (ahem), but also comes with the baggage of having to celebrate our special days with the big JC (Jesus Christ for all you non-Christians) or Baby New Year. Which can result in some icky and sometimes downright unhappy moments.

For those of you whose birthdays are not scheduled around the time of the birth of one of the world's greatest religious figures, let me give you some etiquette tips on what not to do (along with some more constructive advice) to help your beautiful Sag and Cap friends celebrate their days o' birth.

1. The CARDINAL rule: Never, NeVeR, NEVER fold in your Dec/Jan friend's birthday with your Christmas/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah/New Year, etc. celebrations. This happened last night to H., whose birthday is today (see above). He doesn't seem to mind all that much, but I know on some level it has to hurt him, because us Dec/Jan babies Hate, HATE with a passion when people combine our special days with the major holidays of the season, as if our day was just too inconveniently scheduled for them to actually make special time just for us,

2. Do NOT give us those rude 'Oh, here's your Christmas/Birthday present. Hope you like it' gifts. We HATE those. Do you give your friend whose birthday is on July 5th a 'Oh, here's your Independence Day/Birthday present' gift? No, because that would be more than slightly tacky. Well, it's tacky to do it for us too. Now, we're not expecting folks to shell out the big bucks during this often financially stressful time of year just for our benefit (although that would be nice), we just want to be acknowledged twice, with two gifts, even if one or more of them are of the five-and-dime variety. We are soulful folks, and it is the thought that counts after all.

I have to admit I think I'm a little spoiled in the gift department because as a child my mother and family were excellent at giving me two sets of presents: one for Christmas and one for my birthday. I didn't have to deal with too many 'combo' deals as a child (even now, my mother would never deign to give me a two-fer gift, that would be unheard of!), which is probably why I have higher expectations than some other Dec/Jan babies.

3. This rule could really be the cardinal rule too, but it should go without saying: Do NOT just completely forget our birthdays because you are so busy with holiday brouhaha that you can't be bothered. Not them in your calendars, in your PDAs, on a sticky note on your bulletin board, write them on your hand if you have to. We are generally a bit sensitive about having our birthdays overlooked because of the blinding eclipse of Jesus' day and all its accompanying consumer-driven baggage. And nobody likes to have their birthdays forgotten, so why should we--despite our exceptional personalities ;-)--put up with it just because we happened to be born this time of year?

That being said, I have to admit (with more than a smidgen of guilt and shame) that I didn't get around to getting H.'s gift together in time to present it to him this morning. I usually go way out of my way to make sure that I have something lined up for him that's memorable, but I blew it this year. I'll have his present ready for later today, but in my mind I failed to meet my own strict standards of celebrating a Sag's birthday.

Maybe the folks out there who have pulled one too many 'combo' deals are rubbing off on me. Even more reason to remind myself why it's so important to take the time to celebrate the existences of some of the people I love the most. Note to self written on back of hand: L.'s birthday is on Friday!


Sunday, December 12, 2004

anthropological & political notes on a marketplace

I spent most of Saturday working at the annual KPFA Crafts Fair, trying to make some extra holiday cash and do a bit o' Christmas shopping, whilst dipping my big toe in the lukewarm waters of the event organizing world. As an independent consultant (I pick up gigs now and then outside my part-time day job as a fundraiser), I am interested in learning more about event coordination work so I thought the Crafts Fair would be a good place to start: lots of artisans selling their work, a chance to support independent media, and a place to feel comfortable with my progressive politics to boot.

I ran around doing relief for exhibitors who were working solo in their booths, (wo)manned a security checkpoint or two (much to the dismay of the security head, whom I could tell didn't think highly of a petite woman like myself taking on such a role--I didn't tell him I've trained in martial arts for the better part of the past four years), and passed out some programs to the (mostly white) people coming to shop at the fair. All of this varied activity gave me a good glimpse into the cultural dynamics of the fair, which were not surprising to me--I've been around the block when it comes to selling handicrafts and working with artists--but were still a tad frustrating and disappointing.

It was disappointing to see that most of the exhibitors (local, independent artisans selling their handcrafted wares) were White--I counted less than 10 exhibitors who were people of color. I know the fair was a juried exhibition, meaning that artists had to apply and be judged to be included. Was the lack of artisans of color due to them not applying? Or was it due to them not being accepted? I find it hard to beleive, in a place with as many working artists of color as the Bay Area, that the judges could only find a dozen or less artisans of color whose work was up to par with their standards.

Further, to put this all in a context, I do NOT (with extremely rare exception) patronize White artisans, such as those who sell jewelry or pipes or other trinkets on Telegraph. I have three key reasons behind this rule, which were all (unfortunately) reinforced for me in heightened relief at the KPFA Crafts Fair:

1. Generally, these artisans speak to me quite condescendingly and rudely. I'm not sure why, perhaps it's that I look young or that I'm Brown or that they don't assume someone like me would know anything about their high-quality art. Of course, they don't know that I worked as a salesperson at a well-known bead store for two years in addition to working as the production assistant of an equally well-known jewelry and fiber artist in Oakland. Having worked retail myself, I made a rule to myself a long time ago not to make assumptions about what a customer knew or didn't know about the product I was hawking. But just like the security head mentioned above didn't know about my martial arts training and therefore assumed that I was just a petite little Asian woman who was trying to reach beyond my abilities, these White artisans seem to often assume that I know nothing about handcrafts or jewelry or beautiful objets d'art.

Crafts Fair example: I did relief for a woman who made hand-decorated gourds, which she was selling for $48 and up. I didn't think they were that interesting, just another White woman taking some pseudo Native American and African images and techniques and making money off of them. In short, they weren't that cute to me. But I was curious about where the gourds came from, and what they were before she styled them into her 'art', so I asked a few polite questions.

Her response? "They're gourds." I, not knowing that these gourds grow hard as wood from the start, asked a follow-up question to clarify. "They're gourds," she responded again, more curtly this time, as if she didn't have time to answer these questions, despite the fact that I was her only potential customer at the moment.

After some puzzled looks from me, she went on to explain that gourds just grow hard, that they are related to squash, but that they are quite different. "That's why your question is confusing," she said with a fake smile. In my head I thought, No, your answers were confusing. But instead of getting into what would have been a frustrating conversation with her I smiled and walked away.

2. Many of the White artisans whose work I've been exposed to tend to completely appropriate images, techniques and materials from cultures from the Third World, almost exclusively relying on 'inspiration' from 'exotic' foreign cultures to make money for themselves as artists. I'm not saying that artists have no right to appropriate or borrow from other cultures, but it makes a bit skeptical (not to mention sad) when I see so many White artists exclusively taking photos of Buddhist monks in Cambodia and African sufi masters, and never really exploring their own rich cultural heritage. It seems to me a bit of denial of their own heritage, while at the same time romanticizing others' cultures. Added to my direct personal experiences with many of these artists as explained in #1 above, it's hard for me to stomach and / or reconcile their co-opting of 'exotic' images with their rudeness to me, a Brown girl who doesn't fit their romanticized image of what a Brown girl should look, act, talk like.

Crafts fair example: I relieved another White woman artist, this time a photographer. She had taken quite beautiful photos, all of which were of nameless people of color from the Third World. One was of a Buddhist monk meditating, another was a close-up of a young Indian girl resplendent in ceremonial garb (which was only entitled 'Princess') and a third was a stark, vibrant image of an African man wearing a turban and a deep aqua robe. None of these people had names in her photos. (I have a special aversion to images that don't name people of color as individuals, while the same practice would never be tolerated if the images were of White Americans)

These people were, to her, objects to be witnessed and documented for personal expression and profit, representatives of an idealized culture, place and / or history. None of the photos were of people of European descent, although the photographers' collection was entitled 'Migration Photos'. What, Russian and Latvian and Czechoslovakian people don't migrate anywhere?

3. In general I try to practice an affirmative action /community development strategy in the spending of my dollars, especially when--in a place like the Bay Area--I can actually give my hard-earned cash directly to people of color vendors/stores/artists. For example, I try as much as possible to buy my books from places like Black-owned Marcus Books or Asian-activist-owned East Wind Books, or to purchase handmade jewelry (which I love) from artisans of color, like Diana Yoshida and others who work on Telegraph in Berkeley. There is absolutely no reason that I 'need' to spend my money on rude and racist White artisans' work, when there are so many artisans of color who need my business just as much if not more. I know from direct experience the lack of support from family and friends that many artists of color endure, and I feel a special responsibility to help them make their living.

Crafts Fair example: I only bought four items--not just because there were so few artists of color at the fair, but also because there was very little of the White artists' work that I liked at all--all of which were made by artisans of color. I finally got my hands on some amazing silkscreen-printed T-shirts by Daniel Sanchez, whose dramatic woodcut-like designs I've admired for several years now. I got to meet Daniel for the first time too--a hardworkin', sincere and genuinely nice brother. I know I'll be buying many T-shirts from him in the years to come. And I bought a beautiful cloth wallet for a co-worker and a stuffed turtle for my godson from Ia Vang, of the Hmong Women Needleworkers Collective.

In the end, searching up and down the aisles at the Crafts Fair for artisans of color in a sea of Whiteness was worth the hassle of rude White vendors and the annoyance of endless 'exotic' Brown and Black faces displayed on amulets, posters and earrings (yes, earrings!). I hope you take the time to patronize your local artisans of color this holiday season, and that you come away with some treasures like the ones I found today.


Thursday, December 09, 2004

A Poet's Prose & A Quick Link

Check out a blog post about Ray Charles that I put up on my Music teamblog started by myself and my buddy Chavajero.

I've been re-reading Audre Lorde lately, once again awed by her ability to articulate what I feel deep in my bones about our responsibility as artists, activists, mothers, sisters, human beings. I've been craving the sustenance of her words during these post-electiond days. Here's my favorite passage for today:

"Most likely there will always be women who move with women, women who live with men, men who choose men. I work for a time when women with women, women with men, men with men, all share the work of a world that does not barter bread or self for obedience, nor beauty, nor love. And in that world we will raise our children free to choose how best to fulfill themselves."--Audre Lorde, from "Manchild: A Black Lesbian Feminist's Response" in Sister Outsider

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Good Morning, Pat!

See, I knew I'd end up wanting to post after saying I was taking a break. Oh well.

Woke up this morning in a particularly dramatic (in a good way) mood. Perhaps it had to do with hanging out last night at the Slit exhibit, housed in the new Center for Sex and Culture on 11th and Harrison in Frisco, and being surrounded by kick-ass Asian women and their equally kick-ass art. But more about that show later.

So I woke up feeling a bit dramatic and therefore busted out the Pat Benatar CD and programmed in Promises in the Dark, We Live for Love, We Belong, etc. All my favorites. And I'm singing really loud and probably off-key as I type. Pat is the supreme rock star diva of my generation. She wrote her own songs, rocked out like nobody's business, had her husband backing her up in her band as her lead guitarist, and wrote about meaningful topics like runaways, the trauma abused children face, and, of course, heartbreak. And I always loved her big teeth and overbite--the fact that she was intriguing looking but not beautiful in a conventional way made her appealing to us normal-looking gals who had mucho attitude but not a lot of frilly, feminine beauty to boost us into visibility.

For now, I leave you with Pat's lyrics:

"Many times I tried to tell you/ many times I cried alone/ always I'm surprised how well you cut my feelings to the bone/ Don't want to leave you really/ I've invested too much time/ to give you up that easy/ to the doubts that complicate your mind..."

I'm off to a theater/performance workshop to get in touch with my own inner diva...


Saturday, December 04, 2004

Takin' a Break...I Think

I've been posting so infrequently lately I feel I should just post an 'on hiatus' message...but I have things to say before I go! And perhaps I won't really 'go'--I seem to recall one Bino Realuyo recently saying he'd be online a lot less and then proceeding to post like mad afterwards--perhaps this is just a fleeting need to give myself permission not to post. I know it's silly, but if I don't blog for more than a few days I feel like I'm, I don't know, being 'bad' somehow. Silly, stupid Catholic guilt.

Anyway, things have been busy busy these last couple weeks. Work is ramping up for end-of-the-year fundraising, as well as evaluation, planning, and welcoming our new Executive Director, Solomon Rivera. I am super-excited about having S. on board and working with him--from what I've seen and heard he is one smart cookie and has incredible enthusiasm and energy for the work. As a fundraiser, you can't ask for much more than that.

I've been writing a lot, mostly transcribing stuff from my notebook to the computer, and editing / adding a little on the way. I want to get all the stuff from my notebooks into electronic format before I start writing more scenes of my novel. I need to see what the bones look like, where the flesh is still thin, where I need to fatten it up. I'm realizing I need some good battle scenes, which I don't feel well-equipped to write. I'm thinking of checking out some other sci-fi books for examples of battle scenes. Any recommendations are most welcome.

In the meantime, I've been watching lots of sci-fi at home on video. I'm a big Star Wars fan and H. is a bit of a Trekkie (no conventions or anything, just memorizing lines and knowing all the characters and movies, you know, softcore stuff), so between the two of us we have a decent amount of sci-fi geekness in our home. We watched the Empire Strikes Back last night--my favorite of the Star Wars films--and I was appalled to see that James Earl Jones was not mentioned in the credits at all for doing the voice of Darth Vader. Disgusting. I mean, come on, if David Prowse is credited, you gotta put James up there too. Lucasfilm racism or did James not want to be credited? A mystery to unravel when I'm bored and need mindless Googling distraction.

I've also been reading Eileen Tabios' recent book, Menage a Trois with the 21st Century on the bus on my way to work (you can really get a lot of reading done on public transit). I'm loving what I've read so far: delicate yet sure-handed poems about desire in the first section, titled Enheduanna, after a Sumerian poet-priestess who wrote love poems to the goddess Innana. I'm thinking I'd like to write a proper review of it when I finish it, which at the rate I read could be months from now! Thanks, Eileen, for the copy, which she sent over when I purchased Pinoy Poetics; I have yet to read that one however; it's on my list for 2005.

Ok, I still don't know whether I'm signing off the blog for awhile or not. Oh, how I hate indecision. But that's the beauty of blogging, no? You can do whatever the f*ck you want! ;-)