10/28/2007

Across the World in a Day

Saturday proved to be one of those days where in the morning my schedule looked insanely busy but doable, and in the evening, the journeys took me to spaces so far flung, the me of the morning was very different from the me of the late night hours.

From the viewpoint of the morning, it would have gone something like: Breakfast, Coaching, Ballet/Homework, Lunch, Mindport, Peter and the Wolf, FASA Dinner, Home.

From the viewpoint of the evening, it went more like: Quickquick, Cool insights, Focus on your studying/new library card!, mmmm Mango Chicken, LookLookAintItNifty!, SoSweet, OhF*&kingAwesome, BuzzBuzz.

There are lingering questions, as usual, though - what about the MFA? what about finishing the novel? what about the laundry? - but I'd like to focus more on what was and what is as a result, rather than that rat-race of what if?

***

Coaching - not me coaching, but me being coached on being and living authentically. It's not often, it's not even regular, but it's always engaging and afterward I felt wonderfully validated and settled about an art-thing I've been doing for almost two decades off and on. Off and on because before yesterday, it was hard to find someone to help me frame it, and now all I can think about are the different frames I can use with it. I'm three days away from my goal of finishing the chap, and it's not looking positive, so instead, I'm hoping the work will be less forced now and more ... authentic is such a cheap word these days, but I can't seem to place one more expensive at the moment. Suffice to say, though, that my paintings will have more depth for me and perhaps more connection with others because I feel more settled about them.

***

While A was at ballet, I took L to the library to study. Studying on the weekends is never much fun, esp. when you're 10 and would rather be reading Pokemon, Harry Potter, or a new series about boy/girl rivalries. The topic was engaging enough, the solar system, but I was there to take L to task for not getting a quiz done during the school week (I know, I know, how could a teacher overlook the fact that a student, with no absences, /missed/ taking a quiz in his class - I'm working on the logic of that separately). After arguing about how much /work/ constituted /studying/ L gamely settled into it. She finished in about a half hour and I let her loose among the stacks, a caged reader free to roam paradise.

Some time in the last couple of years, L lost her library card and so, after many months of borrowing mine, we decided to seek a replacement of hers. Score for her that it didn't cost anything and double score for her little sis A who was now old enough for her /own/ library card.

A's reading isn't coming along as quickly as L's but A covets books as much as her sister. The little gal grew up/older before my very eyes in the moment between sliding the application across the desk to the librarian and the card sliding into her small hand. She beamed. She was awestruck. She very gamely borrowed a book for me, payback for all the books I'd borrowed for her.

My babies aren't babies any more. They're full fledged, card carrying book hounds. **smile**

***

Fortified with lunch at the Asian Bistro and fudge from Paper Dreams, we explored the wonder that is Mindport. Part curio shop, part hands on museum, the art-space is delightful. Where else could you make a tornado indoors, make water sing, watch lights dance in gravitational patterns, and make plastic chickens fly?

It's one of those inspiring places too... two rooms of pure artistic passion - hand carved and crafted machines that cleverly use simple physics to turn cranks, leverage magnetic forces, and give kids that old fashioned learning-by-having-fun thing. The facility and it's staff live on grants and obsessive love of tinkering. Not a bit of blaring neon or subtle infiltrative consumerism. I felt a bit of envy there, seeing all the stuff, knowing how much they've grown over the years, amazed that they never folded given the overhead and cost of materials they must endure. I kept wondering, how does this translate into writing? How does the writer create the kind of space where odd shaped cranks, intricately carved wood, and soft lights cast on mirrors sustain and nourish a small family of creatives?

***

Before setting off to see Peter and the Wolf, I slipped into the Newstand and picked the most recent copies of The Sun and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Brenda Miller was on my thesis committee and she'd recently mentioned being in the The Sun this month with a new memoir piece. Her work always challenges me to be open to my experiences no matter how small and to somehow bring about meaning through writing. I picked up MFSF on a whim, first because it had been ages since I'd read one and there was this niggling in my brain that I should pick up a copy and see what spec fic writers are doing these days. The deal was set, though, seeing Charles deLint's review column. I was curious to know what he enjoys reading and why, plus the interesting mental notation that here was a way he helped keep a roof over his head, writing columns between writing contracted novels.

PTW turned out marvelous - simple staging and simple ballet moves, but fun for us all. Hubby reminisced about playing the horn part for the wolf, back in the day, and I just enjoyed it given I'd never actually seen the play before - I'd heard the sound track, of course, and likely the cartoon, but seeing our local ballet company perform it was really a lot of fun.

***

After worrying about parking on campus (NP - it's parent's weekend at WWU) and getting our tickets (big problem - none of the will call tickets were at the booth) we found ourselves at the Filipino American Students Association Heritage Dinner - Sa Aking Panahon (In My Time).

The dinner itself started in Pinoy Student Time, of course, which is Pinoy time plus student time, equaling way past time to eat. The gals were squirrelly, but we passed the time chatting up Oliver. I hadn't seen ODLP for a few months, our schedules and workspheres not quite overlapping. He was there as one of the guest speakers - he didn't read his work, unfortunately - instead he cracked jokes with the students and spoke a bit about the importance of our art and literature getting out into the mainstream so stuff like the recent Desperate Housewives incident can be addressed and stemmed.

The program suffered from being overly long, unfortunately, and the food was... well, let's put it this way, it was Filipino food cooked with oversight by a Filpino mom, but let's face it, campus food service can only do so much, I mean, have you ever known a campus kitchen able to make /any/ ethnic food properly? But the gals got to eat lumpia, something I don't make at home (it's hard to make a gluten free lumpia wrapper...) and were happy with that. No lechon, though, or bibinka, and the chicken adobo was ... plain.

***

Aside: it's Sunday morning now and I'm typing this on my laptop which sits on our dining table. Across from me is Hubby's laptop as asleep as he is in the back bedroom. Next to me, L is typing A's first journal entry into L's laptop. The only reason the cats don't have laptops is because they prefer walking on ours when given half a chance.

***

I always have mixed feelings when I go to Filipino festivals. Too many residual memories of my parents dodging people the didn't like, chatting up people they did like in dialects I didn't know, using me alternately as a subject of pride or derision, and generally feeling totally out of place. My mother would invariably come to the conclusion that the folks that put on the festivals were hopeless throwbacks and wetbacks who didn't know how to be American and my father would invariably crack hopelessly lame jokes in an attempt to fit in. FilAm fests were a veritable feast of embarrassing moments where I would desperately hide my shyness with disdain.

The first few moments being at FilAm fests now are spent mentally beating back my need to run away and avoid all the bad associations and breathing through the panic until I can find a space to enjoy myself. I say things to myself like "You're an adult now. You need this info for your novel. You won't say anything embarrassing. You won't do anything embarrassing. Yes, you really are Filipino and that's okay. Yes, it's okay you don't speak Tagalog..." I blink a lot, breathe a lot, and fuss over my family to distract myself a lot.

***

Hanging with Oliver was cool - he's very much in the middle of the current FilAm lit movement and to touch that for a moment helps me feel less fringe. I'm still working out how it all relates to hanging with Brenda, Suzanne Paola and Bruce Beasley the other night where I found myself not finding about low res MFAs and instead talking about editorial jobs in our area. Seems that there's a bunch of former grad students of theirs looking for basically my job while I'm looking to go back to school.

Oliver shared his insights about low res which I compared to my thoughts and somewhere in the middle I was considering switching from Spiritual Autobigraphy to Fiction to Multigenre all over the course of an evening. One of these days I'm going to have to figure out my own mind.

***

The best parts of the evening were watching the dance performances/martial arts demos which turned out to be basically the same thing. Kulintang in the background, Hufana Traditional Arts International wow'd us all with silat (kata) for escrima and kris. Their hand strikes and foot work were echoed in the Tinikling and Pandango da Ilaw performed by the FASA students and the incredible Filipino Youth Activities drill team. Drum beat, gong strikes, and rattan snap, all blended with the flash of Igorot and Mindinao garb - beauty and strength all in one moment, separate then conjoined.

I saw Malakas as Del Burmudez performed silat after silat, demonstrating the deadly potential in a woven headband, a loop of fabric, a carved wood tiger claw. I saw Maganda as the leader of the FYA drill team stepped on raised bamboo poles, scaling the slanted surfaces on nimble feet, head held high and aloof. Time reached backwards and forwards with each foot strike and twirl of arnis sticks. The thread of time thickened and thinned with each remembering and each forgetting, but ever connecting who we were with who we are.

Book ideas came fast and furious - pretty shinys that easily distract - but within the moments were the kernels of experience I needed to make my novel fuller and begin the next stage of healing for me.

After the event, I spoke with Del and asked him more questions about the garb he wore and especially the tiger claw weapon he had demonstrated. I sketched and listened and perhaps I'll be able to help him find funding for his projects. Artists helping artists perform and research and teach.

Inspired moments that made me feel more a part of something wonderful, something I could contribute to, something I could be /in/.

Drumbeats and kulintang strikes filled my dreams, stirring words into being.

10/15/2007

Three Poems

The talented Ivy Alvarez has put together an awesome edition for the Asia and Pacific Writer's Network.

The Auto/Biography Special Section features the talents of writers Arlene Ang, Barbara Jane Reyes, Joseph O. Legaspi, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Joel Toledo, Jill Chan, Linh Dinh, Eileen R. Tabios, Lino Dizon, and Grace Monte de Ramos.

In addition, three of my poems appear - Mail Order Bride, Retelling Vallejo, and Market Song

Thank you, Ivy for inviting my work. I'm honored to appear with such luminous poets.

BTW, if you have links to blogs by the other poets listed in the edition, please let me know.

10/04/2007

Racism is not subtle humor, folks

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

--Martin Luther King, Jr.


Recently in a Desperate Housewives scene broadcast Sep. 30, 2007, Susan (Teri Hatcher) was told by her gynecologist that she might be hitting menopause, she replied, "Can I just check those diplomas because I just want to make sure that they are not from some med school in the Philippines. "

It's a gag line, its a throw away line, its a line for laughs. Maybe, maybe we could argue that it fits her character, that Susan is an ignorant, high strung, arrogant, prejudiced woman caught in throes of fear. Maybe the writers intend that she'll see the errors of her ways when she's saved by a Filipino nurse in a future episode. Or maybe it'll be a white guy doc (because the doc would /have/ to be a white and male to pull it off, right?) with a wall lined with credentials from the Philippines, and he'd find a cure for what ails her (some as yet undiscovered life threatening disease that mimics menopausal symptoms).

At best, its a badly written line that could have been reforged as "Can I just check those diplomas because I just want to make sure that they are not from some back alley med school where the booze is as thick as my eyeliner." Or maybe "...where the training is as thin as my morals..." or ...

The point being that the writers didn't have to bring race into the line, didn't have to disparage the hundreds of thousands of Filipino healthcare workers working everyday to save lives, care for elderly and children, and ease the burdens of people from every race and walk of life for just one laugh.

When racial prejudice is used as a gag, the viewer and the targeted race are diminished, demeaned, and damaged, leaving a gaping hole that no amount of laughter can fill.

These types of lines and comments have been protested before and this incident is no different.

Those who wish to write in person contact:

Mr. Mark Pedowitz
President
ABC Television Network
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4551


An online petition "Filipino Americans demand apology from ABC and Deperate Housewives" is not just for Filipinos but for those who want to make their voices heard - Racism is not subtle humor. It's wrong and it has to stop.