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This year’s Asian American Film Festival was bittersweet for me, knowing that Loni Ding’s funeral was happening smackdab in the middle of it. CAAM has a nice post here about her.

I was a student of Loni’s in her video documentary class at Cal in the late 80s. I can’t begin to tell all the things she taught us, so I’ll stick with one that has made the most impact upon me (or at least, what I am most aware of, because when you have a great teacher, some stuff gets absorbed into your molecules so thoroughly that you forget where it came from).

At 20 I had a decent idea of how to listen to my friends, but Loni taught me how to listen to strangers: she gave me a key to the world. You have to listen with complete open acceptance & patience, in order to draw out someone’s true story. It’s not that different from listening to friends, actually; it comes close to what you might call unconditional love. Loni taught about listening as an active practice of asking for, waiting for, recognizing & capturing exactly what each person can best give: their own truth. She taught me the difference between truth & dogma, that human reality is always more compelling & important than preconceived political agenda; that it doesn’t work to want people to say what you want them to say. You have to want them to say what they want to say.

I leaned on her teaching so hard when I was in the South for the Chinese Restaurant Project. I’m sorry I never told her how much she had helped me. Here is my humble tribute to her, a short sound piece I made from a visit with Van Tran, proprietor of a gas station/Chinese takeout counter in Flora, Mississippi. (It’s better on headphones, if you have em handy. The clicky sounds are my Holga.)

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Wow, the blog is working again! It was broken for so long I was beginning to despair. I had accumulated lots of things to say, but for now I’ll just give you an excellent book to read: Nick Flynn, The Ticking is the Bomb.

I’m a fan of Flynn’s from back in 2003 when I found his Blind Huber in my bedroom at the Anderson Center. He is so freakin smart & courageous & has a wonderful voice. Isn’t that the recipe for a good writer, right there?

In this new book I especially appreciate the reminder about Proteus, who I haven’t thought of in decades. When I was a kid learning Greek mythology, I just thought they were cool stories. What a trip it is to grow older & really get (as in need, as in lean on & find comfort in) how they are all about how life actually is.

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Happy Year of the Tiger!


I got shut out of this show for dragging my feet on the buying of tickets, but that’s ok cause a week later they played for free(!), outside(!) at Cal & I didn’t have to cross any big water for that.

Eating: brown rice, pinto beans (from a can, even), the first Hass avocado, Bariani olive oil, Maldon salt. Feels like cheating: you aren’t really cooking but it tastes so good, you can’t imagine eating anything better. Unless you’re steaming Dungeness, which also doesn’t feel like cooking. Ditto the first artichokes (boiled) & the first asparagus (roasted). I like this theme.

Rearranging: furniture. (Lest you think I’ve gone all lazy, with those non-cooking meals & all.)

Smelling: plum blossoms!

Gazing in wonder: the tulip magnolias are stunning right now. No picture can do justice. Go out & look, if you haven’t already.

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Dang, suddenly Venn diagrams are everywhere!

I was into that shit before it was cool.

So there.



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Recently Donna brought home yet another of her well-chosen love gifts for me, a newsprint booklet from 1982 titled 300 Sensational Salads. I shall now share some of these sensations with you, to brighten your day & make you glad you live, cook & eat in the present:

1 can (13½ or 14½ oz.) chicken broth
1 cup converted rice
1½ tsp. salt
½ cup vegetable oil
2 T. soy sauce
2 T. toasted sesame seeds (optional)
2 cups diced cooked chicken, turkey, or pork
1 can (14 oz.) chop suey vegetables, drained
1 jar (4½ oz.) sliced mushrooms, drained
4 green onions with tops, sliced
1 jar (2 oz.) diced pimiento, drained

Add enough water to broth to make 2½ cups liquid. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice & 1 tsp. of the salt. Cover & simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand covered until all liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer rice to large bowl. Combine oil, soy sauce, remaining salt & sesame seeds, if desired, mixing well. Stir into rice. Cover & refrigerate 1 hour. Stir in remaining ingredients [including those yummy canned chop suey vegetables, mmm]. Cover & chill at least 3 hours. Make 6 main dish servings.

Also included among the 300 Sensational Salads are “Hot Chinese Potato Salad” & “Chow Mein Salad” but honestly, neither of those is quite as special as this one, which you’ll surely want to bust out next time you host dinner guests:

8 strips bacon, cut-up
1 cup chopped onion
2 cans (15 oz. each) cheese ravioli
¼ cup sugar
¼ vinegar
Pepper to taste

In skillet cook bacon until crisp; drain fat reserving 1 tablespoon. Return 1 tablespoon fat to skillet; add onion & saute about 2 minutes. Add ravioli, sugar, vinegar & pepper; cover & simmer until ravioli is heated through. Serve on lettuce. Yield: 4 cups.

Gawd almighty, is that not the most vile thing you ever heard of?! But leaving the issue of pure nastiness aside, what on earth qualifies this to be called a salad? The fact that you plop it on top of lettuce? The presence of vinegar? What?!

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Thinking & writing: about how that last decade kicked my fucking ass, but I did some kicking right back too

Eating: Taco Grill’s pozole de pollo (thank you, Peggy)

Re-reading after many years: Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Mitchell translation (thank you, Shahara)

Drinking: sencha (thank you, Birgit)

Knitting: wristwarmers that match the sencha

Listening: Furthur (thank you, Bobby & Phil)

Swimming: as always

Trying: not to get sick

Happy New Year, blog readers!

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Michael’s blackberry honey on Alvarado sprouted whole wheat. Every once in a great while, & I mean like every several years, a perfect jar of honey & a certain mood of mine align to give me a whole loaf’s worth of incredibly satisfying bread & honey. The honey varies but the bread is always Alvarado. This time the honey is dark brown, partly crystallized between liquid & solid, & yes, it does taste like blackberries. I don’t see Michael anywhere on the web—figures, for a guy with hand-written labels. You can get his honey at the Berkeley Bowl, & his last name is Huber, which may or may not mean that he is a direct descendant of François Huber, the father of beekeeping. That would be too neat. I mean that both ways.

Dave Rawlings Machine “Bells of Harlem”, off the new album. Steady rotation. “Ruby” is pretty damn awesome too.

Toe-up socks! How can you not knit in this weather?!

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This is what I want for Christmas. Framed, please. Oh, except I don’t DO Christmas. Doh & double doh! I knew that anti-consumer attitude would come back to bite me in the ass some day….

Edited: I don’t have wall space for it either.

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I promised I would tell you how I spent Day of the Dead, & here I am, only a month late! Without further ado, then, Best Kept Secrets, Colma edition:

At Cypress Lawn Cemetery, if you leave your ID at the front desk, they will hand you a key to the mausoleum, which features spectacular stained glass. That key unlocks three doors. Go in all of them, because the stained glass is different behind each one. No, this is not a ghost story & nothing spooky happens. Unless you have a phobia of spectacular stained glass.

Turn in the key, get your ID back, & then go across the street to wander amongst the lovely statuary. Weeping angels! All kinds of good stuff!

Funny thing is, my grandparents were buried here, so I’ve been a fairly regular visitor for most of my life, but I might never have gotten clued into the stained glass if I hadn’t gone investigating with the Witch & her annual graveyard-traipsing posse. I’d long admired the weeping angel, but had never done the hours of sauntering that this place truly merits. Cheap (actually, free) thrills! You can even take BART to Colma & walk there!



Will report soon about Day of the Dead fun with the Witch & her witchy posse, but right now I’m dangerously fixated on these smileys doing chores. Some people have way too much time on their hands, & apparently I must be one of them. Rationalize all you want about ongoing fascination with repetition & the mundane, but this is messed up!



Uh, yeah, I do have some real-life laundry to do, why do you ask?