Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Radio Story

I heard a very cool story on NPR's Best Of last weekend. Here is the description:
Fifteen year-old Rocky, a Palestinian American, lives with his parents and siblings in Brooklyn. Three times the size of his twin sister, Rocky is the target of his siblings’ jokes and insults. When they’re not ridiculing him, his family tries to entice him to lose weight by offering such incentives as a laptop computer or even $1,000, for losing 30 pounds. Rocky captures his own struggles on tape as he tries earnestly to slim down, even though he has no idea how to control his eating.

I have this probably unfair belief that Arabs and Arab-Americans have serious body image issues, and listening to Rocky's family tease him confirmed these somewhat. Listen to it yourself.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Pretty Poem

I was looking through old journal entries from a year ago, and found this poem by Kabir. I love it so much.

by Kabir
Translated by Robert Bly

I talk to my inner lover, and I say, why such
We sense that there is some sort of spirit that loves
birds and animals and the ants--
perhaps the same one who gave a radiance to you in
your mother's womb.
Is it logical you would be walking around entirely
orphaned now?
The truth is you turned away yourself,
and decided to go into the dark alone.
Now you are tangled up in others, and have forgotten
what you once knew,
and that's why everything you do has some weird
failure in it.

(From Kabir translated by Robert Bly. Copyright © 2004 by Robert Bly.)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Of Cordels and Woodcuts: José Francisco Borges

borges_psicanalista_medI must be living under a rock, because I just discovered the work of J. Borges. I first heard of him when I saw "A Psicanalista" (left). I found the image of the two women at work both oddly erotic and curiously innocent: the slightly akimbo maternal legs of the psychologist, and the patient feverish with the efforts of unearthing the self, unloading the psyche, her hand caressing her own forehead as she conjures up a variety of crude images, which float above her. I loved the cosmic frame around them both, the starriness of the dots that made up those images, and I was taken by the grounded, fanning plant at the foot of it all.

borges_mulhermist_medAfter seeing more of Borges's prints, I noticed the recurring themes: dreams, women ( ideal/ distorted views of), twinning selves, the Garden of Eden, snake imagery in general, and fable.

The NYT wrote something this summer about Cordel: traditional Brazilian verse that is printed up in pamphlets with woodcuts such as Borges's on the cover. Borges himself is a Cordel bard, who dropped out of school at 12.

borges_prostituta_medSample titles for Cordel pamphlets include "The Girl Who Beat Her Mother and Was Turned Into a Dog", "The Girl Who Married 14 Times and Continued Virgin," "The Woman Who Put the Devil in a Bottle", "The Man Who Married a Donkey," and "The Romance of the Mysterious Peacock." Needless to say, hilarious shit (see "A Prostitute's Arrival in Heaven", left).

From the NYT piece: "Some of the most popular stories can be traced back to European legends, to Charlemagne in the 10th century, but most originated in Iberia in the late 16th and 17th centuries," said Mark Curran, a professor at Arizona State University who has written several books on cordel. "Yet the genius of these stories is that even the ones that come from the Orient have been totally adapted and recreated to suit the circumstances of the Brazilian northeast."

In addition to fiction titles, Cordel poets also write journalistic pieces, and the goverment apparently uses the form as an information vehicle to teach people about STDs and agrarian reform.
Reading the articles and seeing the art got me thinking about the flexibility of the art form and how cool it would be to collaborate with Cordel poets and woodcut artists. Sure enough, I discovered that Eduardo Galeano has written a book with Borges (Walking Words) that does just that.

I'm really interested in more experiments of this kind. I was trying to think of similar Arab popular art/lit forms, and have come up with some ideas- mostly revolving around 1,000 nights and a night-- but it's still early.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

In My Best Fantasies

imageDBMy story, The Lunatics' Eclipse, was a notable in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (Ellen Datlow, Gavin Grant, Kelly Link, Editors). I found out through Google books, of all places.

It's cool to have notable stories in things as different as Best Nonrequired and Best Fantasy and Horror. A sign of my artistic flexibility and talent, mayhaps? I'm just sayin'*.

* Someone, please, publish my freaking novel!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Alexandria Blogging

El-Ahram writes about the arrest and release of Alexandria blogger, Abdel-Kerim Suleiman.

A year later

It's been a year since Arafat's death.

It's been a year since my son's eighth birthday.

And it's been just over a year since I started therapy, and since I was ambushed by a makeover TV show at a coffee shop on Congress. At the time, I had green hair and was (apparently) wearing a jacket that clashed with it (the host of the show told me this in a way that illustrated what a prick he was). I turned down the makeover, but they asked me to do so on camera, so I did. I had to walk up the street. The host ran up to me and made fun of my hair and my outfit, and thrust the mic under my mouth, and I said, "I like myself just the way I am."

My therapist told me this was an example of the world rising up to meet me.

(I plan to write about this some more, but I just wanted to post about it here and get my juices flowing. Thanks for being such a cool audience.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Arab Lounging

I signed up to an Arab dating service a while back, and have received responses from people with really, um, interesting tags. Here's a sample:


Really nice. Guess which one's my favorite, and you'll get a free... well, no, you won't get anything. But wanna guess anyway?

Monday, November 14, 2005

To See Some Texas Girls Shine Like Stars

I had my first performance with the Super Sonic Soul Squad Saturday-- shit was tight! I had so much fun. The entire night was cool-- putting on my uniform, doing my hair, going to the meeting spot and picking out jewelry with the ladies. We all put on each others' makeup, watched a certain video on the mac to get even more hyped up, and practiced our songs.

At the club, people came up to us with questions like, "Um, I don't mean to be weird, but what are you guys?" Stock answer: "We're a dance team, and we do synchronized funk to hip-hop and pop." And we had a flawless performance... hopefully someone will send me pics soon and I'll post them here.

I love to dance-- it taps into that same place that writing does, and gives good catharsis.

The next performance will be at End of an Ear at 8PM, Friday.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Class Visit

I was a guest at my friend Chris's Arab-American Lit Class at UT this afternoon. It was such a cool experience, sitting there with bright, interesting students and hearing and answering their questions. One of the most surreal moments came before the visit, when I was sitting at lunch with Chris and looked over at their papers: papers about my work. One student had a cool freudian essay about my protagonists' experiences with their fathers. Many of the essays brought up interesting stuff I'd not noticed about my work, and a couple of them picked up on little things I'd planted in the stories. One student noticed that "Lost in Freakin' Yonkers" is a reversal of sorts of Neil Simon's play ( in which two Jewish boys get exiled by their father to Yonkers (VS one Arab girl with identity issues being exiled there by her dad)- and that the two works examine similar themes: self, family, survival. Nice discussion in class about fiction, and my take on autobiographical writing and masks and identity and gender and religion. I got to talk to them about self-censorship (none), za'atar burgers, humor and voice. I enjoyed myself immensely.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Texas Proves Its Idiocy, Once More

01_____prop2So, Prop 2 passed last night, and millions of hateful fuckers cheered.

My son looked at this photo from a distance, and said: One Mom plus one woman equals marriage? Cool!" His misread made my day.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I have a new anthem...

I guess this song is old, (and probably all the dykes of the world have already heard it,) but it rocked my world this morning, as I was cruising up the highway. Here are the first two stanzas:

I was created in the fleshpots of Araby
My mother was the Emperor's secretary
My father, a notorious libertine
Escaped from Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities of the plain
You can read my family's rise and fall in Gibbon
I was born to be adored by women

Well Seth begat Clem and then Clem begat Ruth
And then Ruth begat me and all hell broke loose
The tribes all began to multiply and boom
And, looking at their kids, no-one knew from whom
The beautiful things kept springing
Well I was born to be adored by women

The rest of the lyrics are over here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Excercise this

Via Mr. Schaub over at Bookslut: Murakami told students at Tufts:
"First train your body. Then, your writing style will follow{.}"... Murakami has run the Boston Marathon six times and will run his 34th marathon this weekend.

"I realized that I needed physical strength [to focus on writing for long periods] and that strength helped to develop my writing style," he said.
OMG, Haruki! You're totally right! Here's what some other authors had to say about physical fitness and writing:

Emily Dickinson: Do 300 cartwheels in your hallway outside the room--run back into the room. Write poems-- afterwards, do more cartwheels-- you must train your body-- the pen will follow.

William Faulkner: I saw them running, so I ran too, every morning before I wrote my sentences. You should run and run too, before you write yours.

Charles Bukowski: I jogged to the bar every morning at 7. I held a cigarette in my lips the entire time. After, at around noon, I ran back home and wrote for 5 hours. Goddamn it, I ran, and you should too.

James Joyce: They said, Admit that jogging is no good.
No. No.

For real, though. Know what I hate? When people try to impose the magical bullshit that works for them on others. So, like to swim laps before you write? Great! Like to give someone head? Great! Like to eat an entire loaf of banana bread and smoke a joint (or vice versa)? Great! Do what you gotta do. Just don't charge a university thousands of dollars in a speaking fee so you can tell people they need to do it, too. Please.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

We're so proud of them

Today, two of my favorite people, poets who write novels, can be found on the blogosphere:

  • Hayan Charara is on Moorishgirl, recommending John Fante's amazing novel, Ask the Dust. From the rec:
    It's at once tender, harsh, funny, sad. Ask the Dust is a kick in the pants, an eye-opener, a lesson in humility. Whenever I start to take myself too seriously, I pick it up and within minutes I am humbled.

  • Michelle Detorie has triplets, three flowers of poems, up on Blackbird.

  • Thanks, guys. You inspire me.