Archive | September, 2012

Portlandia at In Other Words

23 Sep

In Other Words Feminist Community Center, where I volunteer, is the last nonprofit feminist bookstore (and community center) in the United States. The country used to have hundreds and I’ve heard is down to only about twenty now. In Other Words is also the site of the feminist bookstore scenes in the TV show Portlandia, filmed in Portland, Oregon.

The show (if you haven’t seen it) satirizes the progressive bubble of Portland and, by extension, progressive bubbles in general. The writers/stars are progressive themselves, but any bubble, progressive or conservative or whatever, has many insular citizens who too easily forget about the rest of the world. Though I love Portland and am very grateful that I’m here, I continue to have a global awareness and am frequently reminded that the U. S. outside of Portland is very different.

I knew that someone from Portlandia was scheduled to interview volunteers during this month’s Sunday Volunteer Brunch. Somehow I had pictured the director or producer, one person, interviewing us like a journalist, with a notepad, and with maybe one person behind a camera.

When I arrived at In Other Words for the brunch, the front of the community center was bustling with a film crew. I felt a bit awkward and shy as I headed for the back of the center, where the tables and chairs were set up for brunch, and where muffins already occupied a buffet table.

A guy approached me with a clipboard and asked me to fill out a form. I sat down on the big comfy couch and did so; the form looked like something extras must fill out when they show up at a film sight. Other volunteers and board members arrived, put more food on the buffet table, and filled out the same form. We talked about the extensive film crew and how this was a much bigger deal than what we had pictured.

While we sat at the long table animatedly conversing, suddenly someone from the film crew whispered to us, “Shhh. We’re filming.” So we became quiet and stealthy and listened in while a guy who has appeared in Portlandia episodes interviewed a new volunteer whom I’d never met. The interview took place in the front half of the space, with the volunteer and the interviewer behind the front counter. Afterwards, he also interviewed the board members Kim and Jane extensively, asking them many questions about, in particular, the events listed on the event board.

He asked about the Happy Hysteria Collective, which meets once a month, and he wanted to know about some of its past topics. Kim mentioned the most recent discussion topic, and then she mentioned the previous one, “sperm retention.” The topic of sperm retention carried on for quite some time. Kim afterwards joked about it, saying her mother will be watching the show and they might make a cut simply of every time she said the phrase “sperm retention.” She also commented that she should have held up a sign that said, “Hi, Mom!”

The film crew then recorded the interviewer talking just to the camera, while the volunteers and board members ate brunch. Afterwards the interviewer and film crew joined us in the back of the space, with the interviewer sitting at the table with us. He chatted with us, and in the midst of the conversation he mentioned that he’s from Pakistan and that it’s legal for men to rape their wives. I’m pretty sure it was the same way in the U. S. until the 1970s.

The film crew recorded an introduction, in which the interviewer, sitting at our table, tells the audience about In Other Words and its association with Portlandia. A few minutes later, they recorded a conclusion, in which Kim or someone gave him a gift of a PStyle (a tubular plastic object for helping women pee standing up, particularly while out camping or hiking) and explained what it was.

The show—about the real Portland behind Portlandia—is going to be available to view online. I didn’t ask, but I suspect it might eventually become a DVD special feature.

After Falling on a Sidewalk

21 Sep

My ankle probably isn’t sprained after all–the pain wore out for the most part after a couple hours–but I’m sure it’s a strained ligament. I remember what sprained ankles were like: they were extremely painful for days, swelled up a lot, and involved hopping around on one foot and needing crutches. That said, it’s bad enough that I’d better take it easy. I now have a package of big adhesive bandages for my right knee, and I got an ankle brace that holds an ice pack.

That said, my right pointer finger is sprained; a disturbing sight, it’s bigger than my left.

I have thought of going to my chiropractor because of this. My lower back is very slightly sore, and I was certainly twisted around when I fell. That’d be great if he could give me some sort of finger brace.

It’s been so long since I had this kind of accident: twenty-two years since I broke my right ankle in college, and before that I frequently sprained an ankle, throughout my childhood and teens. After breaking my ankle, I took up a habit of twirling both ankles, and that strengthened them. It’s a physical therapy exercise I learned—it now seems like such a simple thing that I should have figured out myself. I’ve been meditating for nine years, so I’m better at paying attention than I was twenty-two years ago; I was so much more absent-minded before I took up meditation.


I don’t remember experiencing so much shock when I was a kid, but maybe that’s because it was so long ago. Right after the accident, I was dizzy and shaking, and my heart beat was fast. I guess my body has gone through a lot of shock.


Evening Update Post-Accident

21 Sep

I have a 9:30 am chiropractor appointment for Monday and an 11:30 am general practitioner appointment for Tuesday—that was the soonest available.

A side effect of the accident, even such a minor accident, has been fatigue. I slept almost all day. I got up at about ten for breakfast and got wrapped up reading a novel, and I went back to bed at 11:30 and didn’t get up until about 2 in the afternoon. I don’t remember reacting to accidents like this as a kid, but it was a long time ago, and I was a lot younger.

When I got out of the shower tonight, I noticed that my left ankle is swollen after all, perhaps because I stood around so much watching the swift birds flying and plunging into the chimney of the Chapman School (they were amazing!) and talking at the party across the street from the school.
I left the party at about 9 because of this fatigue and the long day ahead. After I’ve had ice on my ankle and finger for a bit, I’m going straight to bed.

Best Laid Plans and Worst Laid Sidewalks

20 Sep

I just had bad luck: I’d dropped off mail in a blue mailbox a few blocks from my apartment and petted a very friendly little black cat. Maybe I was daydreaming about adopting a black cat, but as I was walking back, I tripped on a very bumpy sidewalk. I didn’t just trip–I actually twisted my left ankle and fell on my right side, badly scraping my right knee and hurting my right pointer finger. The ankle is only very mildly hurt, but I suspect it’s a slight sprain. It hasn’t swelled up, and I can limp around with very little pain. I’m still somewhat in shock. A couple of nice bikers stopped by and helped me sit down on a stone wall and talked with me; one of them said these sidewalks are terrible and she frequently falls on them (or trips on them, anyway).

Usually in the dark, I have occasionally stumbled slightly on the uneven sidewalks, but this seemed rather extreme. Right before falling, I had been looking straight forward, not paying attention to the sidewalk surface. It’s ironic, since I meditate and hike—I pay attention under those circumstances. Coming to think of it, surely the most disciplined meditators don’t look at the ground the entire time they’re walking, whenever they’re walking.

I had to set aside my plans; I meant to hop in my car and drive to In Other Words (the feminist community center/bookstore where I volunteer)—to shelve books on the new shelves and to later attend a book discussion group. Instead, I limped the two blocks home and put my ice pack on my ankle and hydrogen peroxide on my knee.

Hinduism: More Than One Religion?

19 Sep

I find it odd that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are considered entirely separate, different religions, while Hinduism is considered one religion. The former three have essentially the same deity and spirits (angels and demons and such), like the different sects of Hinduism have the same deities and spirits (asuras, rakshasas, yakshis, etc). Hinduism’s primary sects are Vishnaivite, Shaivite, and Shakti: these three sects have drastically different origin myths and emphasize different deities. To Shaktis, the Mother Goddess is the first creator and is the most important deity/deities.

I suppose it boils down to labels. In the nineteenth century, British colonialists occupied India and studied the local religions and came up with the label “Hinduism” to describe all the sects that we now consider part of Hinduism. They even included Buddhism and Jainism under this blanket label, even though they’re now considered separate religions. Granted, they branched off Hinduism and have similarities, such as the belief in karma and the importance of meditation.

Witch’s Familiar Excerpt

13 Sep

“I have a tendency to melt through glass—thank goodness. I don’t like being out in the rain, you know. I came to your house because I saw you this evening, and I thought you might be able to help me.”

“Why do you need my help?”

“It’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it brief. I lived a happy, contented life with a witch in a cottage far away. I had no worries until a dreadful sorcerer came along and abducted me. He wanted a familiar, you see, and what better place to get one than at a witch’s cottage?”


–from my novella Witch’s Familiar, available as part of the Wormhole Electric Anthology at

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Inspiration

2 Sep

Netflix lets you stream the entire seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Therefore, I’ve lately been having a Buffy marathon most nights. This tends to involve staying up till about three in the morning.

Watching so much Buffy also tends to affect my dreams. A lot. With early seasons, I not only had many dreams that involved a dark cemetery and Buffy fighting vampires in said cemetery, but I also had at least two mornings in which I dreamed about Cordelia whining or at least complaining; as I woke up, Cordelia’s voice transformed into my cat Cheetah yowling for food. I wonder what it says about Cheetah, or about my relationship with Cheetah, that she was the snarky bully Cordelia in my dreams. Cheetah isn’t a bully, but she certainly demands attention. On the bright side, years ago I had a dream in which Cheetah was human, and she was someone very different from Cordelia.

After watching Buffy (a portion of the fifth season) till 4 am last night, I had more Buffy dreams, complete with cemeteries. But I also had a Buffy dream in which Willow was running around with a plastic sealable bag that contained slices of avocado, along with a spell or something. (I bought avocados on sale yesterday, and by the time I had this dream I must have been hungry.)

It seems that Buffy is currently an obsession for me. I read an essay about Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the 2003 anthology Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century, edited by Rory Dicker and Alison Piepmeier. The essay, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: the Next Generation of Television,” by Michele Byers, explores in detail how feminist Buffy is and isn’t. It put me in the mood to watch the series.

It has occurred to me that Buffy is, technically, research for my writing. Joss Whedon is great at writing conflict. He doesn’t hesitate to have bad—even horrible—things happen to characters, including the protagonist. In addition to fights and death, he shows conflicting personalities and arguments, and he shows conflicts and complications in relationships. In the Buffy series, he wrote all this conflict along with paranormal subject matter, something that come up in my writing.

Indeed, seeing all those old tomes in which Giles and company research demons makes me feel like researching demons too, for the sake of my writing. I’ve discovered that the Multnomah County Library keeps its old tomes on demons “for library use only.” Maybe they’re afraid of a library patron conjuring a demon and getting eaten. Then again, maybe they’re just protecting really old books, since at least a couple of the books on demons are in the Wilson Room, a special place for rare and antique books. One of these days I’ll go downtown and visit the Wilson Room.