Monday, December 28, 2009

I have written a picture of me
In ballpoint black and blue
I have typed it in Calibri
And shown the world and you
These are things I will not say
Things I know are true
That I will deny every day

Thou shall not lie, I think
But I am not strong enough to do
I will make confessions in ink
On pages white and new
Reflections clearer than glass
Forgiveness, God, I ask of you
Please hear my silent mass

The shame isn’t mine alone
Or the nakedness I might bare
A better, could silence hone
My weakness makes me share
Though strength lets me hide
I beg, appease the guilt I fear
In no one else can I confide

Excuses are not cared for
But I’m broken as you know
Healed by your blood and more
Not whole, I still must grow
I’m a ways from perfect ten
A writer, waiting for the Word to show
In Jesus’ name, Amen

Role Reversal

I don’t want to hear your secret thoughts,
And I do.

Every piece of you,
Will cost a piece of me.

I have enough to spare,
But then no more.

Just seeing you,
Is taking more than that.

You must understand,
We never can go back.

It should be my decision,
I have more to lose.

You can’t see it,
But I’ve given you the choice.

You don’t know it,
Or you never would have asked.

It’s better,
If I know you didn’t know.

I can still love you,
If I can feel it this way.

Silly, I will always love you,
Even if you knew.

You have always loved me,
When I was you.

Tops

spin
spinning
spun
the top keeps its rotation
not of its own volition
poor top,
somebody set it in motion
and has yet to say stop
gravity will intervene
the top will careen
up or down
into the nearest object
scraping it brightly painted sides.
that somebody,
who began its circulation,
will put it away,
a chipped and damaged toy
better left on the shelf--
collected
than on the ground rejected
spin
spinning
spun

The Conclusion

They were talking, not understanding

Going through motions long rehearsed

The words had lost their meaning

But not their function

Love is a thousand actions

But a thousand actions are not love

She said she was just tired

And he said they had seen better days

But all the days led to this one

And this one came a hundred times

Duty-bound--

The last three decades had been slow

Slow enough for her to see

Slow enough for him to know

He was not the man she chose

And she was not the woman—

Who chose him

Details, easy to ignore

Between driving children to school

And picking them up after sports

Gone now and only the sound,

The necessity of conversation left

Her kisses cold with irrelevance

His-- hot with remembrance

Together lukewarm--

From bliss born of ignorance


Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Am Mixed

Multicultural, biracial, mixed, mestiza
Ethnicity, ethnocentric, anomaly
Race, culture, identity
Your blood mixed with mine
The historiography of my parents' sexuality
The power play between two shades of brown
Descriptions, constructions, definitions—

I am not a conglomeration of labels
Races put on like cloaks
Stripped down into stereotypes
Condensed for people who are not me.
Not just two halves of what you can’t see
You want to know me?
Then ask.

I am the only one with eyes that see this view
You don’t know what my hands can do
Your heart has never loved who I loved
Your brain never thought the thoughts I think
Your feet don’t plod the path I trod.

I am multidimensional, multi-intentional, multi-generational
So much more than multiracial
Yes, my blood is multinational
It may be rich but it’s still red
So much more than a statistic
Of colored people who shared a bed.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Eyes on the Sparrow-Savanna Nolan

Another new poem by Guest Poet Savanna Nolan

Cary Grant once said something like
“I faked it until it was true.”
And so, feeling like a small, french-fry-driven sparrow
I tried to enter the room with the swagger of a dragon, an impenetrable hide.
One small stumble—a spill, a botched job, wrong name—
Is all it takes to spoil the masquerade
And in the blaze of a blush the dragon is gone
And only the small sparrow remains,
Drenched by rain and mistakes,
Frantically searching for french fries.

Tracheotomy-Savanna Nolan

New poem by Guest Poet Savanna Nolan

Sir, I am more than just my chart.
I am a person, not a med student’s treat,
and though I don’t speak and my flesh is char-
ed, I am more than a puzzle of meat
that you talk to in search of a trace
of life. You don’t talk about yourself, but I cheat
and know enough of life to see through your chat.
I see the ring you wear—your favorite charm—
from the sweetheart asleep in a bed you long to race
home to. Finish with me and she’s just a tram
ride away—the cure to your heart’s ache.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

To John, Over the Years

Hello,

Frances remembers when you left
the tears dropped in her oatmeal.

Frances wanted to follow the tracks you made
she was angry when i wouldn't let her.

Frances slept with your shirt tonight
she thought that she could smell you.

You should call Frances
she needs to hear your voice.

Frances took down all your pictures
she put them in a box.

Frances didn't want to go to school today
she hoped that you would take her.

Frances tried to call you
the number didn't work.

Yesterday, Frances was in a play
I saw her check the crowd for you.

Frances got her ears pierced
she didn't mention you.

it was Frances' birthday
she kept checking the mail.

Frances kissed a boy today
i don't think she wanted you to know.

Frances fell in love
she wanted to ask you a question.

the boy Frances was with left
she said he was just like you.

Frances graduated today
i thought you'd like this picture.

Frances moved into her dorm
you were nowhere on her mind.

Frances has been thinking a lot
she wondered where you were.

Frances bought a car
she asked some guy to help her.

Frances got her masters
she went somewhere for a job.

Frances moved back in
she wanted to be close.

Frances saw me writing this
she said that i should stop.

Frances met a boy
she said he's not like you.

Frances got a ring tonight
she's planning her new life.

Frances didn't want to go down the aisle
she thought that you would call.

Frances' husband bought a house
they want to start a family.

Frances said you're not invited...

i guess that's all,
um, you can write if you want.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Series Review: Harry Potter and the Author Who Didn’t Know When to Stop


You're going to hate me now...


click on images for sources

For more than 10 years the world has been suffering from Harry Potter mania. In 1997, J.K. Rowling released the first Potter book. Today, with books, movies, video games and other merchandise, the Harry Potter brand is now worth $15 million (exchange4media). Rowling’s seven books have been translated into 64 languages and sold over 375 million copies (Glovin). She is now the highest earning novelist in history, a history that has included the likes of Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and C.S. Lewis and for that I have to respect her. But 4,126 long pages after I opened the first installment of Harry Potter to when I closed the last book, I still have no idea why the series has became a worldwide phenomena. It’s just not that good.

True, the books are an easy read with a fairly entertaining plotline but they’re not much more than that. Readers around the world have been arguing about whether or not the books contain any social implications, but after reading them all you can find is the classic good versus evil conflict (Bristow). Compared with books like The Chronicles of Narnia in which messages about religion and humanity were cleverly tucked inside enthralling children’s stories about a secret world, Harry Potter seems flat.


The characters themselves are one dimensional, Hermione is the brains, Ron is the comic relief, and Harry is the Average Joe who succeeds with a lot of help from his friends and more than a little bit of luck. Rowling claimed that the latter half of the series was more mature, but all that happened was a few characters were killed off in some deus ex machina plot twists and Harry became an angst ridden adolescent over his obviously doomed to fail relationship with the older, stereotypically named, Cho Chang.

Yet, even with all of these shortcomings the entire plotline of all seven books isn’t bad at all. It’s entertaining and simplistic, you can enjoy it without having to put very much thought into it, it’s literary fast food. The problem with fast food is that too much makes you sick and Rowling doesn’t seem to understand this. Several hundred of her 4,126 pages are not only pointless but also boring. She could have told the same story much more effectively in half that number pages.



Rowling not only violates the less-is-more guideline of writing by also the show-don’t-tell rule. After the release of the final Potter book, Rowling made an announcement that came as a surprise to many fans- Harry’s mentor and one of the main characters, Dumbledore was gay and had a love affair (Siegel). Once a book is published a writer shouldn’t be able to announce parts that she neglected to actually write in the books. A series like Harry Potter needs to be a complete world on its own, just as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of Rings are. If anyone can read more than four thousand pages of a seven book series and not know that one of the main characters is gay and lived a full, but secret, life then the writer of those pages has not done her job.

Oh, and just in case this essay isn’t clear, it was supposed to be about how Harry Potter is actually a great literary work, I just neglected to mention that.


Works Cited

1. Exchange4media.com. International: Harry Potter, the $15 Billion Man. 5-26-08.
http://www.exchange4media.com/kids/KidsFullStory.asp?news_id=26820&tag=21718. 7-16-07

2. Glovin, David. Rowling Warns of Potter Plagiarism in Trial Testimony (Update4). 5-26-08. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601102&sid=aR2uXKyRcjAQ. 4-14-08.

3. Bristow, Jennie. Harry Potter and the Meaning of Life. 5-26-08. http://www.spiked-online.com/Articles/00000006DE0C.htm. 6-19-03

4. Siegel, Hanna. Rowling Lets Dumbledore Out of the Closet. 5-26-08. http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=3755544. 10-20-07

Sunday, August 9, 2009

There’s No Place Like Home, If You Can Find One ( Article from 2008)

(This represents a different aspect of the subject brought up in my last post)

I saw them in class everyday, they were at every school function. I ate lunch with him, did class projects with him, fought with him, laughed with him, after a party he walked me back to my car. At the prom, one of them danced the robot. We were not close friends, only classmates, but never once did I ever think ‘these boys are sex offenders,’ but they were and we all knew it.

In my lifetime, I have known four men who have committed sexual crimes. Two of them were too young to be registered, one of them fled the country, one was incarcerated.

I will never excuse their actions, but I will say that people who commit sexual crimes or are accused of committing them are individuals with family, friends, and deeply rooted emotional problems. When we talk about sex offenders we tend to group them into a faceless lump. If they were your old friends, your classmates, your male relatives, you would not dismiss them so easily.

I can never say that all sex offenders can be fully rehabilitated. One of my classmates committed another nonsexual crime and has since dropped out of high school. He now works in the town, but he will probably never outrun the reputation and scars of his past.

My other classmate was arrested from the school the year after I graduated. His crime involved lewd acts with a minor at the after school program, even though he was supposed to be under supervision.

While their actions are unforgivable, they are not the hardened criminals you think of when you hear “sex offender.” The came from broken, low income families. They had parents and other family members in jail, they moved around from home to home, and suffered abuse and neglect. I have watched them struggle to fit in and keep up in school, succeed and then relapse.

It is hard to watch someone fight a battle they are losing. Especially, in a small town, like mine was, where everybody knows your name. Communities, have to figure out what to do with these people. How can you help them to live normal lives, as well as keep them out of high risk areas which offer opportunities for behavioral relapses?

This is the question that Carson is asking itself. The Daily Breeze reported that 30 registered sex offenders have been living in the Carson Plaza Hotel-a high concentration for a city that considers itself a “vibrant city with a small town atmosphere.”

click on image to see source

Rita Boggs, a professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills and a member of the politically active group Carson Citizens for Reform, said that the city council is still going over the situation and suggestions have been made for the city to limit the number of sex offenders allowed to live in a specific area.

“ We can ask that there be no more than a certain number,” Boggs said.

Boggs also said that, at the next council meeting, City Attorney Bill Wynder will give a presentation based on how other surrounding cities have dealt with similar problems.

“They are human beings and they do in fact have a right to live someplace,“ said Gilbert Smith who has lived in Carson for 45 years and was the city’s third mayor.

“Do you build a place isolate in the desert somewhere…I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Smith said.

Smith said that establishing quotas for how many sex offenders can live in an area would not be effective because arriving at a specific number would be problematic. He also said that sending out public notices could cause a “community panic,” at the very least, he said he thinks that local jurisdiction and law enforcement agencies should be aware of where and how many sex offenders are living in the city.

Both Boggs and Smith said that, at the last city council meeting, the number of sex offenders reported at the Carson Plaza Hotel was down to 10. However, the Daily Breeze and the Office of the Attorney General’s online list of registered sex offenders say the number is between 25-30.

“It’s been since reported that there are 10 (sex offenders) as of yesterday,” Hitesh Patel, general manager of the hotel, said.

Patel said that there has been a surge of misinformation and sensationalism created by the initial Daily Breeze article.

“We’re bound by law to provide housing…We’re running a business here, we need to protect the livelihood of our business, but we share the concerns of all the residents,” Patel said.

He went on to say that the hotel is complying with the law in everyway, but it has chosen not to post signs about the sex offenders because it would deter business.

Patel said the Carson Sheriff’s Department said the average amount of time that each parolee spent at the hotel was about two weeks. They are placed at the hotel by the state parole board, Patel said.

This is what Smith said he is most concerned about.

“I don’t think our community should be the dumping ground for any kind of activity that other communities find undesirable,” Smith said.

According to an article in the Daily Breeze, state parole officials “identified (the) hotel as a viable spot to house sex offenders because of its location.”

While no one seems to have the right answer to what should be done with sex offenders on and after parole, I think that remembering the fact that all concerned are human beings, is the most important part of the discussion.

Update: Carson, CA Passes Ban Prohibiting More than One Sex Offender from Living in a Single Dwelling

Pure and Simple Truth (2006)


click on photo for source

Oscar Wilde’s book The Picture of Dorian Gray backs up his remark that “the pure and simple truth is never pure or simple” or in other words, facts are never black or white, cut and dry. In the story Dorian’s gift of eternal youth, which would seem to be a blessing, turns out to be a curse, inadvertently leading him to commit several murders including that of Basil his friend and the very man who painted the “Picture of Dorian Gray.”


In today’s society I see another such enigma concerning the issue of older men with under-aged girls. Society asks, “What is the truth? Is it always a crime or not?” Some see this situation with the view that the “older man” is always at fault while others, like me, evaluate each case depending on its surrounding circumstances.


Take for instance the case of 22 -year -old Matt Koso and 14-year-old Crystal Koso whose situation was brought to public attention by the ABC show 20/20. Matt and Crystal, though eight years apart, had been friends for several years before their relationship developed into a romance. In fact, it was Crystal who took the step to move them to the next level by initiating the first kiss. Soon they were married in Kansas, which permitted the union, with the consent of both their parents who felt that marriage was the best move since Crystal had recently found out that she was carrying Matt’s baby.


With the illusion that their problems were settled Matt and Crystal tried to set up a loving home to raise their newborn baby, Samara. However, even though the USA legally accepted their marriage, Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning has proceeded to prosecute Matt for first-degree sexual assault. This move ignited a public outcry on the Koso’s behalf. In his own defense Bruning stated, “When somebody has sex with a 12-year-old who’s a grown man, you can’t suddenly try to fix it by saying, ‘Let’s go get a piece of paper (marriage license).’”


As Matt awaited trial, with Crystal’s support, he hoped that he would at least be granted probation so that he could provide for his family. As he said in his own words, “One thing’s for dang sure, I’m gonna be the best father I can be. And I ain’t gonna treat my little girl badly. I mean, like I said, I’m going to grow up and just give her all I can give.”


In February of 2006, Matt was sentenced to 18-30 months in prison with no probation. He was released in May 2007.


As more and more cases of older men having sexual relationships with under-age girls are brought to light, the truth, though clear to me, always seems to be perverted by those like Bruning. While I do not advocate child marriage or rape, I feel that in situations such as the Koso’s, if both people are consenting individuals then the older member of the relationship bears no blame. Today, children are maturing at a much earlier age and before we put the brand of “sex-offender” on men who have relationships with younger girls we need to see if we are really dealing out justice or just simply settling for a one-size fits all solution?


I believe that if both parties feel like they love each other and want to be together, then they should be allowed that freedom. At the very least, no legal action should be taken unless it is against both parties. These girls should not be allowed to cop out and say, “they were coerced” when at the beginning they confessed that they wanted to be in these relationships. They need to take responsibility for there own actions. It is because of people such as these girls and Jon Bruning that Matt and Crystal’s lives were derailed.


A Community in Harmony

“Don’t interrupt Mommy while she’s on the phone…Leave the kitchen please…Excuse me, my kids just left the house,” Jackie Shannon, adjunct professor at the California State University, Dominguez Hills, said as she put down the telephone to round up her two sons, ages 3 and 5.

Besides teaching music at the university and keeping an eye on her boys, Shannon still finds time to practice her skill on the French horn for up to three hours everyday and play in several community orchestras including the Carson-Dominguez Hill Symphony Orchestra.

photo from the City of Carson

Since 1972, musicians of all ages and from all walks of life have been joining together to form the Carson-Dominguez Hills Symphony Orchestra.

Even though Carson is most famous for having its politicians arrested and its council meetings broadcasted on YouTube, the semiprofessional community orchestra has also made a name for itself by winning the National Recreation and Park Association Arts and Humanities Award.

The orchestra has come a long way in its 35 years.

Les Woodson, a tuba player who has been with the orchestra from day one, said when they played their first concert, in October of 1972, they weren’t very good at all.

“There was a guy who wanted to start an orchestra…He had a big ego,” Woodson said of the orchestra’s first director, whose name he couldn’t even remember.

It wasn’t until 1975, when Frances Steiner, professional cellist, conductor, and adjunct professor at the California State University, Dominguez Hills took over as director that the orchestra started to improve, Woodson said. “(The orchestra) would not have survived,” he said.

It was under Steiner’s direction that the initially city-funded orchestra combined with the California State University, Dominguez Hills to become the Carson-Dominguez Hills Symphony Orchestra. The 50 to 60 members of the orchestra get paid a stipend ranging from $150-$200 per show.

Through the partnership, the orchestra gives university music students the opportunity to perform with seasoned professional and semiprofessional musicians, Hector Salazar, trombone player and assistant conductor for the orchestra said.

Salazar has been in the Carson-Dominguez Hills Symphony Orchestra for 20 years. He has been playing the trombone since middle school and he now teaches music and conducts professionally.

“Community regional orchestra is really important…They offer concerts to people who can’t afford to go to the philharmonic,” Salazar said.

Every year the orchestra puts on at least five concerts for the Carson-Dominguez Hills community, which include two evening concerts and three children’s concerts. They rehearse only five times before each show. Both students and community members are glad to have an outlet for their musical talent.

Shannon, a former professional musician, who now teaches music at the California State University, Dominguez Hills, and gives private lessons, said performing with her students helps her connect with them and reach out to the community through her music.

Shannon has been playing the French horn ever since elementary school, when she said she literally heard the instrument calling to her.

She said she remembers going to the school gym to hear a sampling of all of the instruments available at the school. It was the day when she was supposed to pick what instrument she was going to play for the school band. Before she even saw the instruments, she had already chosen.

“I heard this beautiful sound and I said I want to play that instrument,” Shannon said.

Shannon, whose husband plays trombone for the Beach City Sling Band, is already preparing her children to follow in their parents musical footsteps. Since her sons were 6-months-old, they have been taking piano and Orff music lessons. In Orff lessons, young children are introduced to music, especially percussion instruments.

Even though Shannon said Orff is basically a parent tapping rhythms on their baby’s back, she said she it gave her kids a goods sense of rhythm.

Meanwhile, Steiner, whose mother was a professional violinist and father a professional cellist, said it was never important to either marry a musician or push her daughter into music.

Since she was 15-years-old Steiner has been performing professionally; she started taking lesson at age 5. By age 21, she was a fulltime professional cellist. She has performed with orchestras on both the East and West coasts including at the Kennedy Center and the Los Angeles Art Museum. However, she decided that the life of a professional musician wasn’t for her and instead went on to study at the University of Southern California, Harvard University, Temple University, and several music schools in France, New York and Vermont.

“It was a competitive lifestyle…somewhat political,” she said of her life as a professional musician.

“I opted very early to teach and play,” said Steiner who, besides teaching at the university, also directs the Chamber Orchestra of South Bay and the Southwest Youth Music Festival Orchestra along with the Carson-Dominguez orchestra. She still finds time to practice the cello.

For many, being part of the Carson-Dominguez Hills Symphony Orchestra meant finding a place where they could keep their musical skills in tune.

“I always looked for opportunities to perform. I was determined when I got out of college to not forget my music like so many other people I knew,” Tuba player Les Woodson said.

Woodson, who is a financial advisor, started playing the tuba in high school.

His father was also a musician who played the violin and the piano and finished fourth in an international competition for barbershop quartets. His mother played the piano and his siblings sang in a choir. When Woodson was a child, his parents made him take piano lessons but he never enjoyed playing music until he found the tuba.

After high school, during the first years of the Vietnam War, he joined the National Guard Band. Woodson thanks the tuba for keeping him out of Vietnam.

Tuba saved my life,” he said repeatedly. Woodson, who doesn’t live in Carson, drives 85 miles from his home in Crestline just to perform with the orchestra.

Woodson isn’t the only musician who goes out of his way to be a part of the orchestra. Joe Jackson, a tuba player for the Carson-Dominguez Hills Symphony Orchestra as well as a professional musician, music teacher, and steam train engineer for Disneyland also makes an effort to play with the group, which he’s been with since 1996.

“It’s really hard to juggle and sometimes I don’t juggle as well as I should. It really comes down to picking and choosing,” Jackson said.

Even with his multiple jobs and his wedding coming up in February, Jackson
makes time to practice from one to four hours a day.

He’s been playing tuba since middle school.

“I always liked things that were big. I saw the tuba and I was really impressed by its size,”

Jackson said. He went on to major in tuba performance at the University of Southern California.

Now, however, he said it’s the tuba’s sound rather than its size which keeps him interested. He often performs tuba solos for the Carson-Dominguez orchestra and freelances for other orchestras.

“I really enjoy solos, that’s really when I’m the happiest,” Jackson said.

Even if they have little else in common, for Jackson and the other members of the orchestra, it’s the love of music and the happiness they get out of it that bonds them together.

“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it,” Shannon said.

Whatever they are in the rest of their lives-students, teachers, theme park steam train conductors, financial advisors, computer technicians, mother, fathers, sons and daughters, when they come together as the Carson-Dominguez Hills Symphony Orchestra, they’re all musicians.

“Orchestra is like a sense of family,” Salazar said.