Wednesday, November 12, 2008

joint letter of AFSC and FCNL

from the American Friends Service Committee ( and Friends Committee of National Legislation

November 7, 2008
Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington DC, 20520

Dear Secretary Rice,
We are deeply concerned about the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s
North Kivu province. As you know, the recent surge in violence, sparked by fighting
between the CNDP rebel forces, local militias, and the DR Congo’s national army, has
displaced tens of thousands and led to widespread killings, looting, and distressing human rights abuses, including sexual and gender based violence. We are alarmed by the lack of humanitarian access to the tens of thousands of Congolese civilians who fled the recent violence and the continued insecurity that has led to the reevacuation of many aid groups working to assist them. While U.N. agencies stepped up efforts to deliver assistance earlier this week, tens of thousands of civilians are still without shelter, and many lack access to food and clean water. While the cease-fire is holding in Goma, reports indicate fighting has resumed in other
parts of North Kivu. U.S. resources and attention from the most senior levels are needed urgently to protect civilians and prevent a further escalation of the crisis.
In coordination with ongoing diplomatic efforts by the newly appointed U.N. special
envoy, the French, British, and engaged African countries, and building on Assistant
Secretary Jendayi E. Frazer’s recent visit to Kinshasa, we urge you to:
• Appeal to all armed actors to immediately cease hostilities.
• Prevail on all parties to allow unfettered access for humanitarian relief assistance
to civilians who have been forced to flee their homes and communities.
• Urge all countries to halt the supply of weapons to armed parties.
• Persuade all armed groups in North Kivu to fully participate in the comprehensive
disengagement plan, including the separation of forces and brassage processes.
• Support the convened negotiations in Nairobi to include all actors in order to
review their responsibilities under previously signed agreements, notably the
November 2007 Nairobi Communiqué and the January 2008 Goma Peace
• Work with Security Council Members, the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping
Operations and UN member countries to improve the capacity of the U.N.’s
FRIENDS COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL LEGISLATION peacekeeping operation in the DRC (MONUC) to better protect civilians and create space for the provision of humanitarian assistance.
• Increase efforts to find long-term and non-military solutions in the eastern DRC,
including an increase in civilian capacities on the ground to undertake important
work in areas such as community policing, justice and reconciliation, and broadbased

Fighting and unspeakable atrocities have continued in the DRC for far too long.
Promoting a sustainable peace, protecting civilians, and providing humanitarian relief can be achieved with these recommended steps. We appreciate your immediate attention and support your leadership role in addressing the urgent crisis in Congo.

Mary Ellen McNish
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Joe Volk
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers)

CC: Assistant Secretary Jendayi E. Frazer, Africa Bureau, US State Department

Monday, July 14, 2008

mon 14 july 08: cleaning, cookies, genocide

today i interspersed my house-cleaning and baking cookies with continuing to read philip gourevitch's we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, an account of the rwandan genocide of 1959-1996. (it's inadequate to simply write 1994, which marked the height--but not the extent--of the extermination campaign.) i started reading when i woke up, with my fuzzy morning brain, and picked it up again during breaks--lunch, while waiting for a mopped floor to dry, etc. it was an uncomfortable feeling, attending to this solidly middle class life of scented candles, carpet refresher, & houseplants while reading about a boy who carried a double bed on his head as he fled his native land, or a woman who lost her entire family to a man and his machete, only to find the killer return from exile to inhabit next-door. (303 "A certain Girumuhatse is back") a chief in the resistance who operates from his 'office' of a gazebo covered with UN plastic sheeting: "'Truly, he said, 'the Hutus want to exterminate all the Tutsis.' His own people, too where having a hard time protecting themselves: their fighters included boys of six and seven, and their arsenal consisted largely of spears, bows, and arrows, and homemade rifles that fired nails. 'It's not an automatic,' the Mwami said of such a gun, 'but it kills.'" (288) not cognitive dissonance proper, no, but it gave me an unsettled pause nonetheless.

middle-class frivolities abounded later this evening, when i started baking vegan chocolate chip cookies for my boyfriend and his roommate arthur. for brian's i bought a special bar of fair-trade chocolate--he admirably rejects the blood variety (learn more here)--and used fair-trade dark brown sugar. i spent at least an hour reading and researching recipes and the results, thus far, have been divine. i'm letting the cookies rest in the fridge for 12, 24 hours and then sprinkling the tops with sea salt--this may be my new "secret". the cookies are a bit overly sweet (even with 70 per cent chocolate) so the salt should counterbalance. sweet + salty is ne'er a miss, though, from normandy's savoury sablé to french fries dipped in wendy's frosties.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

sat 12 july 08: jamie stewart

jamie stewart, lead singer of my favorite band xiu xiu, keeps a blog at that i visit not infrequently. today i enjoyed this bit:

(I already typed this once, but I accidentally pulled the plug out of
my ancient laptop whilst chasing a moth around my bedroom and now I
can't really remember what I said... maybe the moth was sent to
prevent me from making an idiot of myself via the internet ((again??))
It happens too much. The Moth is dead now and I am full of guilt!)


favorite device that makes sound is probably my viola ...
my favorite creatures what make sound are my cats. my cat Nani meeps and mews to wake me up in the morning and purrs near face before we fall asleep. Osgrr, cat #2, barks and quacks - he is a supreme weirdo cat.
my favorite place is the house i live in and the thugs that live in it - they both collectively and respectively all make such good noisy conversational music.

My favorite thing that makes sound was my cat Harry, he was a talker and would meow perpetually until he was fed or got attention. This ment he doubled as a great alarm clock and sometimes as a good excuse to get out of a two hour phone call from aunt Mildred. Alas he died last month so I had to buy a real alarm clock, the alarm clock's shit at keeping me warm and loving me though thus far.

Friday, July 11, 2008

fri 11 july 08: italo calvino

"dream-like story-telling at the twilight of an empire" advertises the back cover enticingly. though a short work--only 165 pages--calvino's invisible cities took me an awfully long time to finish because

one, i kept falling asleep while reading it--curiously enough, the young venetian traveller polo's fantastical stories seem to invite the reader to set the book aside to succumb to one's own reveries and oh, i am weak-willed

two, i had to look up a lot of words--astrolabes, halberds, chrysophrase, chalcedony, windlasses, norias, cuirass, barracans, & so on & so forth

three, i simply started to feel as though i was disrespecting the book by trying to read it quickly. this goes with pt 1, regarding the mood of the book. the stories are told in khan's garden, where polo and the emperor spend much of their time reclining on pillows smoking long amber pipes. the prose beseeches you to slow down and luxuriate with them from your own couchant position, to savor polo's stories and linger over them, to digest at a depressed rate, as through an opium-cloud. not only irreverent to rush through it, then, but damned near impossible.

from invisible cities:

Finally the journey leads to the city of Tamara. You penetrate it along streets thick with signboards jutting from the walls. The eye does not see things but images of things that mean other things: pincers point out the tooth-drawer's house; a tankard, the tavern; halberds, the barracks; scales, the grocer's. Statues and shields depict lions, dolphins, towers, stars: a sign that something--who knows what?--has as its sign a lion or a dolphin or a tower or a star. Other signals warn of what is forbidden in a given place (to enter the alley with wagons, to urinate behind the kiosk, to fish with your pole from the bridge) and what is allowed (watering zebras, playing bowls, burning relatives' corpses). From the doors of the temples the gods' statues are seen, each portrayed with his attributes--so that the worshipper can recognise them and address his prayers correctly. (13)

This city which cannot be expunged from the mind is like an armature, a honeycomb in whose cells each of us can place the things he wants to remember: names of famous men, virtues, numbers, vegetable and mineral classifications, dates of battles, constellations, parts of speech. Between each idea and each point of the itinerary an affinity or a contrast can be established, serving as an immediate aid to memory. So the world's most learned men are those who have memorized Zora. (15)

Travelers return from the city of Zirma with distinct memories: a blind black man shouting in a crowd, a lunatic teetering on a skyscraper's cornice, a girl walking a puma on a leash. Actually man of the blind men who tap their canes on Zirma's cobblestones are black; in every skyscraper there is someone going mad; all lunatics spend hours on cornices; there is no puma that some girl does not raise, as a whim. The city is redundant: it repeats itself so that something will stick in the mind. (19)

Newly arrived and totally ignorant of the Levantine languages, Marco Polo could express himself only with gestures, leaps, cries of wonder and horror, animal barkings or hootings, or with objects he took from his knapsack-ostrich plumes, pea-shooters, quartzes--which he arranged in front of himself like chessmen. (21)

After a seven days' march through woodland, the traveler directed toward Baucis cannot see the city and yet he has arrived. The slender stilts that rise from the ground at a great distance from one another and are lost above the clouds support the city. You climb them with ladders. On the ground the inhabitants rarely show themselves: having already everything they need up there, they prefer not to come down. Nothing of the city touches the earth except those long flamingo legs on which it rests and, when the days are sunny, a pierced, angular shadow that falls on the foliage.
There are three hypotheses about the inhabitants of Baucis: that they hate the earth; that they respect it so much they avoid all contact; that they love it as it was before they existed and with spyglasses and telescopes aimed downward they never tire of examining it, leaf by leaf, stone by stone, ant by ant, contemplating with fascination their own absence. (77)

POLO: perhaps all that is left of the world is a wasteland covered with rubbish heaps, and the hanging garden of the Great Khan's place. It is our eyelids that separate them, but we cannot know which is inside and which outside. (104)


i'm working on COSMICOMICS now, also beautiful and slow-going.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

weds 9 july 5:19pm

Natasha was walking along the very edge of the water, so that the childsize waves of the lake plashed up to her feet. Somewhere beyond the woods a train passed, as if it were travelling along a musical string, and both of them stopped to listen. The day had become a bit more golden, a bit softer, and the woods on the far side of the lake now had a bluish cast.
Near the train station, Wolfe bought a paper bag of plums, but they turned out to be sour. Seated in the empty wooden compartment of the train, he threw them at intervals out the window, and kept regretting that, in the cafe, he had not filched some of those cardboard disks you put under beer mugs.
"They soar so beautifully, Natasha, like birds. It's a joy to watch."
--from "Natasha" by Vladimir Nabokov

the end is breathtaking--a fact especially felt by this reader, who was jogging a nine-min mile when her eyes scanned the triumphantly eerie verses that threw her whole body into a cold sweat.


this afternoon a friend came over for tea & company while we read together. what better way to spend a lazy afternoon than in the richly contented presence of a fellow book-lover? each up to his or her own interest, yet still connected by a busy mind? i chose poetry--gwendolyn brooks' BLACKS, in fact. here's one i like, that made me think of another of my best friends, jina:

at the hairdresser's

Gimme an upsweep, Minnie,
With humpteen baby curls.
'Bout time I got some glamour.
I'll show them girls.

Think they so fly a-struttin'
With they wool a-blowin' 'round.
Wait'll they see my upsweep.
That'll jop 'em back on the ground.

Got Madam C.J. Walker's first.
Got Poro Grower next.
Ain't none of 'em worked with me, Min.
But I ain't vexed.

Long hair's out of style anyhow, ain't it?
Now it's tie it up high with curls.
So gimme an upsweep, Minnie.
I'll show them girls.

tues 8 july 08

today's diet

kundera, slowness--a re-read
adorno, the culture industry--introduction and first essay
adorno, prisms--the essay on walter benjamin, "a portrait of"

more on the adorno later. here's an indulgent bit from slowness:

Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Ah, where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafing heroes of folk song, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars? Have they vanished along with footpaths, with grasslands and clearings, with nature? There is a Czech proverb that describes their easy indolence by a metaphor: 'They are gazing at God's windows.' A person gazing at God's windows is not bored; he is happy. In our world, indolence has turned into having nothing to do, which is a completely different thing: a person with nothing to do is frustrated, bored, is constantly searching for the activity he lacks.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

7 july 08, arthur's birthday

in honor of a friend's birthday i re-read the book that i planned to give him so that i could mark it up with my special marks. (he hasn't yet had the fortune to borrow a book i'd actually marked.) i enjoy reading marked-up books, so long as said marks are discreet. mine happen to be. (i realized i haven't entertained the thought that arthur might dislike marked-up books; but their being my marks, i do not expect him to be too miffed.)

anyway, as i said, my system is discreet:
1. checks: where i laugh
2. a single straight line: by a passage i'd like to revisit
3. two straight lines (parallel): by something particularly powerful
4. i write words i don't know at the top of the page, so that i can look them up later (i fill in the definition at the top of the page).

laughable loves by milan kundera registered (appropriately) a surfeit of checks; the parallel lines, too, were no laughing matter. only two words escaped me, and both begin with the letter S:

superannuated: retired because of age or infirmity; to old for use, work, service, or position; antiquated or obsolete. (i believe i once knew this word.)
slivovits: (slivovitz) a dry, usually colorless, slightly bitter plum brandy from E Europe.

my favorite story was "the golden apple of eternal desire", no question. i can see how it might become arthur's as well, in the way that he might see a bit of himself in the narrator. (not to mention the fact that i probably enjoy it more to see my beloved friend in it.) for instance, when the narrator's friend steals his book on Etruscan culture in order to flirt with a girl by way of dropping it into her bag, he fumes:

What sense was there in this. The book, which I'd been looking forward to for so long, suddenly found itself in a faraway place. When you came to think of it, it was quite annoying. But nonetheless a certain lunacy happily uplifted me on the wings it promptly provided.

for you see, the book-stealing was done for the benefit of the narrator, who isn't naturally inclined to see the instrumental value of sacrificing his dear book to get a date--he must be cajoled. its preciousness becomes a motif throughout the rest of the story, and during my read kept calling my mind back to a man who loves his books.


apparent upon this read and not my first was some blatant mysogyny in a couple of the stories. blame was appropriately assigned to the speaker character, rather than the author--but i do wonder how he could write so incisively such dubious remarks. but oh, they are good!

"Fortunately women have the miraculous ability to change the meaning of their actions after the event." (from "the hitchhiking game")


Sunday, July 6, 2008

sunday 6 july 2008 8:08pm

last night, i read books instead of sleeping.
this afternoon, i bought books instead of sleeping.
i drove home and read some of those books instead of sleeping.
this evening, i read books while my boyfriend is sleeping.
tonight, i will sleep.
(unless i am reading.)

here's what i found that i liked:
(from the best american nonrequired reading 2006 collection)

the introductory essay by matt groening, which you can read here
who knew!


"Finally, I am also convinced, but cannot prove, that we humans have an instinct to collaborate, and that we have rational reasons for collaborating. I am convinced that ultimately this rationality and this instinct for collaboration will prevail over the shortsighted egoistic and aggressive instinct that produces exploitation and war. Rationality and the instinct of collaboration have already given us large regions and long periods of peace and prosperity. Ultimately, they will lead us to a planet without countries, without wars, without patriotism, without religions, without poverty, where we will be able to share the world. Actually, maybe I am not sure I truly believe that I believe this, but I do want to believe that I believe this."
--Carlo Rovelli, physicist, Institut Universitaire de France and Universite de la Mediterranee; author of Quantum Gravity


"But he was no longer afraid. Numbers aren't the important thing, he told himself. The countdown has no meaning. Now he knew: what matters is deciding in your heart to accept another person completely. When you do that, it is always the first time and the last.

One morning, the doctor notices that the dark kidney-shaped stone has disappeared from her desk. And she knows: it won't be coming back."
--Haruki Murakami, from "The Kidney-Shaped Stone that Moves Every Day" (which I read for the first time in 2006 or so)


"If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don't have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I'm not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practising an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."
--Kurt Vonnegut, "Here is a Lesson in Creative Writing" from A Man Without a Country

<3 adrienne

Saturday, April 26, 2008

fact: i write fiction on the weekends

all saturday afternoon, actually. but i'm too shy to post any of it, even for an invisible non-audience.

my dad would call that "jes' plum sorry." i can't say i disagree.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

reasons i love my roommates

this morning i stumbled into the kitchen shortly after nine to find my housemate benson scrubbing at the floor, the mass of various vegetable shavings & etc from last night's cooking escapades in a neat swept pile.

thinking to this evening, when i finish up the curry, pad thai, and couscous, i sighed:
A: "oh benson... i'm going to make another mess today."
he didn't skip a beat:
B: "is okay. i shall clean that one up as well."

also, last night on my way upstairs i heard my other housemate etienne coming in from work. "i am going to bed!" i announced. "sleep well!" he cried. "you are beautiful one."

a lucky one, i am.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

honeymooning with richard brautigan: day three

ending on a sad note.

"I was young. Everybody else on the bus, about nineteen of them, were men and women in their sixties, seventies and eighties, and I only in my twenties. They stared at me and I started at them. We were all embarrased and uncomfortable.
How had this happened? Why were we suddenly the players in this cruel fate and could not take our eyes off one another?
A man about seventy-eight began to clutch desperately at the lapel of his coat. A woman maybe sixty-three began to filter her hands, finger by finger, through a white handkerchief.
I felt terrible to remind them of their lost youth, their passage through slender years in such a cruel and unusual manner. Why were we tossed this way together as if we were nothing but a weird salad served on the seats of a God-damn bus?"
--from THE OLD BUS


"His baggy no-style clothes covered him like the banner of a defeated country and he looked as if they only mail he had ever gotten in his life were bills."

i want to give this last line to Andrea. i think she will appreciate it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

honeymooning with richard brautigan: day two


It's a high building in Singapore that holds the only beauty for this San Francisco day where I am walking down the street, feeling terrible and watching my mind function with the efficiency of a liquid pencil.
A young mother passes by talking to her little girl who is really too small to be able to talk, but she's talking anyway and very excitedly to her mother about something. I can't quite make out what she is saying because she's so little.
I mean, this is a tiny kid.
Then her mother answers her to explode my day with a goofy illumination. 'It was a high building in Singapore,' she says to the little girl who enthusiastically replies like a bright sound-colored penny, "Yes, it was a high building in Singapore!"


As you can see, I am an expert on death in California. My credentials stand up to the closest inspection. I am qualified to continue with another story told to me by my friend who also works as a gardener for a very wealthy old woman in Marin County. She had a nineteen-year-old dog that she loved deeply and the dog responded to this love by dying very slowly from senility.
Every day my friend went to work the dog would be a little more dead. It was long past the proper time for the dog to die, but the dog had been dying for so long that it had lost the way to death.
This happens to a lot of old people in this country. They get so old and live with death so long that they lose the way when it comes time to actually die.
--from "winter rug"

honeymooning with richard brautigan: day one

a recent obsession, i'll be posting some of my favorite bits from a collection entitled Revenge of the Lawn. "He was a gentle, troubled, deeply odd guy." (Tom McGuane on Richard Brautigan) and i love him.

"The novelist was in his late forties, tall, reddish, and looked as if life had given him an endless stream of two-timing girlfriends, five-day drunks and cars with bad transmissions."

My entrance into the thing came about this way: One day I was standing in front of my shack, eating an apple and staring at a black ragged toothache sky that was about to rain.
What I was going was like an occupation for me. I was that involved at looking at the sky and eating the apple. You would have thought that I had been hired to do it with a good salary and a pension if I stared at the sky long enough.

The place was small and muddy and smelled like stale rain and had a large unmade bed that looked as if it had been a partner to some of the saddest love-making this side of The Cross.
There was a green bushy half-table with a couple of insect-like chairs and a little sink and a small stove that was used for cooking and heating.
There were some dirty dishes in the little sink. The dishes looked as if they had always been dirty: born dirty to last forever.
I could hear a radio playing Western music someplace in the trailer, but I couldn't find it. I looked all over but it was nowhere in sight. It was probably under a shirt or something.

all from "1/3 1/3 1/3"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

16 april 08

but one reason to love sir bertrand russell:

"Curious learning not only makes unpleasant things less unpleasant, but also makes pleasant things more pleasant. I have enjoyed peaches and apricots more since I have known that they were first cultivated in China in the early days of the Han dynasty; that Chinese hostages held by the great King Kaniska introduced them into India, whence they spread to Persia, reaching the Roman Empire in the first century of our era; that the word 'apricot' is derived from the same Latin source as the word 'precocious,' because the apricot ripens early; and that the A at the beginning was added by mistake, owing to a false etymology. All this makes the fruit taste much sweeter."
--from "'Useless' Knowledge"

and how i look forward to their being in season once more!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

weds 2 april 08

re-reading the part that makes me laugh the hardest in one of my oldest favorites:

"For a moment, I considered running behind these tourists, but just then an improbable satire on a tourist, a wan little figure in Bermuda shorts panting under the weight of a monstrous apparatus with lenses that certainly must have been a CinemaScope camera, called out a greeting to me. Upon closer inspection, I noted that it was, of all people, Patrolman Mancuso. I, of course, ignored the Machiavel's faint mongoloid grim by pretending to tighten my earring. Apparently he had been released from his imprisonment in the rest room.
'How you doing?' he persisted illiterately.
'Where is my book?' I demanded terrifyingly.
'I'm still reading it. It's very good,' he answered in terror.
'Profit by its lesson,' I cautioned. 'When you have completed it, I shall ask you to submit to me a written critique and analysis of its message to humanity!'
With that order still ringing magnificently in the air, I strode proudly off down the street. Then, realizing that I had forgotten the wago, I returned grandly to retrieve it. (That wago is a terrible liability. I feel as if I am stuck with a retarded child who deserves constant attention. I feel like a hen sitting on one particularly large tin egg.)"

--A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (p. 271-272)