Latest Entries »

Well, what can I say? I’m bitten.

Smitten.

Yeah, the road bug got me. Travel, music, meeting new people and learning about their lives, catching up (kinda) with friends, letting them know I’m alive and thriving in Los Angeles. That I can do this.

I’M DOING IT.

Let It All Out Summer 2014 Tour pretty much ROCKED.

And I’m ready to do it again.

But that’ll have to wait, though, a month or two, and then *shazam* I’ll be back on the road!

ON IT.

In the meantime here’re some nice gigs upcoming in the Los Angeles area. The flyer says it all :) See ya out there.

Come find me!

Where Josephine will be in August 2014

 

Let It All Out 2014

Let It All Out 2014

early spring

Chilly LA, Hotel Cafe

–Sunday, March 30, 2014, Hotel Café, Los Angeles—

by Josephine Johnson

On a crisp, clear Los Angeles evening, the sun hangs low illuminating, if not warming, a group of plaid, leather and glasses-clad event-goers waiting to enter the Hotel Café.   The line stretches from the back entrance, around the corner and down the alley. It’s after 6 and these keen language-lovers are ready for Conrad Romo’s monthly showcase, Tongue & Groove.

 

Once a month, Romo curates and hosts a night of prose, poetry, short stories and music at the Hotel Cafe. Tongue and Groove regularly highlights a mix of literary up- and-comers as well as veteran writers. Most events also feature a lyric-driven, literary-focused songwriter.

 

It’s a hot ticket. And devotees are willing to wait outside in the chill because they know the warmth that awaits within—ah, well-crafted prose, tight turns of phrase—the heat of savory language.

 

The line grows.

Hotel Cafe, Tongue & Groove

the house fills

 

Snippets of conversation sift and filter: “…Oh yes, Maria’s in New York, now…on a new doc project…talked to Tim yesterday, says she’s doing well”… “for sure a new script with a great team”…”what he shared was focused, best work yet”…”I’m here for Lauren, so happy she’s reading tonight…”  These bits, lilting and laudatory and largely without pretense convey the ethos of the evening: Friends, colleagues, language aficionados checking in and hanging out to support and encourage each other.

 

And then Conrad passes by. With a mop in hand. His pace quick and deliberate. Eyes wide. He chats briefly, smiles, and ducks back inside, clearly focused on the evening ahead.

 

Laughter, conversation continue, the line lively. Eager.

 

Conrad Romo, Tongue & Groove

Conrad Romo, Tongue & Groove

And then the backdoors open. It’s time.

Quickly, the house fills.

 

Inside, candles and low-lit incandescents understate the club’s classy black wooden chairs and tables, crimson walls and mahogany bar so that all eyes are focused on the front stage brightly lit and ready for readers, writers, musicians.

 

Romo decisively takes the stage, introducing each performer. Songwriter Amilia Spicer begins with an original on an abalone-inlay Taylor guitar. With a breathy yet powerful, Emmy Lou-like voice, her music evokes a time gone by. Spicer’s are story songs with each verse a compelling scene in the drama unfolding. And on stage she is at home, a calm master fully in control of her craft. Spicer expends no unnecessary energy.

 

On this night, March 30 the last Sunday of the month, writers Lauren Eggert-Crowe, Michele Matheson, Marley Klaus, David Kendrick and J. Dylan Yates all deliver engaging and powerful prose and poetry, but Michele Matheson and Marley Klaus are the evening’s standouts.

Amilia Spicer

Amilia Spicer

 

Michele Matheson reads a scene from her 2006 novel ‘Saving Angelfish’ in which the protagonist, a near-hopeless junkie, Max, is shooting heroine in the

bathroom while her boyfriend lingers just outside, the door ajar. Matheson immerses herself in the dialog between these characters. The boyfriend asks ‘what would love do?’ Max seated on the toilet and focused solely on the needle puncturing her vein replies in soft annoyance ‘I don’t know’. Pause. Then through Matheson’s voice the boyfriend replies resolutely, calmly ‘love would save me from you’. And he leaves.

 

The audience is so still that the needle could be heard crashing to the apartment’s dingy bathroom floor.

Michelle Matheson

Michele Matheson, Tongue & Groove

Matheson hit a vein with her character and struck a nerve with the audience. In a bigger sense, this scene could be about any moment someone chooses to walk away from a person, place or situation that is no longer good, loving, wholesome or supportive. Matheson poignantly captures the difficult necessity of saving one’s self first. How very hard it can be to choose to leave.

 

When she finishes, the audience breathes an audible, heavy sigh and praises her with vigorous applause.

 

Then Marley Klaus takes the stage.

 

Klaus lightens the mood with a short story about accompanying her 15 year old son to Ozzfest, a heavy metal music conflagration that ignites each summer in the SoCal desert. Her writing is sharp, comic delivery impeccable. She marvels at how 60,000 people can converge for a day in July in a place that she notes ‘spontaneously combusts in the summer’ and of course ‘everyone is wearing black’. Yet she’s determined to provide a much-desired experience for her son and ensure his safety while doing so. Klaus commits to the festival regardless of the death-spraying death lyrics in which everything must die, bleed, kill, die, die. With her wry, analytical humor she surveys the number of ‘fucks’ uttered in one song, one performance, one set length of time; she

Marley Klaus

Marley Klaus

comically describes the near-horror of multiple trash cans catching fire; she details how gallantly her son reacts when two drug-addled concert-goers fall at their feet and begin having sex: “Mom, I think we should stand over there.”

Klaus weathers the angst-y onslaught of all that hormone-fueled death metal rage and emerges as a victorious post-apocalyptic super Mom. She knows for certain she’s forged a new bond of understanding when her son looks her in the eyes and fiercely thanks her. He gets it. His Mom is truly hardcore-awesome, waaay beyond Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Mad Max and Thunderdome.

 

The audience laughs, cheers, applauds wildly, ready to shake fists, scream, burn and fuck something.

 

Romo’s next installment of Tongue and Groove is slated for the last Sunday in April—April 27 at Hotel Café in Hollywood. Rumor has it, he’s planning a similar literary showcase for the OC beginning sometime later this year. Contact Conrad Romo for more info.

listening crowd

listening crowd

Humboldt’s Hidden Treasures

Spreading the love with geocaching

BY 

getout_cropped.jpg
  • PHOTO BY JOSEPHINE JOHNSON
  • Geocacher Jessica Davis’ collection of shiny things.

Over an after-work round of brews, healthcare worker Jessica Davis pipes up, “Well, I’m a treasure hunter,” she says, “I look for GPS locations with hidden treasure caches.” She slips out of the room and proudly returns moments later with two jewelry box-sized treasure chests. One contains a miniature mountain lion, smooth chunks of colored glass, a quartz crystal, a rubber duck keychain, a shark figurine and more tiny, colored trinkets reminiscent of sandbox make-believe. “See,” she says, holding out a bright rainbow heart bracelet, “these are some of the things I’ve found.” She leaves her own little baubles behind, too.

Geocaching is what happens when inquisitive tech geeks hide things and then dare each other to find them. To date, there are more than two million geocache sites all over the world (there’s even one in Antarctica). It started back in 2000, when techie and computer consultant David Ulmer hid a bucket of random objects in the woods near his home in Beaverton, Ore., and challenged his tech buddies to find it in order to test the accuracy of the newly-improved GPS. It’s everywhere in the world, even Old Town, the Arcata Plaza, the community forest and the marsh.

Davis has a second box of trinkets that are “track-ables” with a specific geocaching mission. With their own individual GPS markers, you can trace them as they move from hiding place to hiding place all over the world. She selects a small bunny rabbit and explains, “This one’s mission is to get to San Diego. Next time I head south, I’ll find a cache and leave her there to get her closer to her destination.”

Ready to go hunting? Sign up at geocaching.com to discover this world of secret stashes all around you. Humboldt County is home to hundreds of hidden treasures in town, on the beach, in the forest and even out at sea. Of course, you will need a GPS device or tracking software. If you have a smart phone, you can download the geocaching app directly from the site. The Geocaching app is solid — it also can link you to clues if you’re having a tough time in the field. Go to the maps section on the website and find an area you’d like to scour — again, they’re everywhere! The caches also have difficulty ratings, so on your first few times out, select easy ones. That way you’re less likely to get frustrated and give up.

According to the maps, there’s one at Arcata City Hall, where Heather Leigh Stevens, recreation manager for the city, has watched treasure seekers investigate the ferns, climb the wall and tap on the water fountain just outside her office. “It makes us smile and sometimes laugh,” says Leigh, who has seen her fair share of students, traveling retirees and occasional traveling families trying to find the cache in the past three years. She also notes that the people who do this tend to be focused and tenacious — they keep at it until they find the treasure. “I rarely hear people resort to anger or profanity,” she says. “Most people in this office know where it is, and if someone is having a really hard time, we’ll offer clues. For us in recreation, we like seeing people poking around in the bushes, getting out, getting active.”

If you attempt the Arcata City Hall cache, note that it has an “easy” rating, even though the overhang of the roof skews the satellite signal. It took this reporter 40 minutes. Though said reporter did not swear, she did utter a whole string of “dangs,” “holy cats” and “for goodness sakes” before finally finding it without a clue from the recreation folks. She also crawled around the water fountain numerous times.

Curious? Get out there, Humboldt. And let us know what you find.

 

by Josephine Johnson

Under Dog Rock Star All-Stars

Under Dog Rock Star All-Stars

Well, for goodness sakes, it’s been almost a month since the last post. I’ve done some stuff…

***New release available at CD Baby***

Josephine

Josephine

Since the Has Beans days...

Since the Has Beans days…

First, in a weekend of mad-marathon driving, I went back to Humboldt to release the new CD—January 25th, the Eureka Inn—26-and-a-smidge hours grand total of driving to play a fine show for some of my dearest friends. A release and an opportunity to say goodbye to a whole crew and community that have loved and supported me since the early days.

***New release available at CD Baby***

Way back in the way, way back, when I used to play Thursday lunch at Has Beans in Eureka, folks like Brother James, Pat, Ralph, Ginger and more would show up just to make sure there were folks to listen. The night of the release, they all showed up one last time, and it was genuinely touching.

To be sure by evening’s end (2 am rock star time!), I’d made a few new friends and fans to keep me pointed forward on this journey. It was a really, really kind night. Some quick shout outs to that HumCo crew who helped make it happen:

Jos & Kirsten

Jos & Kirsten

Many thanks to Dale and Lei Winget—they put me up in their ‘rabbit room’ and made sure the next morning’s send off included a Humboldt-proud breakfast from Golden Harvest. Another big thank you to Perry

Lei is also an acupuncturist, she fixed my left arm and hand. It was amazing. go see her if you are in EUREKA :)

Lei is also an acupuncturist, she fixed my left arm and hand. It was amazing. go see her if you are in EUREKA :)

Brubaker who designed the flyer and locked in a date for this performance. Mo Hollis MC’ed and engineered the night—thank you, Mo! Jay Forbes, your drums–a pleasure & honor to get to play with you—thanks for being part of the night. And more, so many more thanks. It was a great celebration marking the end of an era and beginning of a new.

***New release available at CD Baby***

***AND just as I was leaving LA, I managed to get in a phone interview with

meeting friends, signing CDs :)

meeting friends, signing CDs :)

Emma Brecain, the host of KHSU’s Through the Eyes of Women. We talked about music, the new album, what it’s like to be another white-girl-with-a-guitar. You can listen to our conversation here.***

PIg 'n Whistle, Hollywood :)

PIg ‘n Whistle, Hollywood :)

And so then after the grand-Humboldt-rock-star-adventure, I was booked at Pig ‘n Whistle in Hollywood as part of a Friday night indie musician showcase. THAT was a great time, too. Thank you, Sharon Groom, Joey Maramba & more!

***New release available at CD Baby***

Last but not least, in the near-month since I’ve posted, I also got booked on Kato

Julie Brown, Kato Kaelin, Josephine & Princess

Julie Brown, Kato Kaelin, Josephine & Princess

Kaelin’s new British podcast. For reals. Not once. But twice. And oh my goodness, that was a fun time. Maybe because I’m so new to show business, but it all was like a comical, hyper-frenetic, yet well-heeled circus. And Kato’s funny in this goofy, rapid fire way—the guy made me smile. And I enjoyed getting to be part of the show. Am hoping I get to go and visit again.

***New release available at CD Baby***

Julie & Kato

Julie & Kato

The second time, Down Town Julie Brown was the special guest—you know, from MTV when it was about music? Videos? She’s a sweet cat, too.

Well, that’s it for tonight. Enjoy the pics-n-links-n-such. And have fun, have lots & lots of FUN!

***New release available at CD Baby***

Finally, the story about working with the Treehouse Masters November/December 2013, as published January 29th in the North Coast Journal. And Yes, Pete Nelson really is the affable, eccentric, goofy-enthusiastic guy you see on TV. All good folks! ~Josephine

A Home in a Redwood

Treehouse dream to reality (TV)

BY 

Maybe you’re feeling low, a little too close to the ground. You want a place of retreat to elevate, inspire and get you floating again.

For Humboldt County resident Crystal Miller, a longtime lover of great trees, that meant a treehouse in a redwood in her backyard. Miller and her fiancé Arif Malik bought their rural property together in late 2009 with the shared dream of building a treehouse in that one big redwood out back, but tragically Malik died in a car accident in December of 2009, just as their place went into escrow. Miller remained determined to make good on their original dream and honor his memory.

A genuine do-it-her-selfer, Miller had been following the work of treehouse builder Pete Nelson through his books and building conferences. She says she knew building one properly would require special know-how and that she couldn’t do it by herself. It would take expertise, hardware, equipment and grit — precisely the moxie and special knowledge of Nelson and crew. So, a couple years ago, Miller reached out to Nelson, who responded eagerly that he’d love to build a treehouse in a California coast redwood way, way up — 60 feet off the ground.

As fate would have it, just as Miller was contacting Nelson, so were Animal Planet and Stiletto TV. They wanted to do a reality TV series with Nelson and his treehouse projects. Miller’s project was waitlisted until network negotiations, production and construction schedules were all settled.

Nelson grew up building treehouses in his father’s trees. As a kid he practiced in his backyard with old storm windows, discarded lumber — whatever was in the garage. But lacking building skills, his structures couldn’t match the grand vision in his head, and he grew frustrated. After working his way through Colorado College doing construction, he had the chops to start building lush, adult retreat spaces in trees. For the first decade, he financed many of his projects himself, including much of what went into his first book, Treehouse: The Art and Craft of Living Out on a Limb. His custom treehouses for private clients can cost up to $300,000, but ones built for theTreehouse Masters show run from $80,000 to $120,000.

After a couple years of waiting, following Nelson’s treehouse building exploits and hoping her project would be next, it was finally Miller’s turn. In November, Nelson and his crew began constructing Crystal’s dream tree retreat.

For nearly three weeks, a TV crew and building crew spent 14 hours a day — and sometimes longer — on Miller’s property building and filming the tallest structure the crew had ever attempted. Miller was not content to merely stand by and watch. As any true tree-loving, hardcore Humboldt woman would, Miller donned a hardhat and safety harness and went to work along side Nelson and his crew. “I needed to help build this,” says Miller. “I wanted to get my hands dirty finishing a dream I fondly shared with someone who’s no longer on this earth. Finishing this feels really good.”

Nelson found Miller’s project a fascinating challenge. “We’d never built a treehouse as high as 60 feet,” says Nelson, “plus we’ve only built a handful where the tree is actually inside the structure.” He pauses, runs his hand through his hair. “This will be fun to monitor!” He explains that the redwood adds a challenge to Miller’s structure. Redwood is a soft wood, and when conditions are right — lots of moisture and moderate temps — they grow rapidly, as much as 3 feet in height per year. Humboldt’s redwoods typically (though not this year) endure tough winter storms, too, with winds sometimes gusting over 50 miles per hour.

Miller’s treehouse would have to be built to accommodate extreme wind and rain, as well as the natural growth factor of the tree. Nelson would need to use at least four 21-inch long treehouse attachment bolts to firmly anchor the structure to the tree. These special bolts reach into the tree’s heartwood and provide solid anchor points. Once in place, the bolts jut out far enough from the bark to allow for the redwood’s growth. For a little while, anyway. Nelson would like to check up on Miller’s treehouse in the next two to three years.

You can check it out on TV when the Treehouse Masters “Sky High Redwood Retreat” episode airs Friday, Jan. 31 on Animal Planet.

 

by Josephine Johnson

Susann's Pirate Elixers

Susann’s Pirate Elixers

All that random rockstar ruckus, mayhem, mojo motion last weekend? Hands down, one of the best 48 hours on record. Ever.  For me, anyway, especially given that my weekends are usually more cerebral, computery, outdoors-ical. Or I’m working. Last weekend, though, was a first. But rockstar antics or no, LA remains one hell of an adventure. Every day. Unlike any other—China, Thailand, backpacking got nothing. And I wouldn’t trade this City of Angels for anything right now. Hollywood, Venice, Santa Monica, the Westside, I’m smitten.  AND I’ve shared NOTHING even of the spectacular, warm punch sunsets I’ve ridden my bike through on Venice beach. Or that the sun shines almost everyday.

THE SUN SHINES. EVERY DAY!

*sigh*

This past weekend?

Though much less rock & porn star-y, still wins. Run it down: The Pig ‘n Whistle in Hollywood does open-mic on Tuesday and Wednesday in their back room—it’s sweet, intimate, solo-

Ryder Buck’s avataracoustic friendly.  I did the Wednesday night and landed a Friday 8:30pm opener.(!!!)

But it wasn’t until gig night, Friday, that I got the full picture of the evening. This young man, 23 year old Ryder Buck, a local fave and student at Musician’s Institute, died recently. Early in the morning of October 27, He walked into traffic on the 2 freeway where a car struck him down. He died a few hours later at Huntington Memorial.  The crappiest part? Buck had just been through chemo and beaten cancer. Shitty, huh?

Mike, who books the room, ‘had a hunch’ I’d be a ‘good fit’ to open the night, which was band mates, all their friends and family sharing music and celebrating the young, talented, too short life of Ryder Buck. I played all my spirit songs, you know, the ones about dead people. Emily,

ARTHouse LIVE

ARTHouse LIVE

Edgar, Andrew. All in the house. And then some. I closed the set with Let It All Out. From the audience they asked my name twice. A positive

Billy Stobo

Billy Stobo

sign, I think,  it all went over well.

Then Saturday, Joey invites me to ‘this art thing in Mar Vista’.  He vague-splains, “like there’re musicians, I’m playing a set, and artists, probably paintings, maybe beer, wine…”

Aha! Art, music, booze. I’m there.

The Top Tomato Market. A gallery. Performance venue. A community space across from the post office and smack in the middle of Mar Vista’s Sunday Farmers Market—prime location for local art and music to grow, blossom, unfurl.

And that’s exactly what Katie Boeck intends. Two months ago the business owner formerly occupying the gallery gave Boeck the go ahead to follow her dream,

Katie Boeck

Katie Boeck

Top Tomato Market

Top Tomato Market

provided she can get it to pay for itself. In the two months since, Boeck and co-curator, Mitch Orquiola, have opened two gallery shows (this night being one) and hosted a music relief fundraiser for the Philippines. “We want to create a premiere community art space that caters to a variety of ages and mediums of expression,” says Boeck. In February, Beck and Orquiola plan to introduce their first Buzz Club,  a music-focused night that features “invited musicians along with a few open sign up slots.” Currently, they rent the performance room, with real-deal acoustic tiling and bass traps, to local bands for rehearsal. A music producer teaches kids to make electronic music, and out back there’re benches and picnic tables suited for teaching.  The space is coming together with a music-centric, yet multipurpose, family-friendly sensibility.

Joey Maramba

Joey Maramba

“There’s nothing like this on the block or in this part of town,” says Orquiola, “and I

Mitch Orquiola

Mitch Orquiola

want to be part of creating something special for my community. This has great potential.”

On this night Katie Boeck, Billy Stobo, and Joey Maramba played. Check out these people! You will be inspired.

And then Sunday, I met Julie of the Evangenitals. She’s the brainchild behind the project, and she’s booking a west coast tour.  Their latest release is a bluegrass-tinged concept album revolving around Moby Dick. Yeah, thar she blows, straight outta 10th grade lit. *Erupts Mr. Melville with glee, so smug yet mirthful he!* I got to hear a copy, pre-release, and it’s really,

ARTHouseLive

ARTHouseLive

really good. It has Portland written all over it, a fine synthesis of literature, whimsy, and weird grass (my new genre!). A hit, especially up north.  Best part? They will be coming through Arcata, California, enroute to Portland. Yay! Humboldt. The first week in March, the Evangenitals play the Jambalaya on a Tuesday night. Really, you have to see them to get it, an accessible blend of weird, smart, and smokin’.

Phew, I think that’s it. No porn stars in this one but still one heck of an LA adventure weekend.

Grateful.

WonderTwins

Activate!

Top Tomato Market

Top Tomato Market

princess frank's guitar

royal glory

by Josephine Johnson

This all started a week ago, the Sunday before New Year’s.

Operation: GET THE MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE

suckyjeans

suck it up

See, I need a day job to keep eating, writing, and performing. This is LA. Unless you’re JT, Katy Perry, Jimmy Iovine, or a trusty, a day job is necessary. A two-fold plan, this GET THE MUSIC  business. Part one: during the day, attack Craigslist—mostly for education, English teaching-type jobs, and some office-y positions—craft cover letters, send resumes. So far, this has yielded three interviews, and from those, I’ve been asked for two second interviews. Both went well, and so now I’m in that hurry-wait-and-see-oh-please-hire-me-now!-limbo land. Since I don’t wait very well, I keep trolling Craigslist, sending resumes…

Gerry & Omar, late night in Silverlake

Gerry & Omar, late night in Silver lake

Part two is the fun: open-mics and music-scene-mix-it-up, a.k.a get acquainted with LA double quick-like.  Thank Google for their maps! For reals, there’s at least one open-mic every night of the week, so I’m getting down the venues, streets, and freeways and how they all link up (or not!) in different parts of the city. I’m getting it, this City of Angles. And it’s fun.

Last Sunday, part two of Operation: GET THE MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE began when I ducked into the Thirsty Crow waiting for the Silverlake Lounge’s open-mic sign up to get rolling. And that’s when I met Princess Frank, a one-man whirlwind of a band who has a

princess frank

princess frank

Sunday residency at the Crow. Princess Frank. Think Prince-meets-Jack-White-meets-Stevie-Nicks for a bar top whiskey-drinking, porn-romp roll ’round. He’s sexy, sassy, kind of gender bender-y, has a great voice and won an award from the adult film industry for a little ditty called Rock and Roll in My Butthole.

princess frank

suzanne & princess frank

I can’t make this up.

There’s a movie, too…

Princess Frank has many friends. Installation artists, musicians, a local, organic hipster chef, actors, a make up artist, and porn stars, who are driven and focused on their passions, which makes this eclectic ensemble all the more real, solid, down to earth, and engaging. His bass player friend, Joey, has been all over the world with some heavy hitters. But I didn’t know any of this. Not yet. Not sitting at the bar in this first Princess Frank encounter, just being my Emily Dickinson-loving, non-pornstar self, enjoying this very new life unfolding. The wanna be open-mic queen, the LA newbie, hanging out and having a hoot with Princess Frank and his entourage.

un-poppables

un-poppables

And then later in the week Joey invites me to an Un-poppables gig in Pasadena.  Addi, the leader of the three piece (drums, bass & Addi), is a balloon artist. A professional balloon twister guy with a show on TLC.  He’s figured out how to get music out of a balloon with a Piezo mic, a gynormous board of pedals, and an electric tooth brush, and actually, it’s way more musical than you’d think. You can definitely move to it, though that a-tonal, avante garde jazziness does figure in. But it’s Joey and his bass that really help keep it together. He’s got pedals, dextrous fingers, a bow, and keen intuition guiding him through the changes and slight onstage hiccups inevitable when rubber and electricity are focal points of music-making. Of course, the drums help, keeping it smooth and toe-tappable.

So, yesterday, Sunday, when I received this text:

not jerk chicken!

jerk pork

ok me and my landlord are going to Hollywood farmers market…and we are gonna put on a cccchicken cccostume and a rabbit costume and terrorize!

I knew I had to be there.

And so I went, and it wasn’t long before I spotted Joey and Suzanne. Suzanne also happens to run a booth at market every Sunday. She makes hand-crafted, organic jerk sauces and pirates elixirs. With acoustic bass in-hand, the rabbit and the chicken were working the

crowd guerrilla marketing-style with a song in favor of jerk pork. Not jerk Chicken! Not jerk rabbit! I’m not sure they understood, but the kids seemed to dig it.

Somewhere in all the market mayhem, Suzanne hollers out, “Princess Frank is shooting a music video this afternoon at the Crow. We should all go!”

There.

And suffice it to say, I spent my Sunday afternoon, evening, and night partying with rockstars.

LA rockstars. Who work really, really hard and are oddly humble and nothin’ but(t) real.

Ooperation: GET THE MUSIC TO THE PEOPLE

Underway.

princess frank thirsty crow silverlake

princess frank thirsty crow silverlake

I wrote this cover for the North Coast Journal, Eureka, California, in April 2013 and am just now sharing on the blog. I realize it’s out of sequence, but it’s  important that it have a home here. And better late than never, right? Also, I realize the timing is kind of a downer—an assisted suicide story shared  the week before Christmas? Potentially very dark, depressing, and icky. But it’s not. I Promise. This is a tale of a loving son and family who are brave in helping their parents die with dignity. Bravery, compassion, and release. And love.

Click the title to link to original post on the Journal’s website.

click to flip through (10)DAWSON FAMILY PHOTO - Reg and Betty Dawson married in 1946 and celebrated more than 60 wedding anniversaries before they died, side by side, in the fall of 2012.
  • DAWSON FAMILY PHOTO
  • Reg and Betty Dawson married in 1946 and celebrated more than 60 wedding anniversaries before they died, side by side, in the fall of 2012.
In early September 2011, Dominic Dawson, a lean and soft-spoken delivery driver who lives in Manila, received an email from his ailing father in Wales. “I’m ready to go to Switzerland, October 2012,” Reg Dawson wrote his son. “What do you think?” Dominic was sitting at his desk in a second-story cupola peering over Humboldt Bay. From here, he could often see small flocks of dowitchers erupting from the shore, shimmering in the morning haze. He knew that “Switzerland” meant his father hoped to die at a Zurich apartment where an organization called Dignitas helps people commit suicide legally. Diffuse sunlight seeped through the old Victorian’s window. Outside, shore birds pecked in the mud, shifting and turning in unison. Dominic cradled his coffee mug.

He was surprised, but not shocked. His father, in his late 80s and struggling with Parkinson’s disease. was losing the ability to walk unassisted, sit upright and feed himself. About a year before, Reg had begun talking about Dignitas with his wife and his daughter, Teresa Schwanauer. When Teresa filled Dominic in, she’d confided that she didn’t think their father would go through with it. Now Reg was sounding more certain. And Dominic felt oddly comforted that his father had reached out to him, after a long estrangement that had lessened only gradually, as they both grew older.

He read the email again, and before the morning faded, forwarded it to Tina George, his partner of 10 years, who lives in Arcata. That night they talked logistics: Reg wanted the whole family to gather beforehand in England, to celebrate his life — and not to mourn. Dominic had no qualms about the suicide itself. He had long believed people have a right to die when and how they choose. So mostly, he and Tina talked about arranging the trip and whether she should come along.

The next morning, though, Dominic struggled for words to put into his email reply. What do you say to your own father when he announces his plans for passing? How do you sound supportive but not cold, or worse, eager? Dominic wrote, finally, that he didn’t know quite what to say. To which Reg replied, “That is perfectly normal and understandable.”

[][][][]

Dominic Dawson had severed ties with his parents in 1968, moving out of the family home in London when he was 16 years old. He and his parents just didn’t think the same way. He was embracing the freedom-loving ethos of the 1960s — equal rights, anti-war, Eastern mysticism — while his parents remained politically and socially conservative. He moved in with friends and took temporary jobs that were easy to find in London then: a clerk, a messenger, whatever kept him free from his parents’ rules. After a couple of years he craved more adventure and traveled overland to India. He met and stayed with royalty in Bangladesh, and he lived for six months in Calcutta, working for an international relief organization. Then he bounced around some more — traveling in the Middle East, then over to the United States, settling in the early 1970s in Santa Cruz, where he married and had his first daughter. In 1979, he arrived in Humboldt. To make it on the North Coast, he worked odd jobs and did lots of manual labor. He backpacked all over the Trinity Alps. He had a second daughter, in another relationship. Rooted in Humboldt, held by its natural beauty, Dominic has lived in the same Manila neighborhood since 1985.

The family ties with his parents reknit, but slowly. He would see them now and then, when they made trips to America. In 1996, the whole family gathered in England for his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Not long after, he and his father began corresponding again. When the email about Switzerland came, Dominic was 60, with a 2-year-old grandson of his own. Gray-haired, blue-eyed and fit, he was semi-retired, running a delivery service, taking rafting trips with Tina. Now there was this — and before it was over, both his parents would make fateful decisions.

[][][][]

In California, as in many other states and many nations, helping or encouraging someone to commit suicide is a crime. The law stands even as public opinion has been shifting. In a 2006 Pew Research poll, 60 percent of those polled nationwide thought that people in great pain with no hope of improvement had a right to die. And 53 percent said people with an incurable disease had a right to choose death.

The idea appalls some advocates for the elderly and for people with disabilities. They worry about pressure from relatives who are crumbling under the stress of care, or who want to preserve family assets. Some religious groups, including the Roman Catholic Church, orthodox Judaism, and many evangelical Protestant denominations, consider suicide or helping with suicide a sin. Opponents warn that opening the door to legal assisted suicides could eventually lead to encouraging death for people deemed undesirable, people whose lives are looked at as somehow less worthy or less worthwhile than the lives of others. But amid those warnings, many religious, civil rights and patient rights groups champion the idea that people have a right to die, and that helping should be considered a kindness, not a crime. Legally assisted suicide, they say, gives people who have no hope of recovery the option to die before physical pain becomes unbearable or mental abilities are lost.

Worldwide, assisted suicide is legal in only a few places, including the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Oregon and Washington, and the laws vary widely. Oregon and Washington have similar legislation, legalizing suicide under narrow conditions. A patient must be at least 18, a state resident and terminally diagnosed with six months or less to live. The patient must convince a doctor that he or she is of sound mind, making two oral requests and one written statement. Two doctors must sign separate forms verifying the patient’s terminal illness. Then the state must approve the suicide, no sooner than 15 days after the first oral request. After all that, a physician can prescribe — but not administer — a lethal, swallow-able drug. No injections.

On the other end of the spectrum is Switzerland, with the most liberal suicide law in the world. Under article 115 of the Swiss Criminal Code, assisting another’s suicide is criminal only if the motive is for personal gain. This sparse pronouncement was interpreted in the 1980s as a legal green light to create self-assisted suicide organizations. EXIT, founded in 1997, and Dignitas, founded in 1998, are among the best-known. Dignitas, which was featured in a 2012 Frontline documentary, is the only Swiss organization to accept foreigners. In the years since Dignitas’ founding, the Swiss Supreme Court has expanded the law even more, ruling in 2006 that chronically depressed and mentally ill people have a right to assisted suicide. Today, Swiss law allows people with a range of non-terminal and progressive ailments to apply — and if approved — to choose to die.

Not all Swiss are on board with this right-to-die, death-with-dignity mission. In 2011, the Evangelical People’s Party of Switzerland and the Swiss Federal Democratic Union lobbied heavily for a citywide referendum in Zurich over the practice. The May 2011 ballot measure asked residents whether assisted suicide should be banned altogether and whether organizations — Dignitas specifically — should admit foreigners. Despite heavy funding from Switzerland’s conservative and religious right, the proposed ban was rejected by 84 percent of voters. And 78 percent voted to keep assisted suicide services available to overseas users.

[][][][]

Dominic had always thought of his conservative parents as swift-witted and independent. Reg Dawson grew up in London and met his wife, then Betty Johnson, in the first years of World War II when they were both at a community dance. She was 15 and he was 17. Reg was getting ready for a stint in the Royal Air Force doing communications work. Theirs was a long courtship – they didn’t marry until after the war ended, in February of 1946Their wedding picture shows him in uniform, his hair already thinning, one hand clasping Betty’s. She is smiling a little more broadly, a white veil billowing behind her, sprays from a lavish bouquet trailing nearly to her knees. By then, both had converted to Catholicism. Dominic speculates the religion offered them a sense of spiritual security during the frightening years of wartime air raids.

Their oldest child, Teresa, was born in 1947. Soon after came Paul, then Dominic and Christopher. After the military, Reg worked as a negotiator in the British civil service. Once, Dominic recalls, Reg helped keep some commuter rail services alive by leaking information about government plans to stop them. Betty was a homemaker, focused on raising the children. She enjoyed cooking and baking and reading popular novels, her children remember. Once they were grown, she returned to school and became a business skills instructor, teaching typing and dictation. Over the years, both drifted from Catholicism — Reg becoming an atheist and Betty an agnostic. Reg grew skeptical of organized religion and critical of government.

In the late 1980s, when Reg retired after more than 30 years in the civil service, he and his wife were still in good health, and Betty was a regular swimmer. That began to change with the turn of the new century. In 2002, Reg was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a degenerative disease. Their children noticed Betty’s memory significantly slipping in 2006, although she wasn’t officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s until 2012. Her early memories persisted — childhood, early years of marriage, her children’s youth — but she was losing track of the day-to-day: luncheons, medical appointments. Had she turned off the stove, or was the water running in the bathroom? Reg first broached the subject of suicide with Teresa, a retired computer analyst who lives in Walnut Creek, when she was visiting her parents at her brother Christopher’s house in London in the fall of 2010. “If your mother passes before I do,” he directed in his calm British English, “I want to go to Switzerland and commit suicide.” At the time, Teresa didn’t think that her father would travel all the way to a Swiss clinic to end his life. “I wasn’t worried,” she recalled later. “I Skyped with them every week and was certain that when my father passed, it would be at their retirement community in Wales.” Teresa and her three brothers assumed that Reg would die before their mother.

[][][][]

As Reg’s condition worsened, he became less and less willing to wait for his wife to pass away first. Even in October 2010, when he was 88 and she 86, she could no longer lift and move him. An attendant at their retirement community in Wales had to bathe him. And Betty had left a burner on. Again. Reg began emailing with his oldest son, Paul, about choosing suicide if he was unable to live and move independently. And Parkinson’s disease does that, steals a person’s independence. It’s a nasty degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that begins with slight physical tremors, rigidity and difficulty walking, and then progresses to uncontrollable cognitive and behavioral problems. In late stages, dementia is common. Reg resisted using a wheelchair and insisted on walking as much as possible. By December 2011, though, he was resigned to a wheelchair most of the time, and by then, all four of his children knew he wanted to die. “When he announced his plan, my only surprise was how late he had left it,” Paul remembered. “He was clearly not enjoying life at all.” And Dominic, who at first had thought he would only attend his father’s going away celebration in England, now reassured Teresa that he would go farther. If she wanted his help and support accompanying their father to Switzerland, Dominic would come along for that, tooTogether, then, all four children planned how to best support Reg’s choice, while making sure their mother would have a good quality of life after he was gone.

Betty, though, did not approve. Not for religious or philosophical reasons, but because for more than 60 years of marriage, they’d always been a team. Even as Reg’s body withered, Betty had remained physically strong and able to help him. As she became more forgetful, Reg’s mind remained razor sharp.

“But my mother also knew the reality of Alzheimer’s,” Teresa recalled, “My mother was afraid that if Reg went to Switzerland to die, that she would be alone and eventually die not knowing who her children are. This terrified her.” And at least with Reg by her side, Betty had someone. Without him, she feared dying without memories or knowing who she was.

It wasn’t so much that Betty didn’t want Reg to go to Switzerland but that she didn’t want him to go without her. Even with all four children ready to help, Reg hated the thought of leaving Betty alone. But he hated his continuing decline even more.

[][][][][]

In late October 2011, Reg paid $250 and joined the assisted suicide organization Dignitas, intent upon ending his life in Zurich, Switzerland, sometime in late 2012. The application process is not simple. There are thick packets of paperwork, and a Swiss physician must review the applicant’s full medical records. To further complicate matters, assisted suicide is illegal in the United Kingdom, and doctors can lose their medical license and face up to 14 years in prison if caught knowingly releasing records for a suicide that would occur outside the country. But Reg wanted to do the right thing, be above board the whole way through. He was honest. At first. He told his doctors exactly what he was doing.

They curtly denied release of his medical records.

A clever man, Reg changed tactics. A few weeks later, he re-contacted his physicians, this time telling them the records were needed for travel insurance to the United States for his 90th birthday celebration. It worked. He submitted his full application in December 2011. Now he had to wait, for Dignitas and for the approval of the Swiss government.

By then, in mid-December 2011, Reg’s health was in a tailspin. Feeding himself had become prolonged and excruciating — loss of muscle control meant that what food wasn’t lost down his front was often smeared across his face. “My father was an extremely dignified man,” Teresa said. “It was messy, but he preferred to feed himself.” A meal could take an hour or more. And he had become incontinent.

Dominic, keeping in touch from afar, hated to think of his father hunched in a wheelchair, unable to go to the bathroom by himself. Reg’s choice seemed courageous to his second son, and the obstacles he had to overcome were just one more sign of that courage.

As Reg worsened and Betty contemplated his hopes to die, she became uncharacteristically quiet and withdrawn. She cut short Skype sessions with her daughter and grandchildren, or skipped them entirely. This was not the vivacious business instructor and nurturing, reassuring mother Teresa had known. And then came the startling email from Reg. In January 2012, he wrote Teresa that Betty had read the Dignitas literature and wanted to die with him. Life would be intolerable without him, Betty felt, no matter how hard her children would try to help. She, too, would apply to Dignitas.

[][][][]

By the end of January 2012, Reg Dawson received the provisional green light from Dignitas, which meant he had passed the Swiss medical review and could proceed with setting a date for his assisted suicide. The organization carefully advised him not to plan it on or near birthdays or other important family celebrations. At the same time, Betty began her application. They were hoping to die together.

To apply to Dignitas, a patient first must pay and become a member. Then comes the packet of paperwork and the required medical records, which can take up to three months to be evaluated. If the documents are approved, the patient must go to Zurich and meet with a physician, who will assess whether he or she is unpressured and of sound mind. Only then does Dignitas grant a provisional green light for the suicide. The week of the scheduled death, the patient must meet with two separate doctors to be sure this is what he or she wants to do.

Betty’s application would be tricky. To comply with Swiss law, doctors affiliated with Dignitas would have to determine whether she was mentally sound enough to choose death. The question for doctors in such cases, according to a Dignitas pamphlet, is whether the decision is “a wish to die that is an expression of a curable psychic distortion and which calls for treatment” or a “self-determined, carefully considered and lasting decision of a lucid person.” It is a difficult distinction for anyone, and was complicated by the Alzheimer’s, which is considered a mental illness under Swiss law. Betty would have to convince doctors that she was capable of deciding to die.

And then, to make things even more difficult, she and Reg were applying for a double assisted suicide. The family was told that such suicides, with their more complex logistics, are relatively rare in Switzerland.

After three months of emailing between the Dawsons and Dignitas, a rewritten request letter from Betty, and more medical appointments in the United Kingdom and Zurich, Betty got the provisional green light in May of 2012. Now both of Dominic’s parents had been cleared for assisted suicide, and they wanted to do it together. They needed two separate physicians for each of them to prescribe the lethal dosage. In August, Reg got word by email: the doctors had been arranged. After working around a large family’s birthdays and wedding anniversaries, Reg and Betty set Sept. 17 as the day of their passing.

[][][][]

Even the final arrangements would be complicated. Paul, an international finance professor, had professional obligations in Asia and couldn’t be by their side. And the family feared that Christopher, a British citizen, could be detained and possibly arrested for involvement with their suicides once he returned to London. They all decided it was safer for him not to be in Switzerland. Teresa, Dominic and Tina — all U.S. citizens — seemed likely to face less, if any, scrutiny on their return to London from Zurich. It was agreed. The three of them would travel with Reg and Betty that final week.

With the suicide date set, Dominic and Tina flew to London during the first week of September. All of Reg and Betty’s children, their nearest grandchild, and Reg’s brother and wife also arrived. They talked and reflected quietly during the day. In the evenings the family dined together in London restaurants. On Sept. 11, Reg, Betty, Teresa, Dominic and Tina left London for Switzerland. There, they interspersed pre-suicide doctor visits with trips to Lake Thune and a visit to a pumpkin festival.

On Sept. 17, the five of them arrived at a Dignitas apartment in an industrial part of Zurich. The sun was bright and warm. A light breeze stirred the trees. Earlier that week, Reg and Betty had met with the physicians and had gotten their final approvals. Calm and relaxed, the family sat in the apartment, completing the last bits of paperwork. A Dignitas assistant brought Reg and Betty each cups of a liquid antiemetic to coat their stomachs so they wouldn’t vomit on the lethal barbiturate dosage that would come later. Teresa and her mother left the apartment to sit beside a small pond outside and quietly enjoy the splendor of the warm afternoon. Reg, Dominic and Tina chatted for a bit and drank coffee for over an hour, long enough for the stomach coating to be fully effective. When the Betty and her daughter came back indoors, both parents were smiling.

“I think it’s time,” said Reg.

As required by Swiss law, a videotape was running. Reg and Betty Dawson were helped into a twin bed, where they nestled together. They had selected music for their passing. Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3 played softly, followed by Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice. A dream of love, and then the underworld.

Reg joked about the luggage — there will be more than necessary for the flight home. What will they do with the suitcases? The adult pads? “We won’t need those anymore,” he said. And Betty, smiling, piped up, “Oh, my jewelry.” She slid off her engagement ring and wedding band, and lovingly extended them to Teresa.

The non-physician Dignitas assistant brought them each a cup of sodium pentobarbitol. These Reg and Betty had to drink very quickly, and they had to drink them unassisted. Reg sucked his through a straw. Betty slugged hers back without hesitation. When the cups were empty, the assistant gave them each a piece of Swiss chocolate to banish the bitter taste of the barbiturate cocktail.

The room was still. Betty leaned over and kissed Reg. Dominic held his father’s free hand. Teresa held her mother’s. The music continued softly in the background. Reg and Betty clasped hands and fell asleep slowly, peacefully. Finally.

[][][][]

Dominic Dawson returned to his parents’ home in Wales to put the last of their affairs to rest. Papers, books, family photos, CDs all sorted and organized by his hand. He listed their assisted living unit on the market. On Oct. 1, the family held a memorial service and Reg and Betty’s ashes were scattered in the memorial garden of the British Railway Preservation Society, where they had been lifetime members.

Dominic, back home in Humboldt now, does not sorrow. From his cupola window, he can watch gulls soar. He can see a squadron of pelicans, flying in formation above the bay. “There’s nothing to be sad about” he said. The way he looks at it, both his parents accomplished something worthwhile, and they both kept their dignity. “It was awe-inspiring. There was no fear or regret in those final days. I am thankful I was there.”

On the Ridge

I know. I hinted at the Treehouse Masters for this post. That’s coming. But super quick-like, here’s a link to most recent article for the North Coast Journal. Enjoy!

Sunny Brae residents Natalia Collier and Adam Brown know this trail. Up Buttermilk Lane, past the middle school and left onto Margaret, where a large army-green water tank marks the trailhead and a concrete staircase on the right rises into the Sunny Brae portion of the Arcata Community Forest. Collier, Brown and their dog Casey hike here at least once a week. This new trail is a welcome dose of solitude and near-wilderness in their backyard, but, says Brown, “It’s so new, there aren’t any names or signs up yet, and most people really don’t use this part.” Well, technically, the Sunny Brae section of the Arcata Community Forest isn’t open.

Not just yet.

But it will be, and soon more folks will hike and love it because this trailhead also marks the start of the Arcata Ridge Trail, which is getting closer and closer to completion. That means if you want to hike from Sunny Brae over to West End Road — that spot under the 101 overpass with those concrete curb-like structures will be the other trailhead — you’ll be able to bike, hike or horseback ride the 3.8-mile trek by summer 2014. By spring, the northern portion of the Arcata Ridge Trail, which begins on West End Road, should be ready for exploration, and sometime in February 2014, the south fork of the Janes Creek Loop trail will be open.

The Arcata Ridge Trail started out as an idea about 15 years ago, according to Kirk Cohune, a principal at Greenway Partners and a community trail volunteer. The goal was to connect South Arcata (Sunny Brae) with north Arcata (West End Road) via trails and create a system where responsible timber harvest and volunteer support would sustain the trail’s management. Mark Andre, Arcata’s environmental services director, acquired land and conservation easements throughout these timber lands. In 2000, Sierra Pacific, the company that owned the forest adjacent to Sunny Brae, wanted to log the hillside. Enter Sunny Brae local and now Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace. He and concerned neighbors formed the Sunny Brae Neighborhood Alliance to stop large-scale logging near their homes. When Sierra Pacific finally offered to sell the land, the Alliance and the community raised $100,000 to help Arcata buy the property and turn it into a community forest. The cash allowed Mark Andre to secure matching grants from the U.S. Forest Service, CALTRANS, the California Department of Forestry and other agencies, and in 2006, Arcata bought most of the Sunny Brae part of the forest.

There’s a nice sign near the trailhead thanking many state and community organizations for the forest’s conservation. Again, not open yet. And just because other folks are hiking doesn’t mean you won’t get a ticket. Of course, hypothetically, if a reporter did accidentally hike its wide paths in all their splendor before she knew it was closed, it might have been magical. Think redwoods, Doug firs, Bigleaf maples. She mighthave seen faded, broad leaves twisting and falling all along the hillside, sunlight dappling them as they dance their way down to the forest floor. Add sunshine, crisp sky and a gentle, late autumn breeze, and it would have hypothetically been the stuff of fairies, wizards, sprites and unicorns. It’s the perfect place for the Arcata Ridge Trail to begin. (Of course, said reporter also might have gotten lost for a couple of hours with no signs to guide her, and she may have been very grateful to have brought a friend, a phone and plenty of water.)

Can’t wait to get in there? Dennis Houghton heads up the trail maintenance crew for the City of Arcata, and he often needs volunteers. Maybe you could help. Craft some sweet signage for these amazing community trails with Houghton, his crew and a legion of community volunteers. Contact Dennis at 707-822-8184.

Happy Thanksgiving and So Much More

On this Thanksgiving morning, thankful for all this and much more.

by Josephine Johnson

CIMG6072

Delicious organic produce comes from here.

Gratitude

I should be writing about KickStarter, that I have an active campaign up and running. I do.  A really, really big deal that I’ve not shared or documented here. It’s been more work than I imagined, managing and promoting the ol’ KickStarter. But it’s also been a valuable learning adventure in time management and prioritization. Posting updates, acknowledging supporters, promoting on FB and other internet/print media outlets have filled any free time I may have had these past weeks to post something here. And yes, then, I should be writing about the gratitude I feel that so many friends and fans stepped up so quickly to get behind the new album project. And I am. I am really, genuinely thankful to have generous people in my life, who not only believe in and appreciate my music but who are also willing to help me see this album through to completion. For sure, I am lucky to live in Humboldt County and to be able to perform and share music here. Thank you for all your support. The CD is a reality now because a whole lot of Humboldt folks pitched in to make it happen.

Monica Topping made this. Kikki & I wrangled the agates.

Monica Topping made this. Kikki & I wrangled the agates.

How DID it happen? How’d we do it? How’d this come about, and really, what does it take to be an indie artist and musician in a small, rural community notorious for low wages and less-than-stellar day-job opportunities? I’d like to share my perspective, what’s it’s been like to see this through. What it’s like to be an artist at the edge, near the margin, on the verge. I AM on the verge, I know it, the verge of something grand, a breakthrough. Sharing this part of the story, I think, is the best way for me to show you how thankful I am to be where I am doing what I do. This, an active exercise in gratitude.

If you know me in my day-to-day or Facebook life, then it’s no secret I’ve been Humboldt shuffling’, cobbling things together to keep the bills paid, to keep it all rolling. Working retail, an organic farm, freelance writing, English and ESL tutoring, yard work, odd jobs, housesitting, music gigs. At any given time at least four jobs are spinning in the air around me.

Wait, you’re not teaching this semester? Not at College of the Redwoods?

No. I’m not.

Why?

If you could work here, wouldn't you?

If you could work here, wouldn’t you?

In the August burglary at my former Eureka apartment, much of my English teaching resources were either taken or destroyed–computers with lesson plans, thumb drives, syllabi, handouts, ESL resources. Gone. All this a week and a half before school. Re-creating and pulling these materials back together on top of securing new housing—I could not live in that space any longer—was not feasible. Plus, I was not entirely at ease with my course schedule. I was slated to teach 6:30 pm to 7:50pm Monday thru Thursday and Saturday morning 9am to noon. Not absolutely impossible, but certainly less than ideal for a working musician.

That schedule meant I’d likely have to give up the Siren’s Song open-mic that I host and worked so hard to build; certainly no pints for non-profits gigs, or any weeknight slots at Mad River Brewery. It also meant that rehearsing and recording with Piet and the guys would have to go on the back burner. If I taught fall semester, it’d be nearly impossible to finish the CD before Christmas, the key project we’d so diligently focused on all summer. With my world upturned and I in search of a safe place to live, the only thing I felt secure and happy about was my music and finishing the CD with the guys. And so I committed to music. I decided not to teach fall semester fully knowing that I would have to work hard at a multitude of things to make ends meet. I would do it. Humboldt shuffle and juggle it. Again, if you’ve been following my posts on Facebook, then you know the crazy

I & I Farm, organic rainbow chard

I & I Farm, organic rainbow chard

schedules I keep, the jobs I juggle to be able to keep the music happening. And in the end (or beginning?) I think the shuffle has been my best teacher—teaching me grace and how to honor commitments across a broad range of job deadlines and expectations; how to be punctual and complete the things I say I’m going to; how to prioritize and keep organized. I’ve also become pretty snazzy with timely completion of paperwork, which is a darn handy skill to have. I’m a whiz at making phone calls, meeting deadlines, and chasing down details. I’ve got a good attitude, too, mostly positive and upbeat in spite of all the potential time management pitfalls. Ah, time management Tetris!

Yes, in the face of one of the greatest physical losses I’ve ever experienced, I committed to finishing the CD. I had to.  To honor the core part of what makes me, ‘me’. To shift my life to better nurture and love the creative, music,

Steampunk thresher thing...do you know what this is?

Steampunk thresher thing…do you know what this is?

singing, voice inside. And by that, I think, stepping out of the classroom and committing to honoring myself—to making and sharing music and leading a loving and creatively inspired life—I have been the best teacher within my power to be. By example. Humbly, with kindness I strive to continue doing so everyday, being both a creative musician and teacher. When you wake up in the morning and at the end of the day, if you believe in yourself  and know without a shadow of a doubt what you want, make it so. Do it. One of the most effective ways to encourage and inspire, to teach, is by honoring what you know to be true in your life and then living that truth. For me, that’s singing, music, and writing.

I am a sharp lady and talented teacher. I love teaching and know one day I will return to the classroom. But for now, I have more life experiences to gain, a whole lotta music to do, and so much more to learn before I get back there. On my return “I’ll be bringing back the melodies and rhythm that I find”. Thank you, Townes.

That I (we!) have completed a CD in the midst of all this is no small feat.

That I’ve (we’ve!!) launched and landed a successful KickStarter campaign, just shy of a minor miracle.

So thankful that I live where I do and am able to make it. And Imma MAKE IT, now.  Again, thank you Humboldt for helping make this happen. Having jobs to shuffle was key to making it go; having great friends and fans here makes it all worthwhile. We did it. CDs by Christmas. Love. WE DID IT!!!

**********************************************************************

***Next post: how the Humboldt Shuffle best qualified me to assist with production on Animal Planet’s ‘Treehouse Masters’. For real. There are no coincidences. It’s all connected. For a reason.

Nelson Treehouse Supply

Nelson Treehouse Supply

Taking Care of Business

Folks have been asking how I’m doing, if everything’s back to normal post break-in. (Much more cautious about what is posted on Facebook)

Josephine Johnson in studio

Josephine Johnson in studio

Update: I live in a safe place. I have a couple of great jobs (farm & retail); am freelancing for the North Coast Journal; hosting monthly open-mic at Siren’s Song; gigging various venues in Humboldt. Most importantly, I am finishing a new CD at Universal Balance Studio in Arcata. Am very busy taking care of business, getting things done for big changes and am thankful for all your kind words & support. Some images from the studio last week. Thank you Sasha! And now to get back to KickStarter campaign design :)

Josephine Johnson in the studio

Josephine Johnson in the studio

by Josephine Johnson

CIMG5700

Doug Green, Joanne Rand, Darryl Cherney

I didn’t know Doug Green. Never went to an event he emceed or hung out with him after a show

Peter Rowan

Peter Rowan

he produced. That’s right, I’ve never been to Reggae on the River–the Humboldt jewel in the crown music festival for which Doug is most famous as founding member and Master of Ceremonies.  He’s been a fixture on the music and entertainment scene in Humboldt County for more than 30 years, a real mover and shaker and genuine supporter of local SoHum community and talent. But I didn’t know any of that not until I went to the LoveFest in his honor this past Saturday. Doug Green is now very ill and wheelchair-bound. That’s why the whole of southern Hulmboldt, under the direction of Darryl Cherney, came together at the Mateel Community Center in Redway, California, to celebrate Doug’s life and community contributions. Joanne Rand, Alice Dimicele, Peter Rowan, Tina Malia, even Darryl himself all took the stage for him.

One of the most touching moments of the evening was when Tina Malia shared how she came to know Doug. Tina and Sasha Butterfly were fresh

Joanne Rand

Joanne Rand

CIMG5706

Alice Dimicele & her band

from a Rainbow gathering where they wooed folks with their enchanting, ephemeral sounds. Both self-described hippie kids impressed Doug with their fledgling songwriting and harmonizing skills. He also appreciated their uplifting message of love and spirituality. Doug became their diligent supporter and helped them connect with folks who could further develop and share their musical gifts. Now, Tina is a recording artist in Los Angeles with three albums under her belt and tours the U.S. and beyond. She spoke with great reverence about Doug and how his belief in her talent helped her realize her dream of being a professional musician.

So many people packed the Mateel that night to support him and listen to the performers whom Doug so loved and worked with.  By night’s end more than 600 people had graced the community center, listening, singing, dancing, even participating in a singing bowl prayer offering. A genuinely heart-felt good time. We were all blessed by spirit that Saturday night.
CIMG5713
…After Peter Rowan’s set (Free Mexican Air Force was clear as a bell, by the way), I had a hankering for dessert. Ah, something sweet to keep me moving on the dance floor! But I didn’t have any cash. Jan, with whom I’d ride-shared, had a $20 dollar bill to spot my sugar craving.
Mmmmm, pound cake with raspberries and vanilla ice cream–lactose intolerance be damned! I selected the biggest slice, asked for extra ice cream & deposited the $20 into the donation can. Only enough to make $10 in change, though. Dang. What to do?  Select another slice of cake, of course, which I initially intended to take to Jan, but…
…I made my way to a back corner of the Mateel, placed one slice on an empty table and began devouring the other in myCIMG5717 hand. So good. The melting ice cream seeped and saturated the cake in sweet creamy bliss. The raspberries added the perfect amount of tart. I was within two bites of finishing the big slice and thinking about eating the second when Peter Rowan strode over with a small paper plate of the same cake in hand also within micro bites of finishing.
Well?
“Hi, would you like to share a second piece of cake with me? I was either going to take it to my friend or eat it myself, which is why I’m in this corner  contemplating having two pieces of cake. Like maybe hide and eat them both? But actually it’s nicer to share,” I said.
Peter Rowan smiled.
“It is good cake, isn’t it?” He replied.
“Yes, it is,and I am happy to share.”
So there we stood eating cake, me attempting to remain nonchalant, non-goofy.CIMG5722
“Do you live here?” He asked.
“I live in NorHum, in Eureka, no wait, I mean McKinleyville now, but I’ve moved a couple times recently and have had a string of house sitting gigs. I’m not so sure where I live these days.” (Goodness, was I flubbing this?)
But we continued!
Chatting. He asked how I got here, and I told him I came to Humboldt for grad school to pursue something lucrative like a Master’s in English. He laughed. We talked about community and how some folks in these parts may not have a lot of material wealth, but that in Humboldt we all have an abundance of spirit and heart, great relationships to make up for the money we may not have.
“And weed. There’s good weed,” he chuckled, dark eyes twinkling.
“Right? What is that saying?” I mused, trying really, really hard not to trip over my tongue, “in tough times it’s better to have weed and no money than money and no weed,” I quipped.
Another smile. Pause. Me, deep breath.CIMG5723
“I took some photos of you. Can I show you?”
“I saw you out there. Let’s see.”
We crowded around my camera, and he beamed a solid confident smile.
“I don’t know if you can see it in these pics, but you glowed on stage, especially on the high notes. You’re in line with that thing that’s bigger than us,” I said.
No response. Another pause.
“Are you staying down here tonight?” He asked.
“No, I have to leave. I have a gig tomorrow morning and have to be there as close to 9 as possible,” I said.
Another pause. Both of us.
“I’m a musician, too. I get to play music tomorrow. Early.”
Another pause. Standing. looking between me, the cake, my camera.
“Are you getting support up here?” he asked.
And I wasn’t sure what he meant.
“You’re getting some positive support up here for your music, aren’t you?”
“Yes, yes, I am. In so many ways. This community seems to enjoy what I do, very thankful for that.”
He put the last bites of the cake back on the table. Another pause.
“You’re really good. Keep at it, keep doing it,” he said.
He looked me in the eyes, smiled, then gracefully, slowly strode away.
Speechless. No sounds. Words gone. The implications… Did he know before I told him I was a singer-songwriter? Had he seen a tweet, blog post, a video–goodness knows a lot of my stuff’s all over the internet.  (Google Josephine Johnson. It comes up first!)
Or was it something else?
I was glowing that night, too, feeling positively buoyant. Confident. Could he see my connection to that thing so much bigger than myself? The

Peter Rowan

Peter Rowan

golden cord we all have but that resonates and shimmers especially bright when we are comfortable and surrounded by our own? That thing that right now urges me to finish recording my CD (so close to being DONE) then GET my music out to a broader audience.

Could he see I have  BIG thoughts? That Los Angeles, scary as it is, is on my mind?
Or was he just being polite?
Saying what any singer-songwriter would want to hear from a Grammy-winning blue grass legend?
I don’t know.
But I was so happy and goose-bumpy, I went outside to gather my thoughts and watch the rising moon.
Goodness.
Goodness and Doug’s great force of spirit.
With us.
And will be.
Love.

Well, howdy.

Title of the post reveals it all: I got robbed.

Seriously.

Ah, the view from my former crack shack. That dumpster? Tweeker paradise. Damn

Ah, the view from my former crack shack. That dumpster? Tweeker paradise. Damn

Brief backstory: I moved into a new space in Eureka, my very, very own artist abode (with working bathroom and kitchen!). Unfortunately, it was across the street from a run-down apartment unit. And believe me that place was no artist’s haven—it hummed a black frequency that only meth and heroine addiction can resonate. Artist abode. Drug den. Never the twain shall meet and resolve harmoniously. I may have lost this fight to looters and opportunists, but I am not giving up. I am not done. Josephine Johnson is a winner, and mark these words: I WILL BE BACK ON TOP.  Minor setback.  True, my computer’s gone (thank you Jennifer Savage for use of yours), as are my sound system, ukulele, cameras, bedding, toilet paper, soap—bastards even took my Q-tips!!!—but it will all be ok. I live in a very kind community that’s showing me nothing but love.

Example: today Greg Gehr, Ken Terrill Dave Isley Buddy Reed & many more are hosting a benefit fundraiser to help get my things back.

Today, Sunday, August 11 from 2 pm to 7:30 at the Mad River Brewery in Blue Lake, Josephine Johnson music equipment recovery benefit.

Know what else is amazing? My friend Greg Beaumont also set up a donation page–it’s handled through Paypal & your donations go directly to my account.

Click on this link to get to the donation page

*Since it’s Paypal, donors must also list their mailing address—excellent! I can send thank you cards and let you know how I am using your dollars to purchase stolen items.

Computer, sound system & ukulele are the most important items to replace quickly :) We’ll git ‘er done—thank you!

Below is the post from the Lost Coast Outpost:

 

You can click all through the story to land on donation page :)

 

Eureka Musician and All-Around Good Person Josephine Johnson Comes Home to Find All Her Stuff Stolen
Hank Sims / Wednesday, Aug. 7 @ 12:44 p.m. / Crime

Eureka singer-songwriter Josephine Johnson went out to play music for the girls at North Star Quest Camp yesterday. When she got back to her downtown Eureka home this morning, her front door was busted in and all her stuff was gone — her computer, her sound system, even her ukulele.

“I’m barely keeping it together,” Johnson told the Outpost in between making the rounds at local pawn shops, looking for the tools she uses to make her art. “Welcome to Humboldt County. I’m just frustrated and angry.”

The Eureka Police Department came to the scene, took a report and were very sympathetic and helpful, Johnson said. Helpfully, the burglars left a box of donuts at the scene of the crime. That box could well crack the case. In the meanwhile, Johnson is asking the public to keep an eye out for the following items, which were taken from her:

Sony handheld digital camera
Peavey 8-channel sound sound system with two speakers
Canon SLR film camera
Tascam portable digital recorder
Tenor ukulele
Macbook Pro

If you think you may have a lead on the thief or thieves, give the EPD a ring — 441-4060. No one deserves to be have their important stuff stolen, but it’s particularly galling when it happens to a selfless starving artist like Josephine.

Let’s listen to her playing her ukulele at the Jambalaya last year.

around the bend

around the bend

Songwriting, Saturday,
June 15, 2013
Gracewinds Music
Corvallis, Oregon

Hey! Thanks for being part of songwriting class  I’ve re-typed our song and have included it in two versions—the first is the way we completed it at the end of class; the second is how I have edited the song to ‘tighten’ it up. In my edit, you’ll see that I changed some of the structure that we began with—this is part of songwriting! In many ways it is very much like solving a puzzle, like playing a super fun language game that involves pushing and pulling language and music so that words and melody fit and work together. And of course much like writing essays for school (remember, songwriting has its parallels with academic writing—who’da thought?!), writing songs involves multiple drafts, editing, and peer feedback to make it as sparkle-y good as possible.

I will share your song on my blog at www.josephinejohnson.wordpress.com so more folks can have a look at what and how we did this. Thanks so much, Eva, Sonja, Sequoia and Ginger!!! Thank you, Gracewinds Music!
********************************************************************

Version 1, the song at the end of class:

Verse The warm rain that joins the beat of crystal waves that shine with heat
Cannot dislodge your perfect day from its hold on love in every way
I’m paddling towards my future I must take this journey alone
To find my heart, soul, and self to find my own way home
Bridge: You never know just how far you’ll go to be yourself and finally show
Just who you are and what you’ll do to show this world
That you are you
Verse: The dark clouds came to spoil my day it started to pour but I know everything
Is OK and I think to myself there is no need to worry the wind and rain
Won’t blow my perfect day away
********************************************************************

Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean!

So, we have a lot of great stuff here, but we need to shift things around a bit to give the song a sense of symmetry and completeness. For example, it still needs some kind of chorus or ‘hook’ and it needs a sense of story or narrative movement. And that main idea? The song’s gotta have a point, right? Most importantly, it needs a TITLE!
I’ll show you how I did it, BUT you can—and please do— play with the words, timing, and chords to create your own edit for the song. Great thing about songwriting? There’re multiple ways to make it the way YOU want it to be. So, feel free to edit and play with this song—push it to be even more than it is! Thanks for all your hard work. It was a blast spending a Saturday afternoon with you 
*******************************************************************
Version 2, Josephine edit
Home
D Gbm
The warm rain that joins the beat of crystal waves that shine with heat
G D
Cannot dislodge your perfect day from its hold on love in every way
D Gbm
I’m paddling toward my future I must take this journey alone
G D
To find my heart, soul, and self to find my own way home
Gm D Gm D Gbm G
Wish I knew how far I had to go to be myself and finally know
G D Gbm G D
Love is all I need to show

D Gbm
Dark clouds try to spoil my day it may pour but I know everything’s OK
G D
I know there’s no need to worry wind and rain won’t wash this away
D Gbm
shining toward the future and I am really not alone
G D
Because my heart, soul and self are my home
Gm D Gm D Gbm G
No matter how far I have to go to be myself and proudly know
G D Gbm G D

Love is all I need to grow

Bridge

Em D Em D
You never know how far you’ll go to be yourself and show
Em D Gbm G
who you are and what you’ll do to show
G D Gbm G D
That you are you

D Gbm
Waves will crash and storms will blow But I carry deep what I always know
G D
that love is key to heart, soul, self connecting all our mystery
D Gbm
future, past, and present certain I am my own
G D
Laugh out loud I am strong I am home
Gm D Gm D Gbm G
So very far I have come to find out what I knew all along
D Gbm G D
I am love, I am loved, I am love

West End Road

West End Road Barn

Such busy times these! A short shout out to let you all know: 1) I’m back in Humboldt County California (Yay!) 2) I’m teaching English as a second language at College of the Redwoods 3) I’m juggling a CRAZY schedule and performing, recording, and writing as much music as I can. Check this video filmed by the amazing Chuck Johnson,  aka Freak Photo, for his Humboldt Live Sessions project:

I have also donated a track to the Humboldt Music Project Check it out!

Humboldt Music Project

Humboldt Music Project

And this Saturday, December 22nd, I’ll be playing a set at Spirit Vibrations 2nd annual Holiday Party at the Jambalaya in Arcata, California. I go on around 9:25 pm for a quick 25 minute set–gonna be fun! Happy holidays & I’ll see you out there :)

Spirit Vibrations Presents!

Spirit Vibrations Presents!

Josephine at Chill Haus, Surat Thani, Thailand

Josephine Johnson & Jock Mackay open for Peck Palichoke & Bowling Manida

by Josephine Johnson

the staff table

all us farang!

A fine evening indeed!

Wow, not only did I get to meet some great people from SMOOTH 97.5, but I also got to hear and meet Peck Palitchoke and Bowling Manida. Very, very kind and down to earth folks, those two. Here’s what I learned:

Turns out, Peck got his start in Thai-Disney media and entertainment—think Siam’s answer to Justin Timberlake. From there he went on to record a parade of Thai pop hits. When he’s not performing and recording music, he does Thai-voice over work in Harry Potter films as well as Thai-only Disney animation releases.

Bowling, who  is mostly known for her vocals, hasn’t done any TV or film work yet. She says singing, recording and traveling keep her busy. And they’re busy! Many more shows (didn’t get an exact number) over the next month

Chill Haus, packed, July 18, 2012, Surat Thani, Thailand

Peck sings to a packed Chill Haus, July 18, 2012, Surat Thani, Thailand

then back to Bangkok for a couple stadium-style performances.

Fine entertainers and lovely people.Check out Peck’s website & listen to a couple of Bowling’s song. It’s fun, Thai pop. And they’re both gorgeous—you’ll get a kick out of it :)

Josephine and Head Media president, DJ Kaah

Josephine and Head Media president, DJ Kaah

But the real star of the evening? That’d be DJ Kaah. With the help of her staff, she seamlessly, magically put the big event together. Really, no hitches, glitches or upsets the whole night. Just seamless professionalism. And I learned a little about her, too. Ready?

When Kaah was 17 she started working at a little pop station in Surat. In ten year’s time she worked her way into a top dj position meeting people, networking and making music business contacts from Surat to Bangkok.

She paid attention to the business.

When she was 28 Kaah decided she wanted to go out on her own. So, she made local history: Kaah became the first woman to own a radio station in Surat. She launched Freeze 97 FM. Then, she started Pro 103 FM. The current crowning jewel of her

Ping Pong (drummer), Josephine Johnson, Jock Mackay, Chill Haus, Surat Thani, Thailand, July 18, 2012

Ping Pong (drummer), Josephine Johnson, Jock Mackay, Chill Haus, Surat Thani, Thailand

media kingdom is Surat’s Smooth 97.5. Kaah now owns and is president of Head Media the parent company of all three of her stations.

And she’s not even 40—I can’t tell you her exact age. She’d kill me. But she’s a whirlwind, a git ‘er done kinda ga,l a natural bubbly charmer, not to mention a popular MC in Surat. Yeah, she’s super cute and fun—and oh yes, gentlemen—DJ Kaah’s single! Smart, young, funny, successful. Kaah’s a catch!

But really, thank you, thank you, Kaah, for putting on such a wonderful and successful night. As my Granny would say, ya did good, and I’m honored to have been part of it. Just so you know, if you’re ever lookin’ to add a farang, I’d be part of your staff any day. You’re incredible. A true inspiration!

And many thanks to Chatchawan Detkasem who photographed the night—check out more of his work on Facebook

Smooth Concert 4 with Josephine Johnson, Jock Mackay & DJ Kaah and her amazing staff

Smooth Concert 4 with Josephine Johnson, Jock Mackay & DJ Kaah and her amazing staff

Jos & DJ Kaah

Jos and DK Kaah July 16, 2012, Chill Haus rehearsal, Surat Thani, Thailand

By Josephine Johnson

I finally got the artists’ names: Peck Palitchoke & Bowling Manida.

They’re big right now on Smooth 97.5  in Surat—oh yeah, tomorrow night’s gonna be SUPER huge.  Kaah and crew anticipate at least 200, possibly 300 people, to pack Chill Haus.

Wow!

Jock and I kick things off around 7:30—we’ve a special, special surprise: his student, Opal, will sing a song with us.  She and all her 14 years are going to shine some English on Adele’s ‘Someone Like You.’

Respect.

Cheers!

I’ll be thinking of you.

~Jos

Peck Palitchoke & Bowling Manida

Peck Palitchoke & Bowling Manida, SMOOTH 97.5 Concert 4, Chill Haus, Surat Thani, Thailand

A new tune, too :) More on this song in a bit—the Humboldt crew will hear it SOON.

My friend Jock Mackay,  Surat’s Smooth 97.5 English hour host, asked me to join him for Smooth Concert 4 at Chill Haus. We’re the warmers for the Move & Strike party and we’re doing all the farang mega-hits—‘Lucky’ (Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat), ‘Someone Like You’ (Adele), ‘Lazy Song’ (Bruno Mars) and more with a full band behind us. Good times!  But here’s the embarrassing part: I don’t have an English translation of the names of  the two Thai pop performers we’re opening for.  I know they’re touring the country and south east Asia in support of their albums ‘Move’ (the guy’s) and ‘Strike’ (the woman’s). I know folks in Thailand love them. I know they’re beautiful. I know it’s going to be a FUN night! If only I knew their NAMES! Argh. When I know, I’ll give you an update with links to photos and their music. Goodness!

Tables are 3,500 Baht for this party, an evening of food, drinks and great music. Email me: josephine.jhnsn@gmail.com. I can put you in touch with the reservation goddesses.  See you there!

Smooth Concert 4 Chill Haus Surat Thani Thailand

Smooth Concert 4, Chill Haus, Surat Thani, Thailand— Josephine Johnson & Jock Mackay

map of Thailand

map of Thailand

a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction –Virginia Woolf

*equally applicable to women who write and sing

SuratThani is Thailand’s largest southern province. It’s also, confusingly, the moniker of the region’s capital

blue betty, hot, hot, hot G ride!

Blue Betty

city which frequently gets a bad rap. Guide books profess there’s not much to do, little spoken English, and that it’s a dirty, working-class backwater. And partly that is Surat, but a lively night market—chock full of traditional Thai dishes, fresh fruits and veggies, roasted insects, larvae!—nice roads and bike lanes, low cost of living and many near-by tourist hot spots make this hard-working city of farmers and fishers a very nice place to live. Really. Maybe this southern almost-coastal city doesn’t have galleria shopping or medical spas, Sirocco’s or an abundance of blinged out temples like some up-north metropolises, but what Surat lacks in iconic Thai attractions, it makes up for with its location near some of the country’s most amazing natural wonders.
Ready for this? Check that map. Uh, huh:

Surat is a seven hour night boat ride from Koh Tao—spectacular diving, snorkeling in the Gulf of Thailand; a two hour ferry from Koh Phangnan—long, white beaches, clear water and full moon parties; less than two hours from Krabi—Thailand’s rock climbing and caving mecca; two hours from Kao Sok National Park—home to the world’s oldest evergreen rainforest, elephants, waterfalls and floating bungalows; an hour by motor bike from a series of waterfalls mostly known by Thai locals. And these are just a few of the

sunset koh phangan

sunset koh phangan

biggies. There’s so much more—monkey training camps, Buddhist meditation centers, coconut plantations, mountain biking everywhere—Surat’s a great, great place to live and work, well-suited as a centrally-located adventure base!

So, I live in a veritable adventure zone. This is great! But I also appreciate that Surat is a real Thai city. There are maybe 120 foreigners, roughly 40 are teachers. (In China, I was ‘laowai.’ In Thailand, I am ‘Farang.’ Foreigner.) Not a big ex-pat community, so I will have to learn and negotiate the culture if I am to thrive. :)  Embrace and thrive!
Music?

Are there places to play if there aren’t many westerners? Ahh, Yes! Maybe not as many as in Xi’an (for those just tuning in, I spent a year teaching college English in Xi’an, China, a city of nearly 10 million), but I know, now, of at least four places, and really, one is all you need! Just down the street is Old Coffee, and then of course, there’s Big’s Bar.  Big’s is my favorite so far and caters to the teacher crowd…it’s where I went last night…

saturday night market, surat thani

saturday night market, surat thani

…On my bike at night after the air had cooled and traffic subsided, was mostly me and my thoughts riding on Donnok over to Big’s. Pedaling and singing, in my blue flower tank, smiling and thinking, happy to be in light clothing, sandals, no sleeves. No hat! A lovely exercise.  Elegance. On two wheels and thinking of nine months past, returning from China, digging in, getting bearings to focus and be Humboldt and work and sing, make music.

And then the incline how it lifted slowly steeper, steeper, measured, steady, gradual. The slope, rise over run, then over-run and no rise but clinging, clawing, tearing to make it, to hang on. Just hang on. Grasping, gasping. Hang on!

But I slid the slide slowly, pieces falling, chunks, who I thought I was and thought I wanted, sloughing from me, burning, burnt, exhausted, cast off, vertical slipping, slide down. When I let go, I relinquished but didn’t give in.

Surrender.
(that tiny flame somewhere, so far inside— still there burning—white hot and searing)
and landed here, Thailand, teaching. No more pushing, striving—just be and be renewed, renewed for writing, singing, performing, loving. That little white heat inside held itself to me, my soul heart beating a torch forced, examined, to acknowledge, reconcile me to that thing I love most. Forced me to admit, acknowledge, embrace:
I love singing. I love performing. I love writing.

And the breath of that tiny flame roared back, “Girl, thank you, love these, honor them, DO them.”

And I promised I would never again deny that I can write, sing, and perform. I love these. LOVE. And I am good at them.
Love to word wrestle and melody make. Love practicing a song over and over until it is seared into me. Am smitten when wrapped in that silver chain connecting a soul and mind to the ether flame where forged all great lines, turns of phrase, melodies.

Money, profit are not connected, here, not related to this. Money, no relationship to love. I embrace the fact that honoring these truths—all this love—may not ever be profitable. I accept this.

But I must: love writing, love singing, love performing. That’s all I need to do.

love

love

No more money-competition-blah-blah-blah, who’s-who-what’s-what. NO MORE!
I love what I do and that is enough.

All this thinking and singing out loud on the bike in the short mile from home to Big’s bar… No one was there when I arrived, an empty 10 o’clock Tuesday. Roofed but open-sided, the night breezes pass gently, street noises drift subtle—this is not China, the air is not loud, but soft with easy bursts of laughter, sweet with big, whole-toned Thai pop…parked by the frog pond, the bike leaning against slightly leaking cement. The pond, cluttered with jungle plants, a desk, maybe, other random furniture?… sang to him, the frog, this new understanding of honor, love, expression— his low croaks, rhythmic and resonant, intoning agreement, like how butterflies know when you know of them and they flirt and hover so closely, teasing with their awareness…

a Steady Boat, part of the collaboration…Sam.

…and then chatted with owners Big and Champ, who were busy working on their first edition of Surat’s new art, music and culture

passing it on

from one to the next

magazine—deliberately lo-fi and hand-drawn indie but assembled deftly in latest InDesign crack. These guys, four total, alties bent over screens, smoking cigarettes, gesturing and speaking fast Thai, a pause, exhale, laughter and cigarette smoke. Through the speakers, Dylan croaked Maggie’s Farm, and Marley wailed, then Brandi Carlyle.  Joni Mitchell.  Indigo Girls? And  Sarah Mclachlan—an ENTIRE Sarah McLachlan album/mix (the one with the rainbow connection). Girl music, these guys?  Softies for Sarah and the rainbow chicks…

Behind the counter Big turns down the music and  hands me his classical guitar: Play.

And so I did…sang for them until midnight while they worked on layout, ads and design. I let it all out, the real love …because I really,

really have to sing….because I love to sing…I love to share this love for singing, music…got lost in words and singing, the rhythmic frog honking, floor fans blowing. Two hours passed? Honest, unobtrusive, the sound tapestry for the working art-alti-writerly-Surat fringe trust.

As I gathered my things to leave, Big grabbed my hands and all alive and serious says, “You need to sing. Your voice can help people.”

koh tao super sunset

koh tao super sunset

Cannot speak words to respond.  Instead, a warm smile, pause, bow head: Gratitude, grateful for the compliment—perhaps the best thing ever heard after singing, really, like someone had faithfully peered through, knew and felt all the psychic battles, wars waged and recent reconciliation of the soul. That, really, more than anything I want this love—this singing, song, writing—to be soothing and healing. To help. As if Big got all of this and knew beyond the language and culture gap the kindest, most genuine thing to say—like he knew what my soul needed to hear.

That’s what love does. One of the things, anyway. It  helps people.

It does.

It transcends.

It heals.

Love.

12 plants 3 passenegrs 1 bike

12 plants 3 passenegrs 1 bike

Come Get Cash!

This, my most recent story for the North Coast Journal

NEWS STORY / BY JOSEPHINE JOHNSON

Come Get Cash!

The county’s giving money back again and again … and again

(MARCH 8, 2012)  Ervin McCluskey and Ervin McCluskey Jr. — Humboldt County is looking for you. And it wants to give you $18,837.14.

That’s because your one-time property at 1286 Howard St. near Oceanview Cemetery in Eureka sold at a county tax auction back in October, and that’s how much money was left over after fees and back taxes were paid.

The county’s also looking for 25 other former property owners, hoping to give them excess money from tax sales.

Eventually, usually in less than a year’s time, the county tends to find the people it’s trying to reunite with small to largish chunks of cash, according to John Bartholomew, Humboldt County treasurer and tax collector.

The countyusually startsits search bysending letters of notification to the former owners and other interested parties, such as people who might have placed a lien against the property, Bartholomew said. Then legal notices are published. Most recently those notices showed up in the North Coast Journal for three weeks back in January, there for the perusal of any nerdy-hip, above average vocabulary, slight OCD-tending Journal reader who likes fine print. And the county also lists on its website the parcel numbers and the amounts it wants to hand out, but it doesn’t name names.

Both the letters and the website give instructions on how to file a claim to get your money back.

Likely, if the county owes you some money from a tax auction, things haven’t been going great with you and the taxman for the last few years.

Properties end up at tax auctions after five consecutive years of unpaid property taxes. Humboldt holds those auctions at least once a year, over the Internet, to try to get back some of the money it is owed. Once a property is sold to the highest bidder, the tax man takes his share, and the rest goes back to the former owner, if he or she can be located.

Readers who focused on the fine print in those legal ads probably noticed that along with the McCluskey’s west-side Eureka property, another in Alderpoint sold for $17,958 more than was owed. Most of the properties where owners stopped paying property taxes, though — 18 of the 26 —  were located in Shelter Cove. They sold for only $400 to $2,400 above whatever was owed to Humboldt County.

Ah, Shelter Cove and its decades-old echoes of poorly parceled land. Most likely, these properties were part of its revolving door of property default and tax sales.

Bartholomew acknowledges that some parcels in Shelter Cove should never have been approved. In 1965, developers descended upon Shelter Cove, initially dividing it into 4,189 parcels, but after heavy storms, earthquakes and constant erosion, the number of parcels is now somewhere around 3,400. It’s estimated that as much as 15 percent of those are unbuildable due to steep slope or inability to maintain a septic leech field system. Some are little more than sheer cliff face.

In the past these Shelter Cove parcels have been advertised on the Internet, targeted toward retirement-aged people and young people eager to invest in coastal California property. The land is suspiciously low-priced but enticing enough to attract folks from all over the country. Often, a parcel is purchased site-unseen.  When the new owners discover they’ve been had, some choose to re-sell and perpetuate the land debacle. Others choose to walk away. And that’s how many of the Shelter Cove properties end up at county auction. After five years of property tax non-payment, the county steps in and puts the land up for sale.

For a while, Bartholomew had been active in trying to get these properties off the tax roll in hopes of stopping the Shelter Cover revolving-land-tax-auction cycle. But the trouble is, the parcels still require upkeep like brush removal or other maintenance that state, Humboldt County or Shelter Cove agencies are unwilling to take on. Maintenance costs money, and money is in short supply these days. Says Bartholomew, “We’ve reached a stalemate on this. There’s no good way to get these parcels off the tax rolls for Humboldt County.” And so it goes … again, again and again …

by Josephine Johnson

Josephine, Fieldbrook Market

Josephine, Feb. 24, 2012, Fieldbrook Market

Hey all!

It’s V WEEK and this weekend is the 15th annual production of Eve Ensler‘s Vagina Monologues—this year’s performance benefits two great North Coast charities—North Star Quest Camp for Girls (ALWAYS accepting donations!) & the Women’s Resource Center. We’re in production week, honing our monologues, getting ready for the show this weekend.

Friday, March 2nd, we’ll be holding it down at the Arcata Playhouse. On Saturday and Sunday, March 3rd & 4th, we’ll be performing at the Eureka Theater. It’s been a blast so far and I’m so looking forward to sharing the evening with such fine, fine ladies—you really must come and see—we will knock your socks off! And your panties! We will blow YOU away.

Much love,

~Jos

Vagina Monologues! V WEEK!

V WEEK

they beat the girl out of my boy

they beat the girl out of my boy---Amy, Sarah, Katelyn, Christin

Eureka Theater check in---with Chelsea, Kyra, Chelsea, Sarah, Katelyn & Soja

Eureka Theater check in---with Chelsea, Kyra, Chelsea, Sarah, Katelyn & Soja

A quick update!

Molly Severdia---reclaiming cunt!

Molly Severdia---reclaiming cunt!

Monday, March 5, 2012—The show’s over folks, the memories will last a lifetime—Humboldt‘s V Week 2012 was amazing, just incredible. Again, so thankful to have met and worked with such fine, talented ladies. I’ve included a few pics from the show—some are from the Arcata Playhouse, the others from Eureka Theater. And I found my favorite Storm Large song that EVERYONE should sing!

ladies backstage playhouse

ladies backstage playhouse

sassy cast, snappy vaginas

sassy cast, snappy vaginas

by Josephine Johnson

The past month took me to Atlanta and Cumming, Georgia, where I worked with 6th, 7th & 8th grade students writing five different sets of lyrics to a piece of music I composed for the ukulele. On Saturday, February 4, I brought the same songwriting lesson to students in grades 4 thru 9 at HSU’s annual Young Writer’s Conference.

How’d we do this?

Well, as a group we talked about parts of songs and collaborated on ideas and motifs—super important that as a group we decided together what the song would be about to focus our imagery and hone the point of what we wanted to express. In some ways writing a song is sort of like tackling a five paragraph essay. A song needs an intro, a main theme & conclusion. Think about it. At least, I think there are similarities between these seemingly disparate genres—the students, though, were thoroughly nonplussed by this comparison.  After we agreed on unifying theme, concept and imagery, we broke into small groups where students came up with three verses, a chorus and a lyric-driven bridge.

Below is a video from Bob Doran that he filmed and edited at the 2012 Young Writer’s Conference.

Below are videos of songs that I collaborated with students at Little Mill Middle School in Cumming, Georgia. Many, many thanks to Beth Faris and all the kind folks at Little Mill. I had a great time. And I think the students had fun, too, though it all may have been more work than we bargained for! *Unfortunately, we spent all of our time writing and editing—we didn’t get around to titles for these. Dang.

This last one is my favorite song from the students at Little Mill. To write this one, I experimented with a different process in which I asked the students to listen twice to the music I composed and then do a free write about what the piece made them think or feel. I then collected the students’ written exercises and edited together the song. Not all of the students’ words were used, but all of the words—save for adding/ removing an -ing or -ed ending—are the kids’ own work. :) They made more than one nice turn of phrase!

This last song was written collaboratively at the 2012 Young Writer’s Conference on Saturday, February 4, on the campus of Humboldt State University. We sure had a blast! I’d like to teach this lesson over the course of a week so that students could better understand the importance of stepping away from a song to let it breathe. Writing a song in an hour and fifteen minutes does not leave much time for editing and/or close scrutiny of word options. Next time! Hopefully this summer I will be teaching at Young Writer’s Academy :)

In the Can

NEWS STORY / BY JOSEPHINE JOHNSON

In the Can

What Arcata can learn from Eureka’s public bathrooms

(JAN. 5, 2012)  Ever wander the Arcata Plaza and have to go? Really have to get to a bathroom quick? Maybe you high-tailed it to Jacoby’s Storehouse and sneaked into its facilities. Or if things were a little less pressing, perhaps you fast-stepped it to the Co-op, got the door code, and maybe waited behind a person or two before finally breathing that sweet sigh of relief. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Trouble is, Arcata doesn’t have a public bathroom, and people have argued for years over whether it should. Occupiers renewed that debate in October, and now City Council is considering whether to build public facilities somewhere near downtown.

But public bathrooms pose their own set of challenges, including cleaning, maintenance and vandalism prevention — as well as a budget to pay for them.

Old Town Eureka, the can...

And if the goal, at least partly, is to give the homeless somewhere they can go with dignity, Eureka’s experience might offer lessons for Arcata.

Eureka built restrooms in Old Town in 1993, partly in response to merchants who hoped that a public bathroom would reduce the number of non-shoppers seeking relief in their stores.

It has worked, several merchants say, but it’s a sort of a damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t undertaking.

The City of Eureka’s two unisex bathrooms, each with a single toilet, are tucked away behind the northwest corner of the downtown gazebo. Brick on the outside and with bare-bones accommodations inside — fluorescent lights, lime green cinder block walls, stainless toilets and wash basins — the bathrooms show signs of hard use. On different days in December, black plastic bags of old clothes were propped against the wall of one toilet, and the other had wads of cardboard in the toilet bowl.

Both bathrooms have custom, protective metal guards over the toilet paper dispensers. One has a stainless steel mirror, and the other lacks anything reflective. Each outside door locks, and homeless folks occasionally lock themselves inside, posing problems for the maintenance man who takes care of the Old Town restrooms.

“Bottom line is everyone goes to the bathroom, and a good functioning bathroom in Old Town is a necessity,” says Jonathan Buckmaster, who has maintained the facilities for the past five years. Buckmaster, an HSU graduate — as well as a clarinet prodigy who performed with L.A. big bands and symphonies throughout his teens – knows the ins and outs of these bathrooms. He opens them each morning around 8:30, returns to clean them at 4 p.m. and closes them at 5 p.m.

Vandalism, he says, is a near-daily occurrence. Sometimes it’s as minor as Sharpie marker graffiti. Other times it’s incapacitating, as in

Jonathan Buckmaster, clarinet marvel who manages Old Town's bathrooms

Jonathan Buckmaster, clarinet marvel who manages Old Town's bathrooms

2008, when the former, porcelain toilets and sinks were smashed to bits and light fixtures and hand dryers were ripped from the walls. After that, the bathrooms were closed for nearly three months for repairs. And six months ago someone tried to demolish the cinder block partition in one of the bathrooms, putting that one out of commission for a few days.

It costs about $9,500 a year just to clean and keep toilet paper in the two bathrooms in Old Town, according to Jeff Raimey, Eureka’s harbor operations supervisor. And that doesn’t even touch the cost of major repairs post-vandalism. The city’s public restrooms at the Samoa bridge boat launch and marina also endure vandalism and cost about the same to maintain, he said. All are cared for with money from the city’s general fund, which is supported by sales and property taxes.

Some merchants say the Old Town restrooms are vital — or at least, better than nothing. They provide an option for locals and tourists, even if they’re not the coziest or the cleanest.

Dorine Leisz, store manager at Many Hands Gallery at the corner of F and Second streets, thinks the bathrooms are embarrassing. “I cringe when I send tourists across the street,” says Leisz.

Charlotte McDonald, executive director of Eureka Main Street, also is familiar with the pitfalls of Old Town’s restrooms. Knowing what Eureka knows now, she says, it would have helped to build bathrooms with doors that don’t lock from the inside, and in a more visible place. “The current location is a place not so easy to monitor. It’s out of the way, making vandalism that much easier to undertake.”

Some have suggested a full-time, on-site attendant could help. The city claims this is too costly, and really not a viable option for Eureka. That might be different in Arcata, says Laura Cutler, who has been following closely the Arcata public bathroom dilemma since October.

Cutler, a Westhaven resident and formerHumboldt County counsel, helped Arcata Occupiers bring the issue to local government officials, reminding the community that those on the lowest socio-economic rungs often “literally do not have a pot to piss in.” Cutler’s idea? If an on-site attendant would minimize vandalism and help keep facilities clean, then why not make a community service work position in which minor offenders would serve by tending to the bathrooms? “In homeless court people are sentenced with community service,” says Cutler. “This could be one way to monitor and maintain the bathrooms at a community level.”

Arcata is considering bathroom designs in which stalls latch but doors don’t lock, said Councilmember Susan Ornelas, who is on the committee studying bathroom options. “We’re also considering involving local artists for public art on the facility.”

The committee has its eye on the space between Arcata City Hall and the Crabs ball field for a potential site, said Ornelas.

So far, though, no date has been set for the council to review the committee’s ideas.

Happy Holidaze!

Hey! I’m sharin’ the bill with some fine folks this Thursday. Trillium, Lonesome Roses, Lorenza Simmons, Peter Ciotti & more. Good stuff. Here’s to a great new year!

Jambalaya Holiday Show, Thursday, Dec. 22

Jambalaya Holiday Show, Thursday, Dec. 22

Joanne Rand & Josephine Johnson, Arcata Playhouse, December 16, 2011

Joanne Rand & Josephine Johnson, Arcata Playhouse, December 16, 2011

Fare thee well, Bryan.

NEWS STORY / BY JOSEPHINE JOHNSON

Sweet Soul

The death of Bryan Osper tore a hole in Humboldt’s music scene

(DEC. 8, 2011)  It had been an especially warm and joyful Thanksgiving at his parents’ house. In between eating good food and laughing, Bryan and his younger brother, Jason, had spent most of the weekend playing guitarsand drumming in the living room, with Bryan’s little nephew joining in on the ukulele. Just 7 years old, Victor had learned a few chords from his uncle the year before and was excited to play with the big boys.

Bryan's Alter at the Bucky House

Bryan's Alter at the Bucky House

After the family weekend, Bryan Osper, only 26 years old himself, got into his green Montero and left El Cajon, taking I-5 north toward his girlfriend’s home in Sonoma. Sometime in the early evening on Nov. 28, Osper pulled off the interstate and parked on the shoulder of Copus Road, near Bakersfield. At about 6:15, as he was getting back on the road, he attempted a U-turn and swung right into the path of a tractor-trailer. He died at the scene from blunt head and neck trauma. Though there had been heavy fog that night, the CHP said that wasn’t a factor.

Osper’s sudden death not only left his family reeling, but ripped a ragged hole in the tight-knit Humboldt music scene he had woven himself into since moving here in 2003 to study journalism at Humboldt State University. Osper was a good writer, and he’d only been playing guitar a couple of years. But in his first week on campus he met the people with whom he would eventually form significant musical bonds that would pull him away from his original purpose. Niko Daoussis. Joey Goforth. Cat Fountain. Melody Walker. Those were just a few. Oh, and professor Eugene Novotney, the leader of the HSU Calypso Band.

Osper had heard there might be openings in the band and showed up at a calypso rehearsal that first week. He asked if he could play, try it out. Novotney let him have a go at the steel drums — and he was smooth. “I knew that first time I saw him he would make major contributions to the program,” Novotney said.

Soon Osper dropped journalism and picked up music. He concentrated on percussion and traveled with Novotney to Brazil and Trinidad to study samba and calypso. By the time he’d graduated from Humboldt State’s music program in 2009, Osper had earned a reputation as a bright and exceptional multi-instrumentalist. Novotney calls him the best example of a natural musician. “He could move within and between different instruments with ease and grace,” he said. “There was no music that wasn’t his friend.”

Bryan Osper & The Bucky Walters

Bryan Osper & The Bucky Walters

Indeed, to hear friends tell it, Bryan Osper could play any instrument he touched. And his voice was clear, comforting, as if he had a direct connection to a realm beyond.

Besides playing with HSU’s Calypso band, Osper was a founding member of the world-dance-fusion band WoMama, played guitar and sang with the bluegrass band The Bucky Walters, and played with Samba D’Alegria, Dun Dun Fare and Bloco Firmeza.

Jesse Jonathon, who met Osper in 2003, said everyone was calling him “hot licks” even back then. Jonathon, a fellow student at the time, had sent out an email to prospective members of a new campus club he was forming, called the HSU Jammers League.

“Bryan was the first person to respond to my email,” said Jonathon. The League — which included Daoussis, Goforth and Fountain, all future Bucky Walters band mates — played classic Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Paul Simon and Metallica and shined up some of the songs for performance. The league members thought Osper a brilliant guitarist. “He was the go-to rock God,” Jonathon said.

Osper’s prowess developed rapidly and he became much more than a rock guitarist and percussionist. Melody Walker recalled the first time the Jammers heard him sing. He performed the Talking Heads’ “Cross-eyed and Painless” and blew everyone away, Walker said. “Here was this guy who up to this point I knew as just a very good rock-and-roll guitar player,” she said. “Then he sang. It was just like David Byrne. Flawless. I got to see him blossom as a singer, songwriter and bluegrass guitarist.” Walker and Osper remained musical collaborators; recently, Osper performed as a guest musician on Walker’s forthcoming 2012 releaseGold Rush Goddess.

Bryan's electric guitar

Bryan's electric guitar

Two days after Osper’s death, friends and fans gathered in the afternoon at the “Bucky” house, where the band practiced. They were dazed, their eyes tear-blurred. People had been coming and going all day. In the kitchen there was an altar of photos, candles, notes and mementos. Lauren Smith had left a tiny mbira, an African thumb piano, as an offering. The house swelled with laughter and sobbing, then fell silent. Then swelled again. They were telling Bryan stories.

Goforth recalled how, after The Bucky Walters played the North West String Summit in 2007, the band had mistakenly left Osper behind at the festival. An hour into their drive home, he said, he got a call from Osper. “And he’s still there, and know what he’s doing? He’s washing dishes. He was washing dishes and helping clean up.” Everybody laughed. Then Daoussis noted that, when they were on tour, they never let Osper drive the van. Friends agreed he wasn’t the best driver.

Everybody grew quiet.

Fountain, the Bucky Walters’ back-up harmonizer and harmonica player, said the last time she saw Osper, a couple weeks ago, he was teaching a friend of hers to play ukulele. Osper sat and wrote for an hour, she said, creating a little book of chords and ukulele tips. Then he showed her how to play them.

Osper’s girlfriend of four years, 22-year-old Sophia Mackell, recalled that Osper was very sentimental. She said he liked to tell people about the time he first met her, and he’d written poems and notes about it — in them, Mackell is shimmering in the sunlight. “I was in the art quad wearing a big, plate mother of pearl necklace, and he turned and saw how the sun shone on the necklace,” she said. “And he always liked to say how that was like Heaven bringing me to him.” Mackell paused, took a breath, then sobbed, “He was the kindest, gentlest, most passionate person I ever met.”

respect

respect

He was a sweet, sweet boy, said George Osper, Bryan’s dad, on the phone last week. “When he was 2, I was in the Navy,” he said. “I will never forget when I had to deploy and my wife was crying and holding Bryan in her arms. He was patting her arm and told her, ‘It’s OK, Mommy, it will be OK.’ He was a very sensitive and empathetic soul.”

More than 200 people celebrated Bryan Osper’s memory Monday night at Humboldt Brews in Arcata. Services are planned for 1 p.m., Dec. 17, at the Cottonwood Golf Club in El Cajon. Flowers and cards may be sent to Cottonwood Golf Club, 3121 Willow Glen Drive, El Cajon, Calif., 92019.

 

 

 

 

Josephine Johnson

Create Your Badge

Some Singing, a Video

Kirsten Petersen filmed. Ralph camera-steadied.

Old Town Coffee & Chocolates. Eureka, California.

by Josephine Johnson

Couldn’t keep away. Returned to Humboldt County courthouse this morning to check-in with our local Occupy movement. I spoke with resident Don Jeffers who has been watching all of this for the past 72 years. Wise soul, kind man.

Monday, November 14, 2011, Occupy Eureka site

Monday, November 14, 2011, Occupy Eureka site (photo A. Goff)

Friday, November 11, 2011 Eureka Occupy camp

Friday, November 11, 2011 Eureka Occupy camp (photo A. Goff)

by Josephine Johnson

So, you all know I live in Eureka, California, yeah? Ok. And recently my foggy burg by the bay garnered national press for our local Occupy encampment. Like many places in this great nation, folks here are camping in—occupying—public spaces in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, and though many local HumCo folks are supportive, some just ain’t havin’ it. Which is perplexing given that most here—not counting the big-time growers— are the 99%. Most here, like the rest of America, are being squeezed from the middle class. If you’ve read this post, then you’ve seen the nice pics and graphs depicting the not-so-nice trends and facts about the withering American middle class.  So, recently a reporter from local News Channel 3 visited the Occupy Eureka site at  Humboldt County courthouse. And this is what happened:

Yeah. Feels kinda like a Christopher Guest mockumentary, doesn’t it?  Not everyone supports the Occupy movement here, and Ms. Lambert certainly has her HumCo fans. But wait! It gets funnier. I mean really silly. Lambert’s report inspired this ditty by Andrew Goff (oh you KNOW Dylan’s all envious…):

Pretty funny, eh? And, unlike Ms. Lambert (bless her heart), it’s not unnecessarily cruel or patronizing. For sure, kids across America’ll be howlin’ this tune at bonfires, singalongs, summer camps and backyard BBQs for years to come. Why? Because it has poop and pee in it, of course!

And how ’bout this one?

Occupy image, multi-track audio, Goff the goof, oh my!

Firedoglake, Verum Serum, Gawker, the blaze and probably lots more—all scatologically fixated! I mean, sheesh, we’re in the midst of the new millennium massive economic meltdown, worse than the 1930s according to some—we all need something silly, funny, hilarious to lift us from the grim economic facts and future facing us. Let’s laugh! This is funny shit—I mean stuff. This is really, really silly stuff!

Or is it? Maybe not to local law enforcement. This morning (Monday, November 14, 2011) at 4:50 am the Eureka Police Department and Humboldt County Sheriff’s office raided the Eureka Occupy camp. I don’t think anyone was laughing then, especially not the occupiers since they were all sleeping. I learned of the raid a few hours after it happened. Andrew Goff reported it on the North Coast Journal blog. I’ve cut-n-pasted from the original, but check out the site, too.

ACTIVISM / BY ANDREW GOFF / TODAY, 8:18 A.M.

Occupy Eureka Wiped Out (PHOTOS)

… at least for now.

The most elaborate encampment constructed on the Humboldt County Courthouse lawn by Occupy Eureka to date — a society that lasted from Friday afternoon until early Monday morning — has been removed by the Eureka Police Department.

Monday morning, the police taped-off area was heavily protected by EPD officers. New fencing was scheduled to arrive later in the day.

EPD Interim Police Chief Murl Harpham estimated 25 arrests were made in a raid of the camp that commenced at around 4 a.m. today. Harpham restated his stance that protesting was allowed.

“If they want to protest, they can protest on the sidewalk,” Harpham said.

Protester James Decker said that last night’s raid saw occupiers “Mark” and “Andrew” tackled by officers.

To compare and contrast, here’s the setup Occupy Eureka maintained from Friday through Sunday:

Friday, November 11, 2011 Eureka Occupy camp

Friday, November 11, 2011 Eureka Occupy camp (photo A. Goff)

Monday, November 14, 2011, Occupy Eureka site

Monday, November 14, 2011, Occupy Eureka site (photo A. Goff)

**********************

After reading Goff’s report and seeing the photos, I was compelled to go to the HumCo courthouse to see for myself.  I know the folks down there because I ride or walk past the encampment almost daily. They’re respectful, cheerful and easy to engage in conversation—yeah, they’re my neighbors, dang it. So I went. And discovered that all of the people I usually talk with had been arrested. Yeah, 25 people—poor people, as in folks in poverty, poor people— were arrested and thrown in jail for occupying the courthouse lawn. Why? I can’t help but think that the higher-ups, the powers that be, began to grow weary of the negative national press, that city officials and local muckety-mucks started thinking about how silly (come on, comical!) Eureka must be coming across to folks beyond our protective redwood curtain. That all this bad press might affect tourist dollars or something. (Like people can afford to go on vacation these days…) So they pressured local police to enforce  local ordinance. (Eureka city code bans camping within city limits.) Just a theory. In any case I am certain Eureka uppity-ups have NO sense of humor. None. No funny ha-ha. Maybe an enema would help? Work it all out, get the funny flowing again, yeah?

When I went to the courthouse today I took my camera and spoke with the few people fortunate enough not to have been arrested. Mostly, their words to tell the story.

One more song! No poo, no pee—enjoy!

Just a quick share & thank you—big shout out to the folks at the North Coast Journal, Arcata Playhouse, Russ Cole, Mike Dronkers, Andrew Goff, Chris Parreira & the Trouble for a super fun evening of Humboldt County’s ‘bests’ (NCJ reader-voted). :)

The poster---thanks NCJ!

The poster---thanks NCJ!

Super thanks to Todd Krider (camera use) & Holley Pering (camera operator)

The awesome Don Husman filmed and posted this treat—the Trouble & Josephine!!!

THANK YOU for all the love & support. Really, really, really. Love!

In this post are the most-liked images from the Arcata Photo Studios shoot.    Thank you for all your input and kind words. Thank you, thank you!

Why can't I hear the vocals?

about that mic cable...

In motion, Josephine Johnson.

From Humboldt to San Francisco and back and around the County, I’ve been moving and taking it

that cable?

I can't hear you.

all in, talking with a range of folks from different backgrounds. From Oakland street conversations, BART station banter, rideshare debates and Old Town Coffee and Chocolates repartee, all of these exchanges have circled back to the current protests on Wall Street. Some SoHum (Southern Humboldt) friends are certain the demonstrations are pushing toward something very big—nearing the critical mass of a genuine movement. My Eureka open-mic friendsseem assured this is the beginning of a major paradigm shift in America, that soon we’ll all have to be more communal in our living and working arrangements because more and more of us will be making less and less, and we will have to figure out how to get along in order to share our dwindling economic

hourly wages have stagnated over the last 50 years

stagnant hourly wages

resources. Also common among these disparate conversations is the notion that the strength of this ‘movement’ is grounded in the fact that so many protesters are seemingly average Americans. Sure, there’s a contingent of typical college-aged firebrands (your presence, thank you!), but there’re are also out of work fathers, struggling single mothers, homeless families and concerned grandparents all weighing in and standing up in support of taking back America from the corporations and executive managers that have slowly squeezed the wealth from the rest of us over the last forty years.  Most agree that corporations have robbed this nation of our middle class (what’s that?).

My fave :)

smiles & cute despite, in spite of, the gloom

Right now, there are Occupy Humboldt sites on the Arcata Plaza, Eureka Court House and Humboldt State quad. This weekend I will be camping with the HSU occupiers—Travis Turner heads up that site. Likely, if you’re reading this you’re part of the 99% and we need to unite. If you are able to join a site for a day or night, do it. Or start your own Occupy site.  We have much strength in our numbers. Align, be peaceful, get together & power to the people.

For insight check out http://www.businessinsider.com/what-wall-street-protesters-are-so-angry-about-2011-10#

This link takes you to a slide show of graphs depicting, among many facts, how wages for what we’d ostensibly call the middle class have been eroding since the early 1970s while CEO pay has ballooned to more than 300% relative to the average wage-earner. There’s also insight into the current American jobs picture. It’s not pretty. At all.

CEO pay skyrockets while the rest of us plummet

CEO pay skyrockets while the rest of us plummet

And yeah, I’m nervous about it.

Like many, many people right now, I worry about the future. Right now— for the sake of pursuing music as well as out of necessity—I juggle odd jobs, freelance writing and a little music to make ends meet.  What pays the bills best?  Manual Labor. And really, I am thankful to know great folks who hire me for lawn maintenance, fence building and house painting. (Need something painted, trimmed, constructed? Contact me. I may be your girl.)  Halleluiah and a shout out to the Student Conservation Association and the undergrad & grad school grounds crews I worked on— these jobs and experiences provided vital skills to pay the bills, to be sure.

U.S. CEO pay relative to other industrialized nations

U.S. CEO pay relative to other industrialized nations

Why manual labor? Because it pays better than anything else I could be doing right now including food & beverage, teaching and

smiles

and stuff

administration. And I do enjoy it.  Yes, I have a Master’s in English, and I really, really enjoy teaching, but there’s none of that to be had right now in California and in most of the U.S. I could return to China or another South East Asia locale to teach and use this brain, knowledge and passion to inspire and challenge young minds—and maybe someday that will be the best option—but I’m an American, and I love living here, especially in Humboldt. So, I’m going to hang in for as long as I can and be thankful for employment options to juggle. Maybe I’m revealing too much, here, but it’s my labor, time and talents that I have going for me, not a trust fund or rich relatives. I am a hard worker, and music, education and travel are all things I’ve labored at most of my life on my own merit and dime to achieve. Just want you all to know that :)

I can probably juggle like this for another 20 years, though I’m praying in time I juggle fewer and fewer odd jobs and play more and more

income inequity

income inequity---inner Tank Girl rages...

music. But then what? There’s no pension, no insurance, nothing like that. And it’s not like I’m saving anything to squirrel away in an IRA or tuck in an off-shore bank account. But I keep at it—like lots of folks right now—and tell myself things like “it’s a good thing I’m tough, ‘cause I CAN do this, grrr,” and “this is good for me, builds character, arrr.” You know, all that lemons-to-lemonaid-power-of-positive-thinking-law-of-attraction-pop-psycho babble many have come to hold close in recent years because believing in it is far rosier and more comforting than embracing the dark implications of what graphs like these illustrate.  Note their sources.

Josephine one

Josephine one

Yeah, I worry, just like many, many other Americans. I worry.

And I have a feeling that soon folks like me working multiple jobs without insurance or pensions will be the norm, if we aren’t already. And for this I’m deeply disappointed in a system that taught me in 3rd grade anyone can be president in the U.S. (well, actually, you gotta at least be a millionaire first), that if I work hard, I can be/do anything (being a millionaire definitely helps with that, too),  that my vote counts. ARRRGH! Yeah, so I’m Occupying Humboldt this weekend. I am. It’s an opportunity to spend time with folks and listen to stories of where they’ve been and hear their ideas, visions and hope for the future. To build solidarity because I’m pretty sure we’re gonna need to work together to move through this 50-years-in-the-making mess we have ahead of us. Besides, what’s there to lose, the middle class?

Yes, there will be singing.

Which brings me to one more point: Food for People is the designated food bank for Humboldt County and currently serves over 12,000 community members each month through its 12 programs. Within the last year, there has been a 45% increase in requests for food assistance, and the food bank is

Argh!!!!

Really?! We've been had.

struggling to keep up with the current need for food assistance in Humboldt County.   For more information or to find out how you can help, contact Harriet Pecot, Fund Development Direct at Food for People (707) 445-3166.  Additional information about Food for People can also be found at www.foodforpeople.org.

Huh? What? Singing and the food bank?

build a fence, trim a hedge, wield axe, sing---simultaneously

I AM tough.

On October 22 the North Coast Journal and Arcata Playhouse are sponsoring an evening in celebration of the Journal’s 2011 ‘Best of Humboldt’ edition. Chris Parreira and I tied for best solo performer, and we’ll be sharing the Arcata Playhouse stage to raise money for Food for People, also voted best non-profit Humboldt County 2011. The cost of admission for the evening is just $10 and a non-perishable food item.  Doors open at 7:15 pm. Show starts at 8. I think the amazing Russ Cole will be running sound, so you know it will be great.

wealthiest 20% have 93% of America's total financial pie---mad as hell.

wealthiest 20% have 93% of America's total financial pie---mad as hell.

Singing?  Here’s a new song recorded late last night—enjoy, and I challenge you to find ways to shine with each other, to be the best of us for each of us. We must stand together if are to weather and get through this economic shit storm. Be peaceful, be patient. Be brave. Be tough. Be together.

:) ~Jos

Josephine one

Josephine one

Josephine Johnson

Still don’t have all that digi-media stuff consolidated and expressed in one clear message, though thankfully, one piece of the digi-puzzle is much closer to being in

Josephine two

Josephine two

place.  Recently I visited Arcata Photo Studios, where on a clear-skied Tuesday evening Terrence McNally went out of his way to accommodate me and my crazy schedule. He shot more than an hour’s worth of photos and succeeded in making me look attractive—maybe even ‘hot’. Valerie McGowan’s hair styling magic also helped with the heat. :)

And I mean that in the most humble way.

Josephine five

Josephine five

Josephine six

Josephine six

Like most women I have body image issues. What woman doesn’t, right? But since, oh say junior high, I’ve been very aware that I’m not the most photogenic of folks—not

Josephine seven

Josephine seven

classically beautiful, more rugged than refined-looking. Olan Mills family portraits circa seventh grade were trained on the disparate features of my face and body: a big nose; petite-ness paired with linebacker-broad shoulders; an equally ample rump;  arms and legs of muscle. To be sure I am not a gamine glamour babe, but more a tough (yet painfully sensitive) pygmy girl-Hulk. At least that’s how those Olan Mills photos made me feel. And this is why the last set of studio portraits of me was taken when I was twelve. Just ask Mom. She’s been hounding me for years to get her some nice photos for the dining room.

Josephine eight

Josephine eight

My Mom doesn’t get the agony of portraiture (for me)—finding body-accentuating clothing, getting the hair done, wearing make-up. Wearing make-up so that I don’t look like I’m in drag…but here’s the upside—I can still wear shorts and t-shirts from junior high (that’s always good, yeah?) and I do have nice teeth. (Thank you, Mom, for making me brush and taking me to the dentist.)

Josephine eight

Josephine eight

Josephine three

Josephine three

***So, here’s where I need a little help from YOU. I’ve narrowed them down to the top twelve that I like and am hoping you can help winnow that to the best five or six images.

What will they be used for?  These will be the first images folks see before booking me. They will be used in my electronic press kit as well as on  the blog,

Josephine four

Josephine four

Facebook, Twitter and other places on the web. Press photos! The pics are numbered & you can leave a comment explaining which ones you like best. Would you, could you do that? Your feedback is very, very much appreciated. You can also email me at josephine.jhnsn@gmail.com.

Josephine 12

Josephine 12

One last shout out here: Thank you, Nancy, at Vintage Avenger for the use of the dresses—that 1960s number was off the chain!  It’s now in my arsenal—love it.

Wait! One more thing: I did do senior portraits. You know the ones where you pose by the barn or in front of faux graffiti? Didn’t do those but I did do studio poses. Correction: last studio pics were in high school not junior high. Oh, Olan Mills, senior portraits, family holiday photos—similar traumas all…

But not these. Thanks, Terrence, for making these painless and fun.

Josephine 10

Josephine 10

Josephine eleven

Josephine eleven

Josephine nine

Josephine nine

A quickie!

Kneeland Music Fest, Sept. 2011

Kneeland Music Fest, Sept. 2011

Josephine Johnson

Phew, back in Humboldt and so very busy— almost a month since the last post, mea culpa, but when you live here, you know the hustle. All of us with our dreams of art, music, expression—in the midst of a major economic recession—have at least a few jobs to support the chase, feed the dream, feed ourselves, kids & pets.  And this morning I’m in that hustle with yard work and projects (hey, you know whose yard I’m in!) and some bike riding, and then I’m gonna beautify.

Yep, I’m gonna get hot. See, that Terrence McNally at Arcata Photos Studio is taking some pictures of me this evening, and we’re glamming it up. My gal Valerie is on the hair. Nancy (super thanks, Nancy!) from Vintage Avenger has lent three dresses for the shoot. I’m on the ‘artistic vision’. And make up? My nemesis, make up…not sure, but we’ll figure it out. Terrence said not to over think it. He also said he had a ‘hot’ button on his camera. We’ll find out, won’t we? I’ll share some here, and maybe you all help me decide which ones are best, ok?

Speaking of ‘best’…thank you for all the support in the North Coast Journal’s best of edition. Chris Parreira & I tied for ‘best solo musical artist.’ This means so much to me—I feel very lucky and loved.

Below is the Journal blurb (thank you, Andrew Goof , for the kind words!). Be well & I’ll share some pics soon.  ~Jos

p.s. I’m still working on the bus thing and musical travel—there’re some really great stuff in the works. All in good time. And really, thank you for the love!!!

Sunset King Range Pacific Ocean—this is the best it gets. The best. BEST.

Best Solo Musical Artist

(SEPT. 22, 2011)  Foiled again! It would appear that the statistical gods have reaped vengeance upon us for daring to ask readers to pit the pure souls of musicians competitively against each other and declare a “best.” Thus, we have a tie.

In this corner, Chris Parreira: “It’s funny, this is the one year I haven’t been doing many solo gigs at all, less than 12 really. All of my shows these days are with one of [my] bands.” ‘Tis true. Chris has been focusing much of his recent musical energy on The Trouble — a group that would likely have won our Best Band category had it not been for “Sinnergate.” But obviously his solo restrained, Dylan-esque folk made enough of an impression to propel him to the co-top of this heap.

Josephine Johnson

In the other corner, Josephine Johnson. Like Chris, she too has been absent from the local scene as of late — she recently returned from a 10-month English teaching gig in Xian, China (see “The China Connection,” July 21). Back now, she’s hit the ground running with poetic lyrics, subdued strumming and haunting vocals in tow. (Disclosure: I’ve picked a few tunes with her in my day.)

So, apologies to the blood lusters who wanted a clear victor, but we’re calling this a happy ending. Why? We contacted both Chris and Josephine with the good news and they’ve both agreed to schedule a special joint “Best Of Doublebill” in the near future. Their similar styles should gel, right? When it all goes down — keep your eyes and ears open — we’re demanding a duet version of Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” with its “Baby, you’re the best” refrain.

Well, “demand” is a strong word. They’re the “best.” They’ll figure it out.

— Andrew Goff

The Breakdown: Chris Parreira 4.8%, Josephine Johnson 4.8%, Berel Alexander 4.5%, Ishi Dube 4.5%, Sarah Bareilles 2.9%, Voter Turnout: 29th.

yard art in the way out

yard art in the way out

This will be quick. A little note to let folks know I’m working super-hard to get all this digi-media stuff consolidated, consistent. You know, like strategic messaging, smooth, targeted media-ese. I’m professional—as my granny would say I’m ‘getting my poop in a group’. I’ll need a bigger, better computer to cover it all!

Phew, and there sure is a lot of it to get into a group. Really, check this out. I have all these different ways to

These handsome guys, sheesh...

These handsome guys, sheesh...

reach out to/ keep in touch with people on the internet.
Two Facebook pages:        Josephine Johnson and the music/fan site Josephine

Twitter: @JosephineSing

Attempt at consistency—Facebook fan page addy: www.facebook.com/JosephineSing similar to Twitter

thingy: @JosephineSing

Ok, three so far. Consistency one.

Want to buy a CD? Do that here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/Josephine1 (so much for consistency…)

Feeling nostalgic? How about MySpace: www.myspace.com/josephineinthetrees (wait? now she’s in the trees?)

Lyndsey Battle & Josephine Johnson are playing a show!

Lyndsey Battle & Josephine Johnson are playing a show!

Or via video? There’s YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/JosephineSings99  and Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/josephinejohnson (uh, consistency…)

This blog: www.josephinejohnson.wordpress.com and the big website that is in progress (not yet updated from China): http://www.josephine-johnson.com/

Of course, there’s Google+ which no one uses…Ok, Bob Morse does (Morse Media!). I’m there, too. :) Just in case.

Got lots to do!

But the real reason for this post is to help keep myself together—to jot down quick-like what’s coming up as I get busier juggling more immediate stuff. Have some gigs, and I’m gonna list info here first then refer back as I share with different calendars and in other places. Essentially, this is a swifty cheat sheet for you and for me. Ready? Let’s go!

 Saturday, September 3rd, Arts Alive! Eureka 6-9 Belle Star—be the rainbow!

cow pushers

The Pacific and happiest of happy

Tuesday, September 13th, Will Jam for Food, 9pm Jambalaya, Arcata—boysen, marion, huckle, mmmmm…

Friday, September 16th, Lyndsey Battle & Josephine Johnson, 7-9 Redwood Yogurt, Arcata—first real hometown show since China!

Saturday, September 17th, Two Car Garage CD release, 7pm Mosgo’s, Arcata—fun :)

Wednesday, September 21st, Pints for the Environment, 6pm Redwood Curtain Brewery—it’s for EPIC.

Saturday, October 1st, Arts Alive! Eureka, 6-9 Ramone’s Bakery Old Town—with Brother

James!!!

Friday, October 14th, Arts Arcata, 6-9 Plaza Design—who will be playing with me???

Saturday, November 5th, Arts Alive! Eureka, 6-9 Old Town Antique Lighting—yep, that sweet space on the corner of F & 2nd.

And what does all this have to do with Greyhound? Keeping that under the hat a bit longer—but the poop’s gettin’ grouped fo’ sho—there you go!                                           Peas, carrots, bikes and birds, ~Jos

Now for the holy: St. Patrick's, Petrolia

Now for the holy: St. Patrick's, Petrolia

Old Town Coffee and Chocolates has an open-mic each Wednesday evening hosted by Mike Anderson. Good ol’ Papa Paul let’s us use his fine sound equipment, too. Last night Brother James and I went and played some tunes together—our friend Thomas from Montana filmed our set.  With an attentive, supportive audience, it’s always a good time, always friendly folk there—to name a few Gin and Laura of the Soulful SidekicksLester, Charlie, a poet, this awesome guy and his electric guitar and a bunch more. Oh, Mike Anderson, by the way, has his own band, Out of Sheep, and they played Bummer Fest this past weekend. Oh, oh, and, and—the Soulful Sidekicks are playing at the Eureka Inn this Friday, August 26th, 8:00 to 11:00 pm—go catch em!

Oh yes, one more plug…the North Coast Journal is doing its annual “Best of Humboldt” these next few weeks. One of the categories this year is ‘best solo musical act’. There’re a lot of great solo folks in these parts—fantastic players, writers, singers—if you like what I’m about, the music I have to share, then heck yeah, go to the Journal (vote here) and vote for Josephine! But only if you wanna. I know you have many great folks to consider. Super thanks! There, ’nuff said. :)

Below you’ll find Thomas’s videos.

josephine johnson & brother james carr
aug. 24, 2011, old town coffee & chocolates
eureka, ca

Watch brother james tell the future. Hear him prognosticate. josephine rattles bones, keeps secrets, pontificates…

Thank you, Thomas from Montana, for filming!!!

These Old Bones/ Halos and Horns/ Dolly Parton/2002

Do you love Dolly?
Josephine does.

josephine johnson & james carr
roygbiv copyright josephine johnson 2011

aug. 24, 2011, eureka, ca
old town coffee & chocolates

http://www.josephinejohnson.wordpress.com

Thank you, Thomas from Montana, for filming!

A snippet of a new one, just Jos & brother James

josephine johnson & james carr
aug. 24, 2011, eureka, ca
old town coffee & chocolates

Copyright 2011 Josephine Johnson

http://www.josephinejohnson.wordpress.com

Thank you, Thomas from Montana, for filming :)

The Story from Josephine Johnson on Vimeo.

Golden Gate at sunset, August 9, 2011

Golden Gate at sunset, August 9, 2011

Part of this post is about spirituality and the interconnectedness of all life, especially among animals including humans; the other part is about travel and how unexpected ‘setbacks’ are never really setbacks but opportunities for learning. Mostly, this post is about how spiritual insight, reverence and understanding often come through travel.

I was raised Christian, believe in God, Jesus and the Bible. But I also think there’s more to it, not that

Jos, Alcatraz, SF

Jos, Alcatraz, SF

Jesus and the Bible aren’t enough. I believe, though, that spiritual traditions in addition to Christianity possess important knowledge for growth.  For me, I can’t deny the profound connection I have with animals—birds, horses, cows, cats, dogs, snakes, bumble bees—all of them. Yet the flavor of Christianity I grew up with embraces the idea of human dominion, emphasizing how animals are at humans’ disposal to do with them as we will. This notion has NEVER set with me. Ever. To me it condones poor treatment and brutality.

And really, all living things respond positively to patience, kindness and calmness. They just do. If you want something to come to you, never yell for it. Think about that. Why would a run-away dog or cat ever return home to an angry voice calling its name?. This knowing, empathy and feeling of connected-ness when I interact with animals comes straight from God.  At least that’s how it feels, that animals are a gift requiring love, respect and kind treatment in the same way as any human.

The queen Mama who granted entry.

The queen Mama who granted entry.

In January 2011 I traveled in Laos and had two profound animal-focused experiences that I’m sure God, Jesus, Buddha and the Universe had everything to do with.

In a small rice paddy outside of Nong Kiew, I sat with thirteen or so water buffalo one afternoon.  After negotiating with the dominant cow—horns and all, snorting and stamping the ground—she let me close enough for the herd to smell and lick my face, hands, head.  A white calf rubbed against my back and lay down, dangling his hoof over my knee.  As if they were over-sized, cloven-hoofed puppies, they let me sit in their midst, and I felt an undeniable connection to God, the earth and the animals so close. I felt as if they, like me, were very much emotionally connected to the moment, that they really liked me.  And this realization moved me to tears: how similar life is on this planet, how our atoms and basic building blocks are all the same across species, how animals must have an emotional structure similar to humans’. How there is something holy and sacred connecting all life because when I look into the eye of a buffalo I see love and know that God is good.

Or perhaps I was just sweaty, and their enthusiasm for me was of a more practical design—maybe they so

The Utah hosts fabulous open-mic each Monday---sign-up starts at 7:00. Get there early to get on the list.

The Utah hosts fabulous open-mic each Monday---sign-up starts at 7:00. Get there early to get on the list.

liked me because I was at their disposal, a human salt lick.

The second animal-inspired moment happened a few days later in Luangphrabang, when I saw two men taking a hog off to slaughter. She was squealing high-pitched like a human. They were kicking her. In a flash it occurred that we should never treat poorly anything that will be taken into our bodies. An animal about to die for meat needs respect. Another flash—so long as I do not know how an animal is treated before and during its slaughter, I cannot take it into my body. Taking in mistreated and disrespectfully handled flesh dishonors the spirit of the animal.

These came so suddenly and with such force that they felt from God.

Pacific Trade Winds Hostel, in the heart of Chinatown, great staff!

Pacific Trade Winds Hostel, in the heart of Chinatown, great staff!

At the risk of sounding like a hokey-religio-spiritual-northern-California-fruit-nut-seed-eater (oh geeze), these experiences and the insight they brought made very clear part of my purpose in this life. I love animals. They are so close and similar to us, and I’m certain part of why I’m here is to honor all creatures and to help humans understand that, hello, we’re all animals, and we have way more in common with non-human life (yes, even plants) than not. Sitting with the buffalo, watching the pig taken to slaughter almost instantaneously altered my world view and how I consider the relationship between my body and the food I put into it. All drama aside, these experiences were pivotal in making me vegetarian.

And what does this have to do with travel and San Francisco? Two days “stranded” in the City, and I met folks from different spiritual persuasions who were also vegetarians.

Traveling back from my friends and family in Georgia, my connecting flight from Dallas to San Francisco was delayed making it impossible to catch Greyhound to Humboldt. But it gets better. The flight attendants announced that the now-delayed flight was overbooked and asked if anyone would be willing to give up a seat? Yes, I raised my hand! Fifteen minutes later the Universe winked, God smiled and Buddha laughed—I scored a $300 ticket voucher good for a year anywhere in the U.S. Better still, at the SF airport information kiosk, there was a

Hosteling International, Fisherman's Wharf

Hosteling International, Fisherman's Wharf

list of every hostel in the City. The seventh phone call yielded the last dorm bed at the Pacific Trade Winds Hostel in Chinatown.

And then two days in SF turned into a random adventure of spiritual connections and conversations.

Breakfast at Fisherman's Wharf Hostel

Breakfast at Fisherman's Wharf Hostel

The gentleman on the BART was catholic (and vegetarian), and talked about how he loved the ritual and formality involved in his faith, and then he said, “Surely, you’re an old soul.”  To which I responded, “You’re Catholic. That doesn’t make any sense. Aren’t you declaring something outside of, contrary to, your faith?”

And we laughed at the apparent religious (cognitive?) dissonance—the ritual-loving, re-incarnation-believing Catholic . He responded with something like, “I don’t have the answers. A lot of it is beyond any human understanding, but I like Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is involved.” And then we launched into a discussion about the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, and we both agreed it best to bring forth what is within, to wear your soul on the outside. We laughed. Shove me in the shallow water, please, that 45 minute BART ride into the City. Wow.

Then, that evening the Jewish doctor at the Hotel Utah—after discussing zealous Christians, the debt debacle, China, whiteness as property,

mural, Chinatown

mural, Chinatown

and fishing rights on the Klamath River—he asked when I knew I was an artist. (Huh? But we weren’t talking about art. Wait, wha?) ”When did you know you were doing what you should be doing?” He asked more directly. “You came in here with a guitar. Your guitar.”

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA, August 9, 2011

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA, August 9, 2011

Ok, got me. That question. I think I’ve always known this and for too many years have refused to embrace it. I’ve banged my head against thick walls trying to be something I’m not. To Answer your question, Justin, it wasn’t until you backed me into the corner that I realized I’ve been an artist all my life, and yes, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing—writing, thinking, singing, talking to animals and meeting people. You recognized it, and now I see it and am just now able to understand that it’s all art to me. Living my life is art. Got it. So, yeah, thanks.

market, Chinatown

market, Chinatown

On Tuesday the bus to Humboldt was sold out. I called every hostel in San Francisco—the last one had one dorm bed left for the night. On the #30 bus to Fisherman’s Wharf, I met a young man on his way to martial arts class. He knew where the hostel was, and since it was a few blocks from the bus stop he happily walked me there. He laughed at the stuff I had—a backpack, two shoulder bags and a guitar, really not much for 16 days of travel but a hefty load for a petit woman jockeying the bus and hiking San Francisco’s streets. I took some veggies from a bag and shared them. He was Buddhist and studying a form of martial arts that used swords. He knew all about the Shaolin Temple in China.

As we walked the discussion came around to food and what we put into our bodies. “The most sacred thing we do

Cosmic reminder: in Tan's "Joy Luck Club," Waverly Jong was named after this street. Waverly's family attended the First Chinese Baptist Church.

Cosmic reminder: in Tan's "Joy Luck Club," Waverly Jong was named after this street. Waverly's family attended the First Chinese Baptist Church.

each day is eat and drink,” Jon said, “being mindful of what I eat is an act of reverence.” And he continued. Buddhism for him is a lifestyle in which he strives to live in a way that minimizes suffering toward others.  “There is no separation,” he said, “our culture and technology creates barriers that haven’t always been.” (Yes, I wrote this down, his quote. I wanted to get his words right.) According to Jon, the fear, anger, and pain of slaughter are unhealthy for life—choosing not to eat meat helps keep these negative energies away. That’s what he thinks, what his faith advocates.

The point of all of this is how travel, if you let it, brings amazing opportunities to connect with and learn from people, and I think it significant that each of these conversations revealed something profoundly spiritual about the speaker. That each of these folks I met was vegetarian surely must be more than

Chinatown

Chinatown

coincidence. God, Buddha, Jesus and the Universe work in mysterious ways—in all of this I choose to see the adventures and insight gained as nothing less than the miracle of God working in my life. But I will leave it to you to draw your own conclusions from this story, leave it to you to find your own truth, leave it to you to make your life your own spiritual masterpiece. Living is art.

Peace & carrots,

~Jos

“Let’s just be honest and open instead of burying our heads in the sand while huge companies do crappy things to creatures that are just as smart and personable as our cats or dogs.”  Sam McKee

impaired clearance

impaired clearance...yeah, right?

Video from Spitfire Saturday, July 30, 2011, Savaanh, GA

Forsyth Park, Savannah, GA

Forsyth Park, Savannah, GA

by Josephine Johnson

There’s no place like Savannah, Georgia—her ante bellum architecture, manicured squares of oleander and magnolia, live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, her warm southern charm seeping from every cobble and crack, lingering like jasmine on the sweet night air. Seductive Savannah.  Summers here are usually searing, but this one’s been a real scorcher. When I arrived on July 26, the city was in the midst of a sixty-day heat streak of temperatures over ninety degrees—that’s about thirty degrees warmer than an average summer day in my hometown of Eureka, California.  It’s hot in Savannah. But I’m getting used to it, wearing less

The way late July sunlight shifts silent through early morning oak leaves and Spanish moss—it’s like grace rolling from God’s gentle shoulders.

The way late July sunlight shifts silent through early morning oak leaves and Spanish moss—it’s like grace rolling from God’s gentle shoulders.

clothing and getting more sun. This body still embraces the steamy heat of the deep south.

I went to school in Savannah seven years ago, and back then things were rougher. Crime—break-ins, muggings, stabbings, drive-by shootings—synonymous with downtown.  And I lived downtown on Henry

Street—that same Henry Street on which Forrest’s beloved Jenny once resided. It wasn’t yet gentrified: rent was only $250 a month for a one bedroom. Back then, there was no city-wide recycling. No Saturday Forsyth Park farmers markets. No hybrid buses. No Parker’s Market monopoly. I had no car, either, only bike, bus and feet to tread the daily marathon of classes, Gryphon Tea Room and Starbucks shifts, work study and homework. Savannah may have been rougher back then, but it helped make me tough, independent and focused, helped steel me to the art of setting and achieving goals.

Saturday Farmers Market, Forsyth Park, Savannah. And when a mocking bird calls in that light? It’s like love laughing at the corners of Buddha’s great grin.

Saturday Farmers Market, Forsyth Park, Savannah. And when a mocking bird calls in that light? It’s like love laughing at the corners of Buddha’s great grin.

I do recall, though, being a little bitter at having to do all that just to go to school. Savannah College of Art and Design is one of the nation’s best and most expensive art schools. It attracts talented students from all over the country, including a good number of students (not so talented?) from very wealthy families.  For some, art school was/is an opportunity, purchased by mom and dad, to get a degree without having to deal with the academic rigmarole of traditional college—an

especially sweet deal if you ‘re a rich kid, screwed up your GPA in high school and are unable to get into a decent college or university. SCAD is a fine school, but like most things, it can be bought.

hybrid buses, Savannah

hybrid buses, Savannah

215 Henry Street---in the blue house, screen door on the right, where I lived back in the day

215 Henry Street---in the blue house, screen door on the right, where I lived back in the day

Once during a shift at Starbucks, a co-worker and student complained to me his parents were

making him work to pay for the insurance on the BMW they bought him. Just the insurance, to pay for it. Meanwhile, I, like other co-workers and students in similar situations, juggled Starbucks, the Tea Room, work study, other odd jobs and homework to make it. I was in classes with several students like him—students whose folks footed the bill for most if not all of their college and living expenses so that pretty much all they had to do was go

Savannah Segway

Savannah Segway

to class (sometimes), study (maybe) and party (definitely).  Bitter much?  How to escape it, the bitterness, resentment? My solution: minimize contact. Find other folks.

I sought out people and students like me who relied on scholarships, loans and jobs to make it, and that’s partially how I met Clinton and Ren with whom I worked on poetry and music for Spitfire.  (Melanie Smith formally introduced Clinton and me.) By finding and hanging out with other people in situations similar to mine, eventually that bitterness faded to annoyance, gradually dissipated to indifference, and after a

Georgia Queen, Savannah

Georgia Queen, Savannah

while, I just felt sorry for them.  I arrived at the conclusion that surely, though theirs were different, they probably had problems just as real, stressful and painful as mine. At least that’s what I told myself so I wouldn’t hate.  Hate, resentment, bitterness are ugly things. And I didn’t want to be ugly. Ah, poor rich kids, c’est la vie.

Savannah, seven years later seems softer, more forgiving, more aware.  Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m softer.

Way-back in the way-back, Clinton, Ren and I collaborated, writing and performing poetry for elementary kids.  This endeavor slowly morphed into Clinton’s Spitfire poetry project.  It paid nothing at first. We did it because we loved it. Clinton juggled school and who knows how many jobs; Ren was a new father also juggling school, multiple jobs. We all believed in the power of the spoken (and sung) word to transform young people’s lives and perspectives. To engage and

Ren & Jos

Ren & Jos

empower them. We loved performing and the exchange involved in cooperative artistic creation, and we wanted to share this interactive, dynamic process with young people.

Those lean years. They were tough, but they made me (Clinton and Ren, too); they forged and sharpened us to seek excellence in all things. Each time we performed in a school and listened to students’ songs and poetry, we knew we were helping to create something profoundly powerful, empowering young people by encouraging creative self-expression.

It’s been seven months, now, since Clinton Powell passed away, and his dream and

baby, Spitfire Poetry, has a new visionary at the helm. On July 30 Marquice Williams organized the first Spitfire event since Clinton’s passing. It was beyond a packed house—close to 300 people showed up at the Muse Arts Warehouse to spitfire, share music, love.

in the house

in the house

Rock on, Marquice, you did good. Clinton’s got your back. And Ren’s.  And mine. Spitfire’s back and blazin’.

All that toughness, struggle, meanness, strife that was Savannah? It’s mellowed.  I’ve mellowed. She and I have softened into our strength, transcended resentment, focused now on forward sight, grateful for the power of positive intent, somehow all those wrongs have made it right, all these songs can’t help but jump and sing pure light. Sight. Sigh. C’est la vie. Forever CP

spirit of Clinton

spirit of Clinton

Reia Chapman, Spitfire Saturday

by Josephine Johnson

Monday, July 25—left the house at 8:00 am with one backpack, authentic Swiss army ‘purse’, guitar, laptop, digi-media devices, and six whole-wheat tempeh-avocado-carrot sandwiches.  My

at the airport, savannah

at the airport, savannah

plan: to get to San Francisco without using a private vehicle and arrive at the airport in time to catch a 10:00 pm flight to Savannah, Georgia.  This would necessarily require traveling light. Walking to the RTS stop (Redwood Transit System), I wondered if I’d gone overboard with the sandwiches.

I caught the 8:24 bus (total cost $2.75) from Eureka to Arcata then rode Greyhound ($52.50) from Arcata to San Francisco. A lot of folks pooh-pooh Greyhound. I know —they say the bus is dirty, smelly, full of ‘rough’ people, a drawn out ordeal. Really? The ride from Arcata to San Francisco, actually, (this time) was pretty good, and compared to Chinese buses the experience was quite pleasant. At the very least I could sit in a cushioned seat wider and with more leg room than most airplanes.  The scenery’s great, too.

Stevo, theremin, Old Town Coffee & Chocs, July 23 2011

Stevo, theremin, Old Town Coffee & Chocs, July 23 2011

In San Francisco I easily located a BART station (Bay Area Rapid Transit) on Market Street just up from the Greyhound terminal.  Before hopping on, though, I needed to spend some time with the guitar. Behind a well-heeled Italian restaurant I found a quiet yet safe-seeming alley, took out the guitar and sang while the eatery’s wait and kitchen staff rotated through smoke breaks. They smiled. From a second floor window, patrons pointed, nodded. Just like old times, Xi’an, singing on the street. It felt so good to sing and play, so good. I love making music.

After forty minutes or so of working out the legs, hands, vocal chords, entertaining folks, it was time to head to the airport. From Market Street to San Francisco International Airport, it was only $8.10 to take the BART. This is a transportation score.

San Francisco Greyhound terminal

San Francisco Greyhound terminal

  I made it to the airport by 8:15 pm and with plenty of time to catch that 10:00 pm flight. Yes, going from Arcata to San Francisco without a private vehicle is totally doable and

enjoyable especially if you like thinking, looking out the window, daydreaming, meeting and talking with new people. Ranks high on affordability, too—getting to the San Francisco airport from Arcata by Greyhound and public transportation only costs $63.35. It’s good, really.

Why didn’t I fly from Arcata?  It’s just cheaper to fly from the City—busing it to SFO saved me almost $300.

Once at SFO I discovered the connecting flight from Philadelphia to Savannah had been canceled

Michael, Mikey, me, Humboldt Folklife Fest, July 23, 2011

Michael, Mikey, me, Humboldt Folklife Fest, July 23, 2011

due to weather, and here’s where things got fun. I arrived in Philly 6:00 am and was rescheduled on a connection to Charlotte and then on to Savannah. Though the times were close, I made the flights and arrived in Savannah early afternoon. Unfortunately, while I was landing in Charlotte, my guitar was touching down in Cleveland. So here I sit at Melanie and David’s up late and jet-lagged, lacking my friend and money-maker, my guitar. Folks at U.S. Airways say it should be delivered sometime in the next day or two. So long as I have it by Friday in time to play Spitfire, it’s all good.

Those six sandwiches? I’m eating my last one right now here on the couch. Avocado’s a little brown but still good. Though it was tempting, these sandwiches saved me from spending anything on over-priced airport food. Ha!

Moral(s) of this story? Greyhound and public transportation are reliable, affordable and (gasp) enjoyable. Definitely easier to keep track of one’s guitar on the Greyhound. Preparing six

Betty Chinn

Betty Chinn established a shower facility for the homeless in Eureka, California. She is a miracle worker.

sandwiches was divinely inspired—not hungry once. And all this has me thinking about music, travel, and performing—perhaps a Greyhound music tour is in order. Maybe do a run from San Francisco to Portland, couch surf. I’d be a real folksinger then. Yeah? Like Betty Chin says, “I don’t organize, I just do it.” Maybe I should just do it, take all this music and love and get it out there and just do it.

Thanks, Betty. You inspired me beyond words last Sunday. :)

The China Connection

the BIKE!

the BIKE!

by Josephine Johnson

Bike’s fixed (finally), tuned-up and ready for Eureka. Ah, being home. Since Has Beans is in the midst of management and ownership changes, Old Town Coffee & Chocolates would have to caffeinate this morning.

paul, rich & North Coast Journal

paul, rich & North Coast Journal. Coffee, conversation, catching-up--early morning in Old Town perfect for these.

Saint Paul and Spirit Rich are there, Jeff Katz, Paul from Scotch Wiggly, too— a few of the regulars I missed while teaching in China.

Paul (Saint not Wiggly) is reading a North Coast Journal. And so is Rich. And I have my camera. You know what’s coming, right?

Gratuitous self-promotion, keen product placement.

I wrote the cover story for this week’s North Coast Journal–if you’ve been following this blog, you’ll recognize facts and bits of information about China and its education system in the Journal. The piece focuses on two

Saint Paul

Saint Paul, click pic & go to Journal story :)

students, Mia and Sharpay, and explains their lives as students and how they came to be enrolled in Humboldt College, the joint venture between Humboldt State and Xi’an International Studies University.  Of course, there’re pics, too.

*Now, you all know I’m looking for a job—sure do like to write, take photos, sing and make music. So I put this out to God, the Universe, pranksters, agents, talent scouts, mystery mavens and anyone who might could use a deadline-adhering media person, songwriter, performer/ entertainer: I’m for hire.  And I’d love to tell YOUR story. I could sing it, photograph it. TELL it with creativity and compassion.

Enjoy the Journal. Get java Old Town Coffee & Chocolates. Listen to the wisdom of Paul. He shared a poem with me this morning that you should hear :)

recapturing the essence

recapturing the essence

By Josephine Johnson

Home.  Jet-lagged.  2 am and awake, awake, awake. On the floor in the parlor, street light falling silent through stained glass curved and great. This is my space, where I live, where I belong, where it all happens.  My spirit (and many, many others) are here.

We’re all much more than our possessions, right? No one is defined solely by what she owns, but it’s a warm,

Grandma, I'm home--brought you some feathers, blue one from Laos

Grandma, I'm home--brought you some feathers, blue one from Laos

identity-affirming hug to be here now admiring so many special feathers on the mantle, guitars, tambourines, amplifiers, scarves, hats, fossils, beads, books, Willie, Meows—my favorite things. And I am more than all this, but these sure do help recall who I am, help me remember that I’m not just an English-teaching,

sino-linguistically impaired specter haunting classrooms, buses, and crowded streets somewhere in central China. I remember. Yes, I am a teacher, but I’m also an artist, musician, writer, observer, lover, singer, priestess, passionate poet—a socially awkward geek with a flair for melody, rhythm, and the English language.

And much more of course…

Fixing the Washing Machine, Xi’an, China from Josephine Johnson on Vimeo.

Let’s catch up.

Shortly after June 1st, I was no longer able to post to this blog. The big folks in Beijing, an internet techno-junta of more than 30,000, finally decided they’d had enough. They were thorough, too, nullifying my ability to access

I've been a bad Mom. They refuse to look me in the eye...beg, grovel...wet food? Willie, Meows, Please?

I've been a bad Mom. They refuse to look me in the eye...beg, grovel...wet food? Willie, Meows, please?

gmail and all social media. I kept writing, confident that once back in the States I’d be able to post my adventures.

After 10 months in China teaching, singing, making Chinese friends, talking with other foreigners, and despite the dismal economic news, vanishing  American job prospects faithfully reported on CNN & BBC, I’ve come to appreciate just how great the good ol’ USA is. Watch out, about to get patriotic, but it’s merited, and the timing couldn’t be better. Why’s the U.S. so great? Number one reason: the First Amendment and the rights it guarantees.  The First Amendmentsupports an individual’s right to independent thought(s), and it guarantees the right to express those thoughts free from government interference— individual thought or opinion and freedom of expression make this nation great and strong. For the most part (let’s disregard Obama’s extension of the Patriot Act for a moment), in America we can enter into passionate debate and loudly profess how much we disagree with our government and/or its political acts and parties without fear of being black

street music

street music & Inner-Mongolian Student Friends

balled, censored, or worse. In the States we can agree to disagree safe from political retaliation for personal beliefs outside the Party line; we can rest assured that our home won’t be invaded and occupants taken away because someone turned us in for having and expressing thoughts subversive to the State. The First Amendment may well be the best part of being an American— wanna disagree? Go!

But I did have an excellent adventure in China, met some very kind people—many students, local Xi’an folks, and travelers and teachers from all over the world. Shared music with many

Bob & Peter: Two-thirds of the Brothers Hughes with whom I woulda gone to Hainan...

Bob & Peter: Two-thirds of the Brothers Hughes with whom I woulda gone to Hainan...

supportive people, too—I had three regular weekly gigs at Park Qin, the Belgian Bar, and Vice Versa.  But playing in bars, though, limited who could hear the music I had to share—mostly foreign travelers or wealthy Chinese business men could hear me. No children (personal demographic fave) could hear. This troubled me.  I’m a folksinger, of the people, and so the more I played the bar scene, the more I felt pulling at my heart the need to connect with everyday people and young folks.  Solution? I took to the streets and found that by playing various sidewalks and underpasses around Xi’an I could connect more genuinely with a broader range of Chinese folks—older people were baffled at first, and kids never failed to smile; college students often gave ‘thumbs up,’ and the wealthier set always tried to give me Yuan, which I occasionally accepted. I most usually refused money

musician bonding

musician bonding

because I wanted to share

A bird pooped on my shoulder & this kind guy wiped it away. We sang & people took pics. One of my favorite music memories

A bird pooped on my shoulder & this kind guy wiped it away. We sang & people took pics. One of my favorite music memories

music for the sake of love and connection—I didn’t want it to be obscured by transaction or to receive money as sign of appreciation. Though I couldn’t communicate this, with all my heart I tried to express that the best payment anyone could give was to listen, clap, sing, hum, harmonize, and just enjoy the moment. But if a rich business man insisted on a 100 Yuan bill, then OK. Sometimes insistence won. Don’t argue with the business set—they’re Party connected (mostly).

Near the end of the adventure I had two offers to join music ensembles—one in Hainan (really, read this NYT article link), the other in Xi’an. Hainan is an island in the South China Sea and is often considered the Hawaii of China. It’s a tropical paradise

Because you will

Because you will

that attracts uber-wealthy vacationing Chinese business people as well as Russian oil barons. The gig I was offered there would entail playing three, forty-five minute sets of popular covers 6 nights a week. OK. The initial compensation package was something like 10,000 RMB per month for each member (four total), plus the company would provide two, two-bedroom apartments at no cost to the musicians. But when it came time to talk real terms—before we all got our instruments on a train headed to Hainan—the offer became more like 7,000 RMB per month—plus we each would have to put 1,000 RMB (monthly) toward renting one, three-bedroom apartment. Uhhh… It didn’t sit right with me the whole arrangement—plus, I would have been the only woman of four musicians—not a prude on this, really, just not so sure I wanted to live with three dudes

Oh, Bob!  Peter wields voo doo behind you...

Oh, Bob! Peter wields voo doo behind you...

(John, Bob, Peter, love you, but a girl like me needs her space ). By the time we would have gotten to Hainan and were essentially captive, who knows how much further the terms would have slid (a two bed-room apartment for all four of us? Yikes.) The guys went on without me and have vowed to keep me in the loop—I wish great times and music to them, fine weather for sure!

The other musical opportunity was to play with this multi-cultural group that specifically wanted a western

Oh dear

Oh dear

woman who played guitar. This project would have been based in Xi’an playing a variety of music—Chinese pop, American country (big in China), and folk from South Africa and Ghana. These folks are great musicians. There’s Malvern an ethnomusicologist on sabbatical from teaching music in South Africa; Naomi sings American pop and folk music from Ghana, (she’s from Ghana) hip hop dances, too; Tommy is a Chinese pop music genius. These three also know a keyboardist and trumpet player.

Andrew’s Song (multi-cultural) from Josephine Johnson on Vimeo.

The project really could be a (and likely will without me) force of international scale, love, and unity. Or just a lot of fun with really nice folks.  This came up just a week before I left. We played fuzzball and jammed together one afternoon. They

Big Goose Pagoda, June 4, 2011

Big Goose Pagoda, June 4, 2011

hot times + water = happy kids & people

hot times + water = happy kids & people

want me to go back. I will miss them tremendously. We will keep in touch. I guess I still have an out (in?) if jobs here at home don’t pan out…let’s hope it’s not as bad as CNN Asia & the BBC have portrayed—maybe all that crappy economic news was Chinese-crafted propaganda, re-tooled and crafted especially for English-speaking foreign teachers…to keep us there, keep our heads down…

Lastly, I have photos to share. These were taken on Saturday, June 4thin Xi’an.  Some are images of the afternoon fountain show at Big Goose Pagoda—little kids playing in the water too precious. There’s a busquing  pic (or busking? disagreement re: correct spelling. Playing on the street, street musician), a fruit

fun

super fun

vendor, and an image of a visual artist who crafts and draws her own bookmarks and post cards. She uses earth tones and a muted color palette of mellow teals, a range of mustard yellows, soft burgundy, and subdued pine greens. Fine illustrations, too. Check out her work. Order online Support a ‘local’ Chinese artist!!!

in the water

in the water

Here she is--she's great. Buy her stuff!!! Quality.

Here she is--she's great. Buy her stuff!!! Quality.

I have a few more China posts to make mostly documenting final goings on in China.

fresh fruit always

fresh fruit always

More soon.

little red princess

little red princess

Enjoy!

~love, Jos

Splash!

splash!

By Josephine Johnson

on her throne

Josephine

A couple days ago, my VPN (secure connection to jump China’s firewall) expired. Non-issue—renew and resume under radar, above the flame, right? Uh, well…

Brief background: since May 1st all foreign teachers on campus have been tortured with internet connectivity issues mostly with trying to connect to non-mainland China sites. Gmail? Google? Forget it. Even Facebook and this blog with VPN have been spotty and exasperating. So, a few of our venerated teachers, a kindly faction of Mormons and one retired software engineer, approached our residence coordinator to remind her tactfully that we foreign folk have friends, family, bills, (and Facebook!) that necessarily require a solid internet connection.  Besides, it’s in our contract. (Dang it!!) Having a working internet connection is part of our contract.

“Well, on my computer,” said Miss Lin, “I don’t have any problem with Chinese sites. Just use Chinese site. Then you have no problems.”

Of course! Why didn’t we think of that?

Ah, China, harmony or delusion…

And it gets better.

I renewed the VPN yesterday only to discover that it no longer VPNs. Yeah, 25.95 USD thrown at the great grinning flames for nothing.

washer fixed, clothes clean

I broke my washing machine, but then I fixed it. I made a silly video of my repair escapade, too, but will have to post some time later when internet is less wacky. Like when I'm not in China...

Great. Current internet status? Well, here’s what’s weird—I can occasionally get to my gmail, like once a week if I’m on late at night. No Facebook. No Twitter. No YouTube, Vimeo. But apparently I can access this blog, and today at least it is loading really fast. If you are reading this and want to get in contact with me, I suggest contacting me through this blog—leave a comment & hopefully I can comment back. I hope that will work anyway…*no small miracle I can post pics—wow. Thank you.

Lemme say that again: Due to China internet weirdness, if you want to contact me, leave a comment with your info/ question/ whatnot/ whatever. Yeah, but please, don’t write anything you wouldn’t want your Mom (or mine) to see.

Let’s hope this works.

Since I’m here, how about another student story?

My students know I am sharing their work, and it has become a point of honor for them that I share the best of their writing online. They dig it, and I think the “reward” makes them work that much harder.

selecting fabric for Chinese-style dresses

selecting fabric for Chinese-style dresses

Have I mentioned lately how great and awesome my students are? They are. Great and awesome.

Last week we took a break from working on portfolios and cover letters—I needed this as much as they, believe me. Some of these papers we’ve been over seven, eight times, and well, you can imagine words, thoughts, topic sentences, spelling errors, thesis statements all beginning to swim before the eyes making story/analysis/research a Dali-inspired, Monet blur of quasi-fact, grammar error, cross-cultural, Chinese-infused, near-miss poetry. We all needed a break from this.

Last Tuesday we read in class (read what we read) Ray Bradbury’s  “August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains.”  Why this story? Well, it’s short, and I knew we could get through it in a day (two class periods) and use it as basis for students’ creative writing. Plus, the students are also studying American film and culture, and I knew that they had recently watched Dr. Strangelove in Josh’s class. I knew the theme of this story would tie-in and relate to other material that they had recently explored.

I put the students in groups of two and three and had them read the story out loud to each other. Most have learned English from Chinese

Xi'an's famous street of tailors and fabric vendors

Xi'an's famous street of tailors and fabric vendors

English teachers, so their pronunciation needs work—reading aloud is a great way for my kids to become more confident in speaking English.  As they read I circulated around the small groups listening to their pronunciation and asking them questions about the story to make sure they understood what was happening. I helped with vocabulary, too. When everyone was finished, I reviewed the main points of the story to make sure they understood that all the occupants of the house were dead, that all that remained of their presence were the non-charred reverse flash silhouettes of the family on the exterior wall of the house. They got it, this grim thought provoking story, and were pensive and oddly eager to set upon the task of writing their own stories.

The in-class assignment was to use Bradbury’s tale as a jumping-off point. They could tell the story from another perspective. Perhaps an animal lived. How would you describe that creature’s experience? What would it be like? Or what was the family doing just before the bomb? How else can this story be told, this tale explained? Whose eyes do you choose to see it through? Be creative, I urged and encouraged.

At the end of the day, I had to make them stop. They were so committed to their stories.

sewing ladies, Wenyi Nanlu

sewing ladies, Wenyi Nanlu

Below is Sharpay’s creative take on the exercise. No one else had a story like this. Thank you, Sharpay, for your sincere thought and creativity. And as last time, these were hand written in-class. I asked Sharpay to revise and type her story for the internet. It has been slightly (not much, you’ll still find errors, awkward phrasings)revised (spelling, grammar) from the original story.

The Notice Board

                I’m a notice board inSan Francisco,California. I didn’t know clearly what happened. These days, there are so many note papers on me. For example: “Liz, I go toNew Yorkwith father, call me if you see it, Lily” “Train toColumbia$200, 071-796-2403.” From passersby, I figured there must be a big disaster in California because many cities’ airports couldn’t be used. People are coming to San Francisco to plan to get to another city.

More and more note papers are stuck on me. One said “nuclear weapon.” While I was thinking, a mother and a little girl came. The mother was writing a note paper on me.

“Mom, what’s nuclear weapon?” The girl asked.

“It is a horrible weapon. It can kill anything, the house, the people, the animals, even the biggest elephant,” The mother answered.

Grandma's envious, all this fabric, puts Joanne to shame,,,

Grandma's envious, all this fabric, puts Joanne to shame,,,

“Would it be more scary than earthquake?” The girl asked.

“Yea, Sweetheart. Come on. We have to go.”

“Where are daddy and brother? They went to visit grandma and didn’t come back. We need to wait for them,” The girl said.

“We…we can’t, sweetheart.” The mother turned her head, and her daughter couldn’t see her face. She cried. She frowned, and the muscles in her face were quivering. The tears fell out of her eyes. She turned back to face her daughter.

“Daddy and brother will come later. You know, Allendale is far away from San Francisco, isn’t it?”             The mother smiled at her daughter.

“When daddy and brother come, can we go to Disneyland ?”

“Yes, yes, of course we can.”

“Let’s go, mom.” The girl grasped her mother’s hand.

bins, rows, aisles of notions, ribbons, fabric, buttons

bins, rows, aisles of notions, ribbons, fabric, buttons

Her mother turned back and saw the notepaper on me. She muttered to herself: “If they could come back.” After tears fell down, she left with her daughters.

The note paper said:

Dear Jack:

Are you with our son Patrick? I go to New Jersey with Olivia. It is too dangerous here. I love Patrick and you. I believe you will be with us all the time.

 Kissing You Clair

After their leaving, a young woman came with an old man.

“I told you I didn’t want to go to anywhere. Your mother is here.”

The old man was really angry.

“But, dad, this is not an earthquake or a flood where everything can recover in several years. This is the nuclear weapon. One hundred years is not enough. Come on. Go with me. You will die here.”

The young woman was anxious.

“No,Georgina. I promised your mother. I will be with her all the time, even though she has died. I will not go any other places. You can go.

sewing and stuff

sewing and stuff

You need to live, my daughter. Go toPhiladelphiaand have your life. I am old, and I don’t have too much time. Let me be with your mom,” the old man hugged the young woman.

“Do you know why I came back? I lost my mom when I was seventeen. I don’t want to lose you. Please, go with me,” the young woman cried loudly.

“Georgina, my good daughter,” the old man kissed his daughter, “I love you. Believe me. I love you. I was too busy before. I didn’t have time to accompany your mother. I am sorry for her. I love her so much, but I can’t give her enough time to be with her. You can live nicely with your husband and kids. Bob is a good guy. You will have a good life like before…”

“Dad, no…”

“Listen to me,Georgina. Let me stay. It is not terrible for me. Trust me, okay?” The old man smiled at his daughter.

The woman stared her father for a long time. “I love you, dad. Anytime you want to go to Philadelphia, call me.”

“I love you, too,” the old man smiled.

The young woman left angry, and the old man was looking at her all the time. After he couldn’t see her anymore, he turned back to leave a note paper:

Dear Eva:

                Gina is a good daughter. Please protect our daughter, even though she is not my kid, but she was not as bad as her father. I was proud to be called father by her. Come back and take me with you.

Love You. Sanji

                Though I couldn’t understand human beings’ emotions, I did feel sorry for them when I faced this all the time. Then, a boy came.

He was about 21 years old. He had black hair and black eyes, yellow skin. He was thin and tall. He wrote an Adidas sport T-shirts with a tiger on it. He looked around and went straight towards me. He looked sad and pining. He scanned the note papers on my body. He cried without any expression. Then, from his backpack he took out a photo and a notepaper. Then, he turned and used  the English he knew to stop passerby.

“Excuse me. Do you know the nearest hotel?” he stopped a middle age couple.

“Go straight on this street, and you will see a hotel. Wait, young man, you want to live here?” The man spoke.

“Yes, thank you.” He walked to the hotel.

“Hey, young man, don’t you know what happened in California? It is too dangerous here.”

“It is none business of you.” He still didn’t have any expression.

“Don’t be silly. You aren’t American. Where are you from, my boy?” The woman said.

“China.”

“Why did you come to San Francisco? You know, all the planes to California are empty except the police planes. You have come for someone, didn’t you? Do you know which city she stayed in?”

“Arcata.”

“The town’s near Eureka? That should be okay. She must be alive.”

“Seriously? Thank you very much.” The boy seemed awake finally. His eyes were bright like that he finally got hope.

“Yes, young man. Let me guess. Is that your girlfriend?”

“Yeah, she went to Arcata for studying. She should be back this summer, but…”

“Don’t give up, my boy.” The man said, “You guys love each other, right? Trust love. Love can make miracles all the time. Gook luck.” The middle age couple left.

I saw the note paper and photo he left. There were two people. One was him, the other must be his girlfriend, an active and cute girl. In that photo, they wore school uniforms. It was so sweet, but I couldn’t read the Chinese on the note paper. Then, a boy and a young man came. They had black hair and yellow skin.

“That’s Chinese on that board, dad,” The boy shouted.

“How’s that possible?” The father stopped.

“What is it talking about?”

The father read,“’Dear, Mia,’ This is the name. ‘I come for you. I will wait here for you. Call me. I used the former number. If you appear, please, marry me.’ Then it’s the name. Wow, there is a ring under the photo.”

“Yes, a love note. What a cute couple they were. I hope he can find her,” after reading, she said, “Let’s leave something for them.”

“Good luck.” The woman wrote near the boy’s words, and then she said, “Come on, let’s go.”

I knew the content of the note paper and the girl’s appearance. I really hoped I would see her.

Several weeks later.

I still stood there, too many note papers stuck on me. Many people wrote Chinese or English under the boy’s notepaper; there were pages of wishes from strangers for them. Today, after another person left a note paper on me, I saw a group of girls who were speaking a foreign language. Wait, wasn’t she that girl?

“Mia, that’s your photo,” One of her friends said.

I saw from the hotel the boy walking and he saw me—no , he saw the girl.

Why does this make me think of UHF?

Supplies!

:)

:) bike :)

by Josephine Johnson

May 27, 2011—took a personal hiatus from class and treated myself to a day of sight seeing, animal-talking, photo-taking near Xi’an’s Big Goose Pagoda. 6:00 pm, met my colleagues for dinner & had a splendid evening. *Shanxi local Chinese food = yum-tacular!!

Below are pics from the day.  :)

*The  Chinese characters? Had a heck of a time with just placing photos on this post—without text, I was not able to insert pics without their order and placement getting all jumbled and weird. In WordPress for some reason, photos with no text = visual format chaos. So, I babelfished  the wikipedia entry for The Mists of Avalon for text to wrap around the photos.

Do you know this book, The Mists of Avalon? It’s a great one—if you’ve ever been misunderstood for your beliefs, adopted, or felt like a red-headed step-child—male or female—you should read this novel. It will resonate.  Essentially, it’s a feminist re-telling of the Arthurian legends from the perspective of Arthur’s sister, Morgaine. It also explores aspects of Christianity and older, earth-based

muslim breakfast

goddess religions. You can see why I like it, right? :)  The author, Marion Zimmer Bradley, is ordained as a gnostic priest…yeah, I got this spiritual, God, Jesus, Buddha, Goddess thing pretty bad (and I mean that in the most loving and awesome way possible)—anyway, to help with the aesthetic of this post, I translated the novel’s wiki entry into Chinese to ease the placement of the photos. Enjoy!

劇情介紹 書在家長式基督教威脅毀壞異教的生活方式的國家跟隨Morgaine彈道(經常称神僊的摩根勒菲或摩根其他工作的),戰鬥的女教士保存她的女家長凱爾特文化。 在亞瑟王的retellings經常被排斥的書跟隨Guinevere生活, Viviane、Morgause、Igraine和其他婦女。 騎士国王亞瑟和圆桌支持而不是主要字符。 與亞瑟王的傳說的其他retellings形成顯明對比, Avalon薄霧是,一貫地繪Morgaine作為一位遙遠,一維邪惡的巫婆或女巫,沒有真正的解释給予(或是必需的)對于她的反感。 在這种情况下Morgaine被熔鑄作為每次有獨特的禮物和責任的極大的政治和精神大變動的一名坚强的婦女,當她被要求防止她的土產女家長遺產不可能的可能性。 Avalon薄霧並肩作战象男性被集中的神話的女權解釋的意義重大在明

passageway girl & bag--sun & dust

passageway girl & bag--sun & dust

確表達的women’旁边; 在巨大变化時代的s經驗和轉移在性別力量上。 arthur’国王典型的爭鬥、搜尋和仇隙; s王朝被描述作為對women’的支持的元素; s生活。 故事在四大部分讲: 書一: 魔術的女主人,預定二: 高女王/王后,預定三: 国王Stag和書四: 橡木的囚犯。 小說是暢銷書在它的出版物並且至今保持普遍。 布雷得里后擴展了書入Avalon系列。 [編輯]劇情總結 Avalon薄霧是亞瑟王的傳奇的一部世代跨過的改寫本,但是帶來它回到它的Brythonic根(参见英國的問題)。

red banner passage

red banner passage

它的主演是Morgaine,目擊Uther Pendragon的上升到Camelot王位。 作為孩子,她把带對Avalon由高女教士Viviane,她的母親伯母,成為母親女神的上升拉緊在老異教徒和新的基督徒宗教之間的女教士和證人。 她在生育力儀式被給她以后將學會是亞瑟的一個年轻人,她的異父母兄弟。 由於儀式,未知對亞瑟, Morgaine后設想孩子, Gwydion,最新叫的Mordred。 在Uther死之後,他的兒子亞瑟要求王位。 Morgaine和Viviane給他不可思議的劍Excalibur,並且與Avalon和Camelot聯合的力量,亞瑟驾驶撒克遜人的入侵。 但是,當他的妻子Guinevere不生產孩子时,她被說服它是上帝的處罰: 首先為Morgaine深深地憤慨)異教的元素(姿態的出现,和第二,她的對Arthur’的禁止的愛的; s最好的騎士Lancelot。 她越來越成為一個宗教盲信者,並且Avalon和Camelot之间的關係(即Morgaine和她自己)变得敵對。 當Camelot圆桌的騎士離開搜尋圣杯时, Mordred寻求強佔王位。 在一次極點爭鬥, Arthur’ s和Mordred’ s軍隊摆出攻击架式,並且在最后Avalon和亞瑟從世界的圈子奇蹟般地被去

Lovely fruit market

fruit

除。 它是單獨Morgaine誰居住讲Camelot的傳說。 [編輯]關於她的書的布雷得里 「 时间我在其中一個開始了在以后成為薄霧的摩根勒菲故事,在我接受的整理達到高潮的許多歲月一次宗教查尋的工作相信神秘直覺說的天主教教會中作為教士。 從小說的出現,許多婦女咨詢我關於此,认為女神的了悟擴展了他們自己的宗教知覺,並且问我,如果它可以和解與基督教。 我非常強烈

illuminated chopsticks

illuminated chopsticks

感觉,不僅那它能,但是那它必須… 因此,當婦女今天坚持講話女神而不是上帝时,他們拒绝有白色胡须的老人,命令希伯來人做在鄙俗的種族滅绝並且每日要求他的崇拜者感謝上帝他未做他們婦女… 並且,我假設,一點,書的目的將表现出我的沮喪在宗教讓自己成為政治和狀態奴隸的方式。 (Malory’ s問題…那上帝不也許是在权利一邊,但是那宗教组织总是公開宣稱自己是在更大的槍一邊。)…我認為新異教徒運動提議人的一個非常可行的选择,特别是婦女的,由猶太教與基督教所共有的宗教组织惡習让厌恶。[1] 」 [編輯]字符 Morgaine -解說員,主演。 她的個性有能力在超人的视力(她的女神禮物)和變貌上。 刻畫作為一個悲劇的字符, Morgaine被撕毀在她的對Avalon的忠誠和她對Lancelot的未實現的愛之間,雖然她有其他戀人在書,顯著地亞瑟、凱文和Accolon。 她經常不认為自己命運的受害者,有選擇在她在生活中做出的决定。 她被注定目擊Avalon老方式的困境,但是在最后得到與基督教的某些方面的和平,因為她看見她未曾與宗教戰鬥,但是寧可狹的观点的其中一些教士。 她认為,英國的古老信仰的某一記憶將居住,认為她崇拜的女神沒有死

What I thought China would be...

What I thought China would be

與來臨基督教: 相反,女神採取了在圣女玛丽亚的圖像的另一個形式。 Uther Pendragon是死的高国王Ambrosius和愛上Igraine的一個雄心勃勃的軍閥姪子和戰爭公爵。 在被背叛由他的盟友Gorlois以後(出于嫉妒而不是出于政治原因),他殺害了他並且成為了英國的高國王。 當亞瑟是少年,他生了亞瑟国王並且死了。 Igraine是Gorlois的妻子和最新Uther, Viviane的妹妹和Morgaine的母親和亞瑟。 她在Avalon被抚养長大並且被給了作為妻子Gorlois在十五歲,她的主要不快樂的聯合。 她由Viviane和Taliesin注定背叛她的丈夫,誘惑Uther和生產小島(她的兒子国王亞瑟)的救主。 起初,她叛亂,陳述她不是一匹繁殖的母馬,而是終於愛上Uther並且帮助他擊敗他的敵人。 然而,關於Gorlois的罪狀折磨她對末端。 Igraine崇拜Morgaine,在Uther輸入之前,但是她然後忽略Morgaine,當她和Uther結婚时,並且,當亞瑟出生时。 Gorlois

food + little passage = walking goodness

food + little passage = walking goodness

是Igraine’ s丈夫和Morgaine’ s父親。 由于Igraine是很年輕的,當他們結婚了,他們的關係被勞損了,但是Gorlois做他的最好使她的感受舒適,給她的禮物和讓她的保留她的女兒Morgaine。 Igraine沒看見他怎麼愛她直到it’ s太後。 當Gorlois懷疑时Igraine有與Uther的一次事理,他打開她,指責她是妓女和巫婆和甚而违反他的誓言對Uther。 最后, Uther殺害他倒戈的。 亞瑟国王是Igraine的兒子和

amorous vagrants & YOUR words

amorous vagrants & YOUR words

Uther和異父母兄弟對Morgaine。 他被刻畫作為一位坚强的國王,由被安排的婚姻與Guinevere結婚。 他的他遭受的妻子的-誰同情由她的無子女和她的對Lancelot的愛折磨-終於成為他的倒臺。 轉彎是他實際上知道Guinevere’ s和Lancelot’ s事理,並且多么不快樂兩個是恆定背叛他。 因為他太多愛他的妻子和他的最好的朋友使他們不快樂,但是亞瑟停留外部。 被建議,而他愛Guinevere,他最深刻的愛為Morgaine被保存。 Guinevere是Arthur’ 美好的s,但是不快樂的妻子。 她由一個冷,無愛心的父親抚养長大,留給她深刻的自卑感和強烈的廣場恐怖症。 不生產繼承人和無法是以她的生活, Lancelot愛,她落入深刻的消沉,並且-盼望救世-变一個越來越狂熱基督徒。 Guinevere和Morgaine被描述作為二個極性字符。 Lancelot是Arthur’ s第一騎士, Viviane’ s兒子和Morgaine’ s表兄弟和第一爱人。 他是一個極端有天賦的戰士和敬佩為他的非常英俊的出現,但是終生有對他的母親Viviane的恐懼。 Guinevere和他是完全地情癡的,但是他們兩者都不有勇氣(或無情)私奔。 或許他也是愛上亞瑟和愛Guinevere,因為她是,很接近他。 Mordred,亦稱Gwydion,是Morgaine的私生子和亞瑟国王。 他一肆無忌

dust in the lines

dust in the lines

憚,狡猾陰謀者,但是與主流版本對比他的動機是可理解的。 他看見他的父親亞瑟如腐敗和腐蝕和被說服他必須去除他保存Camelot。 強烈被暗示他的在冷,狡猾Morgause之下的童年使他認為他的方式。 Mordred與他的母親Morgaine分享一個著名的特徵: 他真

cleaning up

cleaning up

實地相信他是命運典當,沒有真正的自愿選擇他的道路在生活中。 Mordred甚而列出他的father’ s优良品质和承認他敬佩亞瑟用幾個方式。 然而, Mordred保持决定拉扯他的父親下來從Camelot王位。 Morgause是Morgaine’ s伯母、Viviane的妹妹和Igraine。 她被描述作為一個自負,狡猾字符與她的姐妹對比,並且,她為她自己的獲取純粹行動。 她不感覺在她的規則通姦和計劃的遺憾為她的力量,使用Morgaine和Mordred,因為車。 Patricius,現代化作為聖帕特里克,是Camelot’ s驾驶”的多數強有力的基督徒教士; snakes” (督伊德教憎侶)從愛爾蘭。 他在極端消極光被刻畫,比如冷酷,厭惡女人者宗教原教旨主義者。 伊萊恩是Guinevere’ 最終成為Lancelot’的s表兄弟; s妻子。 伊萊恩很大地類似她的表兄弟Guinevere我劇情介紹 書在家長式基督教威脅毀壞異教的生活方式的國家跟隨Morgaine彈道(經常称神僊的摩根勒菲或摩根其他工作的),戰鬥的女教士保存她的女家長凱爾特文化。 在亞瑟王的retellings經常被排斥的書跟隨Guinevere生活, Viviane、Morgause、Igraine和其他婦女。 騎士国王亞瑟和圆桌支持而不是主要字符。 與亞瑟王的傳說的其他retellings形成顯明對比, Avalon薄霧是,一貫地繪Morgaine作為一位遙遠,一維邪惡的巫婆或女巫,沒有真正的解释給予(或是必需的)對于她的反感。 在這种情况下Morgaine被熔鑄作為每次有獨特的禮物和責任的極大的政治和精神大變動的一名坚强的婦女,當她被要求防止她的土產女家長遺產不可能的可能性。 Avalon薄霧並肩作战象男性被集中的神話的女權解釋的意義重大在明確表達的women’旁边; 在巨大

morning on the wire

morning on the wire

变化時代的s經驗和轉移在性別力量上。 arthur’国王典型的爭鬥、搜尋和仇隙; s王朝被描述作為對women’的支持的元素; s生活。 故事在四大部分讲: 書一: 魔術的女主人,預定二: 高女王/王后,預定三: 国王Stag和書四: 橡木的囚犯。 小說是暢銷書在它的出版物並且至今保持普遍。 布雷得里后擴展了書入Avalon系列。 [編輯]劇情總結 Avalon薄霧是亞瑟王的傳奇的一部世代跨過的改寫本,但是帶來它回到它的Brythonic根(参见英國的問題)。 它的主演是Morgaine,目擊Uther Pendragon的上升到Camelot王位。 作為孩子,她把带對Avalon由高女教士Viviane,她的母親伯母,成為母親女神的上升拉緊在老異教徒和新的基督徒宗教之間的女教士和證人。 她在生育力

lion passage

lion passage

儀式被給她以后將學會是亞瑟的一個年轻人,她的異父母兄弟。 由於儀式,未知對亞瑟, Morgaine后設想孩子, Gwydion,最新叫的Mordred。 在Uther死之後,他的兒子亞瑟要求王位。 Morgaine和Viviane給他不可思議的劍Excalibur,並且與Avalon和Camelot聯合的力量,亞瑟驾驶撒克遜人的入侵。 但是,當他的妻子Guinevere不生產孩子时,她被說服它是上帝的處罰: 首先為Morgaine深深地憤慨)異教的元素(姿態的出现,和第二,她的對Arthur’的禁止的愛的; s最好的騎士Lancelot。 她越來越成為一個宗教盲信者,並且Avalon和Camelot之间的關係(即Morgaine和她自己)变得敵對。 當Camelot圆桌的騎士離開搜尋圣杯时, Mordred寻求強佔王位。 在一次極點爭鬥, Arthur’ s和Mordred’ s軍隊摆出攻击架式,並且在最后Avalon和亞瑟從世界的圈子奇蹟般地被去除。 它是單獨Morgaine誰居住讲Camelot的傳說。 [編輯]關於她的書的布雷得里 「 时间我在其中一個開始了在以后成為薄霧的摩根勒菲故事,在我接受的整理達到高潮的許多歲月一次宗教查尋的工作相信神秘直覺說的天主教教會中作為教士。 從小說的出現,許多婦女咨詢我關於此,认為女神的了悟擴展了他們自己的宗教知覺,並且问我,如果它可以和解與基督教。 我非常強烈感觉,不僅那它能,但

breakfast noodles

Muslim noodles

是那它必須… 因此,當婦女今天坚持講話女神而不是上帝时,他們拒绝有白色胡须的老人,命令希伯來人做在鄙俗的種族滅

snack passage---each passage has dozens of snack & meal vendors

snack passage---each passage has dozens of snack & meal vendors

绝並且每日要求他的崇拜者感謝上帝他未做他們婦女… 並且,我假設,一點,書的目的將表现出我的沮喪在宗教讓自己成為政治和狀態奴隸的方式。 (Malory’ s問題…那上帝不也許是在权利一邊,但是那宗教组织总是公開宣稱自己是在更大的槍一邊。)…我認為新異教徒運動提議人的一個非常可行的选择,特别是婦女的,由猶太教與基督教所共有的宗教组织惡習让厌恶。[1] 」 [編輯]字符 Morgaine -解說員,主演。 她的個性有能力在超人的视力(她的女神禮物)和變貌上。 刻畫作為一個悲劇的字符, Morgaine被撕毀在她的對Avalon的忠誠和她對Lancelot的未實現的愛之間,雖然她有其他戀人在書,顯著地亞瑟、凱文和Accolon。 她經常不认為自己命運的受害者,有選擇在她在生活中做出的决定。 她被注定目擊Avalon老方式的困境,但是在最后得到與基督教的某些方面的和平,因為她看見她未曾與宗教戰鬥,但是寧可狹的观点的其中一些教士。 她认為,英國的古老信仰的某一記憶將居住,认為她崇拜的女神沒有死與來臨基督教: 相反,女神採取了在圣女玛丽亚的圖像的另一個形式。 Uther Pendragon是死的高国王Ambrosius和愛上Igraine的一個雄心勃勃的軍閥姪子和戰爭公爵。 在被背叛由他的盟友Gorlois以後(出于嫉妒而不是出于政治原因),他殺害了他並且成為了英國的高國王。 當亞瑟是少年,他生了亞瑟国王並且死了。 Igraine是Gorlois的妻子和最新Uther, Viviane的妹妹和Morgaine的母親和亞瑟。 她在Avalon被抚养長大並且被給了作為妻子Gorlois在十五歲,她的主要不快樂的聯合。 她由Viviane和Taliesin注定背叛她的丈夫,誘惑Uther和生產小島(她的兒子国王亞瑟)的救主。 起初,她叛亂,陳述她不是一匹繁殖的母馬,而是終於愛上Uther並且帮助他擊敗他的敵人。 然而,關於Gorlois的罪狀折磨她對末端。 Igraine崇拜Morgaine,在Uther輸入之前,但是她然後忽略

Where?

*right before the at...

Morgaine,當她和Uther結婚时,並且,當亞瑟出生时。 Gorlois是Igraine’ s丈夫和Morgaine’ s父親。 由于Igraine是很年輕的,當他們結婚了,他們的關係被勞損了,但是Gorlois做他的最好使她的感受舒適,給她的禮物和讓她的保留她的女兒Morgaine。 Igraine沒看見他怎麼愛她直到it’ s太後。 當Gorlois懷疑时Igraine有與Uther的一次事理,他打開她,指責她是妓女和巫婆和甚而违反他的誓言對

passage

passage to Big Goose Pagoda

Uther。 最后, Uther殺害他倒戈的。 亞瑟国王是

Igraine的兒子和Uther和異父母兄弟對Morgaine。 他被刻畫作為一位坚强的國王,由被安排的婚姻與Guinevere結婚。 他的他遭受的妻子的-誰同情由她的無子女和她的對Lancelot的愛折磨-終於成為他的倒臺。 轉彎是他實際上知道Guinevere’ s和Lancelot’ s事理,並且多么不快樂兩個是恆定背叛他。 因為他太多愛他的妻子和他的最好的朋友使他們不快樂,但是亞瑟停留外部。 被建議,而他愛Guinevere,他最深刻的愛為Morgaine被保存。 Guinevere是Arthur’ 美好的s,但是不快樂的妻子。 她由一個冷,無愛心的父親抚养長大,留給她深刻的自卑感和強烈的廣場恐怖症。 不生產繼承人和無法是以她的生活, Lancelot愛,她落入深刻的消沉,並且-盼望救世-变一個越來越狂熱基督徒。 Guinevere和Morgaine被描述作為二個極性字符。 Lancelot是Arthur’ s第一騎士, Viviane’ s兒子和Morgaine’ s表兄弟和第一爱人。 他是一個極端有天賦的戰士和敬佩為他的非常英俊的出現,但是終生有對他的母親Viviane的恐懼。 Guinevere和他是完全地情癡的,但是他們兩者都不有勇氣(或無情)私奔。 或許他也是愛上亞瑟和愛Guinevere,因為她是,很接近他。 Mordred,亦稱Gwydion,是Morgaine的私生子和亞瑟国王。 他一肆無忌憚,狡猾陰謀者,但是與主流版本對比他的動機是可理解

sun girl passage

sun light dust

的。 他看見他的父親亞瑟如腐敗和腐蝕和被說服他必須去除他保存Camelot。 強烈被暗示他的在冷,狡猾Morgause之下的童年使他認為他的方式。 Mordred與他的母親Morgaine分享一個著名的特徵: 他真實地相信他是命運典當,沒有真正的自愿選擇他的道路在生活中。 Mordred甚而列出他的father’ s优良品质和承認他敬佩亞瑟用幾個方式。 然而, Mordred保持决定拉扯他的父親下來從Camelot王位。 Morgause是Morgaine’ s伯母、Viviane的妹妹和Igraine。 她被描述作為一個自負,狡猾字符與她的姐妹對比,並且,她為她自己的獲取純粹行動。 她不感覺在她的規則通姦和計劃的遺憾為她的力量,使用Morgaine和Mordred,因為車。 Patricius,現代化作為聖帕特里克,是Camelot’ s驾驶”的多數強有力的基督徒教士; snakes” (督伊德教憎侶)從愛爾蘭。 他在極端消極光被刻畫,比如冷酷,厭惡女人者宗教原教旨主義者。 伊萊恩是Guinevere’ 最終成為Lancelot’的s表兄弟; s妻子。 伊萊恩很大地

First glory I see! Outside May 27, rose.

First glory I see! Outside May 27, rose.

類似她的表兄弟Guinevere我劇情介紹 書在家長式基督教威脅毀壞異教的生活方式的國家跟隨Morgaine彈道(經常称神僊的摩根勒菲或摩根其他工作的),戰鬥的女教士保存她的女家長凱爾特文化。 在亞瑟王的retellings經常被排斥的書跟隨Guinevere生活, Viviane、Morgause、Igraine和其他婦女。 騎士国王亞瑟和圆桌支持而不是主要字符。 與亞瑟王的傳說的其他retellings形成顯明對比, Avalon薄霧是,一貫地繪Morgaine作為一位遙遠,一維邪惡的巫婆或女巫,沒有真正的解释給予(或是必需的)對于她的反感。 在這种情况下Morgaine被熔鑄作為每次有獨特的禮物和責任的極大的政治和精神大變動的一名坚强的婦女,當她被要求防止她的土產女家長遺產不可能的可能性。 Avalon薄霧並肩作战象男性被集

one of Xi'an's many street dogs. We talk :)

one of Xi'an's many street dogs. We talk :)

中的神話的女權解釋的意義重大在明確表達的women’旁边; 在巨大变化時代的s經驗和轉移在性別力量上。 arthur’国王典型的爭鬥、搜尋和仇隙; s王朝被描述作為對women’的支持的元素; s生活。 故事在四大部分讲: 書一: 魔術的女主人,預定二: 高女王/王后,預定三: 国王Stag和書四: 橡木的囚犯。 小說是暢銷書在它的出版物並且至今保持普遍。 布雷得里后擴展了書入Avalon系列。 [編輯]劇情總結 Avalon薄霧是亞瑟王的傳奇的一部世代跨過的改寫本,但是帶來它回到它的Brythonic根(参见英國的問題)。

它的主演是Morgaine,目擊Uther Pendragon的上升到Camelot王位。 作為孩子,她把带對Avalon由高女教士Viviane,她的母親伯母,成為母親女神的上升拉緊在老異教徒和新的基督徒宗教之間的女教士和證人。 她在生育力儀式被給她以后將學會是亞瑟的一個年轻人,她

May 27---dinner, Humboldt College, Xi'an, China

May 27---dinner, Humboldt College, Xi'an, China

的異父母兄弟。 由於儀式,未知對亞瑟, Morgaine后設想孩子, Gwydion,最新叫的Mordred。 在Uther死之後,他的兒子亞瑟要求王位。 Morgaine和Viviane給他不可思議的劍Excalibur,並且與Avalon和Camelot聯合的力量,亞瑟驾驶撒克遜人的入侵。 但是,當他的妻子Guinevere不生產孩子时,她被說服它是上帝的處罰: 首先為Morgaine深深地憤慨)異教的元素(姿態的出现,和第二,她的對Arthur’的禁止的愛的; s最好的騎士Lancelot。 她越來越成為一個宗教盲信者,並且Avalon和Camelot之间的關係(即Morgaine和她自己)变得敵對。 當Camelot圆桌的騎士離開搜尋圣杯时, Mordred寻求強佔王位。 在一次極點爭鬥, Arthur’ s和Mordred’ s軍隊摆出攻击架式,並且在最后Avalon和亞瑟從世界的圈子奇蹟般地被去除。 它是單獨Morgaine誰居住讲Camelot的傳說。 [編輯]關於她的書的布雷得里 「 时间我在其中一個開始了在以后成為薄霧的摩根勒菲故事,在我接受的整理達到高潮的許多歲

humboldt college dinner josh & mary

humboldt college dinner josh & mary

月一次宗教查尋的工作相信神秘直覺說的天主教教會中作為教士。 從小說的出現,許多婦女咨詢我關於此,认為女神的了悟擴展了他們自己的宗教知覺,並且问我,如果它可以和解與基督教。 我非常強烈感觉,不僅那它能,但是那它必須… 因此,當婦女今天坚持講話女神而不是上帝时,他們拒绝有白色胡须的老人,命令希伯來人做在鄙俗的種族滅绝並且每日要求他的崇拜者感謝上帝他未做他們婦女… 並且,我假設,一點,書的目的將表现出我的沮喪在

Friday, May 27, 2011 Humbolt College Staff, Xi'an, China

Friday, May 27, 2011 Humbolt College Staff, Xi'an, China

宗教讓自己成為政治和狀態奴隸的方式。 (Malory’ s問題…那上帝不也許是在权利一邊,但是那宗教组织总是公開宣稱自己是在更大的槍一邊。)…我認為新異教徒運動提議人的一個非常可行的选择,特别是婦女的,由猶太教與基督教所共有的宗教组织惡習让厌恶。[1] 」 [編輯]字符 Morgaine -解說員,主演。 她的個性有能力在超人的视力(她的女神禮物)和變貌上。 刻畫作為一個悲劇的字符, Morgaine被撕毀在她的對Avalon的忠誠和她對Lancelot的未實現的愛之間,雖然她有其他戀人在書,顯著地亞瑟、凱文和Accolon。 她經常不认為自己命運的受害者,有選擇在她在生活中做出的决定。 她被注定目擊Avalon老方式的困境,但是在最后得到與基督教的某些方面的和平,因為她看見她未曾與宗教戰鬥,但是寧可狹的观点的其中一些教士。 她认為,英國的古老信仰的某一記憶將居住,认為她崇拜的女神沒有死與來臨基督教: 相反,女神採取了在圣女玛丽亚的圖像的另一個形式。 Uther Pendragon是死的高国王Ambrosius和愛上Igraine的一個雄心勃勃的軍閥姪子和戰爭公爵。 在被背叛由他的盟友Gorlois以後(出于嫉妒而不是出于政治原因),他殺害了他並且成為了英國的高國王。 當亞瑟是少年,他生了亞瑟国王並且死了。 Igraine是Gorlois的妻子和最新Uther,

Likely, this is the last post for a while—VPN runs out tomorrow, and maybe I should just have a little digi rest for a bit.  I will see all my American friends State-side in less than a month. So much love, ya’ll. So much. Peas, Josephine :)

Great Tang All Day Mall---oh, how it always makes me smile!

Great Tang All Day Mall---oh, how it always makes me smile!

Joy Luck Club

Our book looks like this.

forever will be (a song sketch thing-y) from Josephine Johnson on Vimeo.

Josephine Johnson

Recently, we finished Amy Tan’s, The Joy Luck Club, and as part of that unit, I required the students to keep vocabulary lists within their reading response journals. I asked them to look up twelve to twenty words for each chapter (sixteen chapters in all), write the definition and part of speech for each word, then use the words in their own sentences. As I graded the journals, I made my own list of words that were common among all the students’ vocab entries.  From my list I selected twenty words and devised a ‘fun’ final vocabulary test. On a Thursday, I gave the students my list of words that they would study over the weekend. I explained that on Tuesday we would have our test; they would be required to write a creative short story using correctly in both meaning and grammar at least ten of the words from the list.  They would have fifty minutes to craft their story. Creativity, proper usage, correct grammar are of the essence!

Below are two of the best. Though she only used nine instead of the required ten words, Mia’s was by far the most creative; hers is the “Lovely Rings.” *Mia wants to study design,

computer lab

computer lab Sharpay Corinne Ainder Vicky Asuka---getting down the details of portfolio requirements

jewelry and metals at HSU. Olina, I think, took more risks with her choice of vocabulary words. *Olina also tells me her mother makes her play piano when she goes home, though I think she’d rather not…  The vocabulary quiz stories below incorporate words (bolded) from Tan’s, The Joy Luck Club. *One last bit of disclosure: The students initially hand-wrote these stories in-class. I asked Mia and Olina to correct a few errors then send me their final drafts typed, so these two pieces have been revised from the original. :)

Lovely Rings

There were a couple of ornate rings lying in the jewelry shop. They were blue and red. They were dainty and loved each other. They wanted to stay with each other forever and have a happy life. If one ring had some wonderful experiences or sad times, he would confide in the other ring.

However, distress happened. One day, a man went to this jewelry shop and found this couple of rings. He thought they were

Ladies from the movie The Joy Luck Club

Ladies of the Joy Luck Club from the film

beautiful, and he wanted to buy them. He took them home, and then the man wanted to take apart one to know how the ring was so beautiful. The two rings realized that the man was a jewelry designer and that he wanted to know the structure of the beautiful jewelry.

The blue ring decided to scrape himself because he wanted the man to destroy him, not the red ring. That was an ordeal for him, but he could stand it. The red ring felt so sad.  She knew that the blue ring’s love penetrated her life, but she couldn’t prevent him from doing what he thought he must.

When the man wanted to begin his work, he found that the blue one had some scratches, and he started to destroy the blue one. At that time, his wife went to his room, and she nudged him and said,

computer lab Eunice Carrie Flora Mia Vicky

computer lab Eunice Carrie Flora Mia Vicky---the task at hand

Cease. Don’t do that please.”

“Darling, I wanted to know the structure of this ring.  You know, I’m a designer, and this blue one was scraped,” the man answered.

“I know, but they were so delicate, and they were beautiful and matched. It’s a pity to destroy one,” she said.

“Okay, darling, I will not do that.” A warm smile appeared on his face. Then he put the red ring to her finger, and he put the blue one on his.

A Free Bird

Read the book & watch the film :)

Tomas is a ten-year old boy, but he is not a normal person-he is a noble. There is rose embroidery on his cuff, which represents his noble status. Tomas is a piano prodigy, and he practices piano all day. His mother always applauds him because he is so diligent. No one but himself knows that he is lonely. He tries to be a perfect boy in front of others, but he has nausea to practice the boring piano. The only thing he can confide in is a vase that his dead father gave him on his eighth birthday.

One day, he broke the vase accidently, and when he wanted to pick the pieces up, one piece penetrated his hand’s skin. The blood flew, and he had much distress. He stared at those pieces and felt very sad because his memories of his father were also broken. He wanted to cease this boring life, so he started to rebel against his mother. Tomas made big noises when he was eating a meal, and his mother said impatiently, “Tomas, according to protocol, you shouldn’t make noises when you eat such a dainty meal. Understand?”

“Mom, why do you always interfere with me? I don’t want to be a hypocritical man, and I must express my real feelings. I don’t like playing piano, and I want to play with other boys…”

“Stop, Tomas! Don’t forget you are a noble. How can you speak like that?”

“No mom, you never understand me. Do you know how much I admire the birds flying in the sky? I won’t be a puppet any more. I want to be a free bird,” Tomas said firmly.

Tomas went back to his room and packed because he wanted to leave this house which was like a big cage that trapped him. As

Amy Tan, so eloquent, bright & beautiful

Amy Tan, so eloquent, bright & beautiful

soon as he went out of the gate, he would be a free bird, but he would also meet a lot of difficulties. Was he ready to face everything? His mom couldn’t see his expression on his face, but she could feel his firm back view.

“I am a free bird now.” Tomas said to himself and smiled.

*******************************************************

computer lab Eunice Vivian Olina Icy

computer lab Eunice Vivian Olina Icy---serious business

*OK, I don’t know about that last bit of  ‘feel his firm back view,’ but Olina did a great job, and I’m really proud of her work.

HSU, are you ready for this, ALL this awesomeness headed your way August 15th? Get ready—they’re gonna rock your redwood world!

let our life be magic & open

let our life be magic & open---yes!

By Josephine Johnson

My students and I have six weeks before the end of spring semester. We’ve precious little time to finish a literary analysis of The

rrrroof

awwww!

Joy Luck Club, complete a pop culture-focused research paper, perfect writing portfolios and portfolio cover letters. All this writing has to be good—C+ or better—or the students will have to re-take first year composition at HSU in the fall. And I can’t just pass them at the end of the semester, either, as I’m not the only one reviewing their work. My department and colleagues will also assess the students’ final submissions. So, really, not only are the portfolios an indication of student writing proficiency, but they’re also a measure of how effective I’ve been as a teacher this year. Talk about potential for losing face—if a student’s portfolio is deemed non-passing and he or she has to take first-year comp again, then I look like

all is well, all is well, all is well

all is well, breathe in, breathe out

a crummy writing teacher. So, I’m burning hot midnight oil right now to make sure the students have correct English grammar, mechanics, and most difficult of all, thesis development permanently scorched into their brains.  Oh yes, and proper MLA formatting.

As I sit here typing, I’m freaking out a little knowing that I should be drafting an assignment sheet on correct portfolio formatting instead of working on my blog and personal writing. But in thinking about my students’ writing and my expectations for their work,  I can’t help but reflect on how much insight I’ve gained into the Chinese educational system especially with respect to how little scaffolding exists between teaching western ways of

learning to minds molded by strict Confucianism. As I mentioned in the post Learning in China: Primary & Secondary School, National Exams, University the Chinese education system is heavily influenced by Confucianism and is focused on memorizing and reciting information in order to pass a series of standardized tests.  Creative thought is not encouraged—expressing an idea in ‘your own words’ is akin to failing. Students under 18 spend their lives studying and memorizing in order to pass the national college exam, as this one test determines their future in China. And it’s not enough to just pass; the higher the score, the better the  university the student will be accepted into. This system is great if you’re a fine bubble-filler-standardized-test-taker, but what if, despite all the memorization, cramming, and regurgitation your mind has been forced to endure, you are brilliant in other ways and not particularly good at taking tests? Well, sucks to be you. Really.

At a coffee shop where I often grade papers, there’s a young Chinese man—I’ll call him Ray, though that’s not his real name—who occasionally likes to practice English with me. He’s an avid internet news reader, and his English is pretty good. He did not do well enough on the national exam to get into a Chinese university, and his parents do not have enough money to send him abroad or to any special study programs. He works in an electronic repair shop and does English translation work on the side. He talks with me sometimes and asks about how best to avoid using ‘Chinglish’ (his word) in his translations. (I tell him to read English—read as much native English as possible.) He always seems happy, but there’s this clipped-wing squint in his eyes when he laughs. Without a college education, he tells me matter of fact and without apparent want for sympathy, he will not find a suitable wife and will probably never leave his parents’ home. At least that’s what he says.

Ray’s not all sadness and gloom, though. In fact, he’s really funny. The other day he told me a joke he got from the internet

Semiotic analysis?

about how Osama Bin Laden once sent terrorists to China. Yes, he sent them to blow up Chinese buses, but the terrorists couldn’t get on. (Maybe you need to live here to get it, but buses in China are always packed to the gills—scarcely room for commuters let alone a bus bomber.) He thought this was very funny, and well, so did I but probably for different reasons. The point is, Ray’s obviously smart, but because of an education system that places every last importance on one standardized test, and because he did not do well on that test, he now has little opportunity to pursue learning and formal education beyond high school. The inequity of this is nearly unbearable to me. So, I’ve started carrying an extra English novel in my backpack when I go to the coffee shop.  Next time I see him, Ray should be ready for Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.

Some come to China to spread Christianity, Mormonism. Clearly, I’m a disciple of the Mind, spreading the gospel of Thought.  Independent thinking, creative thought—more dangerous than God in China.

OK, back to my students.

My students are both similar to and different from Ray. Like Ray, several did not do well on the national exam, and a few even re-took their last year of high school so they would have a better chance of doing well on the exam again—according to my students, one can take re-take the national exam once. But it is not cheap to take that last year of high school again. Likewise, it is not cheap for these students to study in America. Unlike Ray, most of my students are from wealthy families that can afford second chances.    Though several of my students did not do well on the national exam, like Ray they are smart, lateral thinkers. And I know this because by far the best writing they have done for me has been in their creative writing journals and in their creative writing assignments; when I read their journals and stories, I very much get a sense that they are starved for creative outlet. Again, the obvious inequity just gnaws at me—really, the only difference between my students and Ray is that my students’ families have the means to compensate for the fact that they did not fit within the rigid Chinese, Confucianism-based education system.

To be clear, my students are very thankful for the opportunity to learn English and study abroad—their diligence never ceases to amaze.

click, enlarge, read...insight into the language I battle...

Maybe you’re wondering just how instructive creative writing assignments are with respect to gaining academic English proficiency?  Ok, granted creative writing in general is not thesis driven—students are not comparing texts , synthesizing thoughts, and arguing for a point of view or proffering original academic thought. But creative writing must have a point, and it must be expressed in grammatically correct English (unless you’re e.e. cummings or James Joyce). This semester we read The Joy Luck Club which essentially is a collection of different characters’ creative personal essays. Each essay, or character’s story, has a story and a point at which each woman experiences a critical moment of self reflection. These different critical moments become the main points—the creative theses—of the individual chapters. Pointing this out to my students was like turning on the sun for them. This point helped them with their story telling skills and helped them understand that even though we may be doing creative writing, we’re not just rambling—we must have a point, a creative thesis as I came to call it.

So, this semester’s creative writing class became my method of grammar instruction and critical thought organization. We started with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, then moved on to Anne Lamotte’s Bird by Bird and finished with Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club. They were required to keep journals for all the readings plus complete an array of creative writing assignments. I also sneaked in a couple academic, thesis-driven assignments with the novels. I wanted to do some Dickinson and Thoreau, too, but we ran out of time. Maybe by American university standards this was not much reading, but for most of my students, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was their first English book. From Harry Potter to the Joy Luck Club, we covered a lot of ground, so that in the end, creative writing class became a hybrid literature, composition, creative class— a lot of work, but I think it most helped the students develop their writing.

But knowing what I now know about education in China, in particular knowing that my students come from a very wide range of English level proficiency, I would have structured my syllabus, tailored my methods,  and designed my courses much differently. For example, these are the classes I taught/ am teaching this year:

Fall semesterEnglish 1A; Academic Reading; Writing Workshop

Spring Semester: Creative Writing; Academic Writing and Research; Writing Workshop

What do YOU make others see?

In retrospect, what I should have done was to have structured a remedial English 40 class for the fall and then taught English 1A in the spring. And for the record, Academic Writing and Research should not—rather cannot—be taught in China, at least I can’t, not with the resources currently available to me. From an instructor’s perspective, for anyone thinking about teaching English writing, just start with remedial English. Unless you are an insomniac and don’t mind staying up really late trying to untangle grammar issues, figuring out patterns of error and then developing lesson plans targeting student errors (copious!), just don’t. Sleep is better, do that instead. Beginning with easier material will make your life much, much easier and you will be less likely to question your ability as a writing teacher and your worth as a human being, if you take it slow from the begining.

As far as Academic Research and Writing goes? Uh, the great firewall, pretty much says it, though there is more to this challenge than just China’s inferno of censorship. But the firewall is enough.  Essentially, I have very few academic resources available to me to teach my students proper research methods. Plus, as an HSU instructor, I only have one login pass to the HSU library and academic databases  like JSTOR and Ingenta.  My students, to engage in real scholarly research would need login passes, too. It is not feasible for me to sit with each student, one by one, as they login and search the HSU databases for appropriate articles.

So, how do you do scholarly research on the other side of the great firewall? Well, you do it the best you can, and use every

Humboldt College Staff

obstacle as a teachable moment, confident that once the students get to HSU they will actually have an introduction to the library and learn first-hand how to use the electronic card catalog and databases. At least I hope so because I sure can’t show them over here. So, we use Google and Baidu and take note of how the same search terms used in the different search engines often yield different results. We examine what this means in terms of information availability. And with this I hint at censorship though don’t actually say as much. But then sometimes Google just doesn’t work, and we are forced to use Baidu, the Chinese version of Google that readily complies with China’s ‘internet business laws.’ Double Speak, you know.

I have so much more to share about my teaching experiences, and really, I’d love to write a book about them. But who would want to read it? Unless you’re really into cross-cultural education and international experience, I can’t imagine many would want to read at length about my pattern of error observations (usually issues with prepositions and confusing the verb infinitive stem ‘to’, also interference of passive voice axillary verbs with present tense active constructions. See, it’s boring.) If you want to know about my teaching and what I’ve learned, you can email me. josephine.jhnsn@gmail.com I’d be glad to answer questions—the demand for writing teachers in China will only increase as China slowly reforms its education system. Ah, education reform in China—it’s inevitable. And it’s a topic for yet another post!

Maybe I should write a book, make it kinda teacher-ly, pedagogical-like, research-y and such. I’d like that.  :)

Thanks for reading. Love, Jos

*No donkeys were harmed (or sung to) in the writing of this post.

Hey, my VPN is out end of May—hope to get one more post up. After that, this blog gets updated State-side in July!

See, it IS funny. Ray's joke, get it? :)

Buddha, Jesus Both Rode Donkeys

Here’s a cover of KT Tunstall’s ‘Through the Dark.’  Enjoy! by Josephine Johnson

Peace, Shaolin Temple

Phew, what a trip—I just returned from three days and two nights with twenty-five foreign teachers visiting the Longmen Grottoes, Shaolin Temple, White Horse Temple, and national Peony Festival in Hunan Province, China. Our university, XISU, provided the tour bus and planned the meals, over-night accommodations, itinerary, and guides. Pretty much all we had to do was show up each morning. It was good. And sometimes intense. Half the group was retired couples who are also Mormon while the rest of us were a ragtag collection of late 20 something-ers, early 30s folks, an outspoken Jewish man, and a law student from Australia. This range of age, experience, politics, and religious persuasions made for some heated conversations at times. Our bus garbage perhaps best conveys the potential for interpersonal meltdown—multiple cans Red Bull, empty Metamucil, one pair broken ipod ear buds, prunes (numerous pouches), one tube screamin’ pink mascara. Yeah, pink mascara. It’s baaack. (It was in the trash, though…)

I hung in the back while the Mormon couples and folks over 50 stayed to the front. In the back of the bus I

Buddha, White Horse Temple, Hunan China

got the low down on places to pick up attractive, no–strings-attached-yet-not-prostitute-Chinese-girls; where to go for best-eats-for-real-cheap Muslim food; and why renewing your visa in Hong Kong is better than renewing in Beijing (see above discussion points).

But after a while I plugged in, tuned out, and sunk into ‘Lost on Planet China’, a travel narrative by J. Maarten Troost that accurately pegs contemporary, mainland China. Ah, the Chinese—loud, spitting, sometimes tacky and always occupied with making Yuan. I sound like a cultural bigot when I say this, but the author adeptly wraps this truth and ugliness in some fine humor and illustrative anecdote. I spent four of the six hours on the bus laughing out loud to Troost’s witty prose. It’s that real and on the mark. And very much backs up my experiences and thoughts on loogie hacking, squat toilets, and the general spiritual void in China. Check it out—Lost on Planet China, by J. Maarten Troost—It’s funny, honest, and more.

former Shaolin monk---spry at 83

As much as I wanted to take Troost with me to lunch, I had to put him down when we stopped at the Chinese truck stop. Yes, our tour group dined at the Chinese equivalent of the Flying J but with cafeteria-style noodles, rice, veggies, and meat instead of buffet mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, baby back ribs, and pork chops. No slot machines, belt buckles, troll doll key chains, or greasy blueberry muffins either. This was an authentic Chinese experience.

The Chinese eat and rest from noon to 2:00 every day. That’s just how it’s done. So, of course, since our driver was Chinese, we stopped a little past noon just as all the truck drivers and traveling families were also pulling off the road and readying for noodles, joudza, rice, lo mien, and stir-fried whatever. The truck stop was packed. Enter, then, a load of foreigners, clearly encroaching and disrupting the routine of these working Chinese men’s good lunch break. They were not happy with us.

We lined up with our metal trays and waited patiently as the serving line inched forward. But Chinese, especially Chinese men,

White Horse Temple, Hunan, China

are not keen to wait in line. Ever. According to some of my teacher friends who also worked on the 2008 Beijing Olympics, some Chinese had to have special training in line queuing. Forming a line and waiting one’s turn is not a common cultural practice in China. What most westerners learned in kindergarten, many Chinese are now having to learn as adults, especially as China becomes a global business nexus. The men at the truck stop apparently hadn’t been at the Beijing Olympics special queuing classes.

The great wizard, Buddha, Santa, Elf

So, there we were, twenty-five foreigners and some fifty, sixty Chinese truck drivers. They elbowed their way into our nice line, and some of the teachers elbowed right back. There was an explosion of angry Chinese, and two empty trays fell to the ground. Though I didn’t understand most of it I did catch ‘laowai’— Chinese for ‘outsider’—and this word was spat with much volume and vehemence.

After the serving line skirmish, we sat and ate the worst meal ever prepared in China. All that brawl and elbow defense for a meal too salty, oily, and soggy for consumption, albeit for westerners’ consumption. No one finished. Probably because all the teachers were too busy bitching about the food and “how base, rude, and ill-mannered they are”. Ok, if the Chinese are “rude” and “base,” then this is true, too—westerners are far too frequently elitist snobs expert at bitching— incessant bitching,—and pointless complaining (myself included).  Nothing is ever good enough for westerners. Ever. Ever. And though I can hold my own and bitch with the best of them, sometimes I just can’t. And this was one of those times.  So, I excused myself and went outside for a breather and to have a laugh at the all too real surrealism that was about to melt this Chinese truck stop.

And that’s when I saw the donkeys.

Kuan Yin, Buddhist goddess of compassion, White Horse Temple, Hunan China

Kuan Yin, Buddhist goddess of compassion, White Horse Temple, Hunan China

Here’s where this story takes a very different turn because I did not expect to go outside and see a hundred or more donkeys crammed into a livestock truck doubtless on their way to some one’s dinner plate (donkey is eaten here) via a barbarous Xi’an slaughter house. I just wanted to step outside, take a break, and have a laugh at the cultures duking it out back inside. I was not expecting to be called to minister as Mother Theresa to a truck load of sad, emaciated donkeys headed to the butcher. But that’s exactly what happened, or what I did, or who I was. Or something like that. I don’t know. But I do know that when I saw them, nothing else mattered, and I knew I had to go to them to talk, sing, and share happy thoughts with them because the donkeys were all too aware of where they were headed.

And I could feel that the best gift I could give at that moment was to be as kind and loving

Ya'll need some grace? Let's sing it. We'll be amazing. Love.

as possible. To be the best, happiest, and most loving Josephine I could be for those donkeys. Really, I felt this. As much as I would have liked, I could not cry. And yeah, my heart hurt, but I remained strong and laughing and sucked it up. For them. Some with their noses pointed toward the outside rails lifted their weak heads, nostrils gently flaring, and took in my scent. They wanted me to touch them. And so I did. I climbed the railing and touched their muzzles, flanks, backs, and tails and told them nice things and laughed and sang. I whispered to them, in effect, that not all humans sucked, that though many had drained the life from them, these now-broken, depleted donkeys, not all humans are crass, cruel, careless, and unloving. I promise, I said. Then I sang a funky, upbeat, soulful Amazing Grace. And they loved me, and I them.

This one wanted to go to the temple with us. He loved us :)

He wanted to go to the temple with us. He loved us :)

Allergies and a nasty spring head cold had conspired to make me simultaneously runny-nosed and congested. So, when I turned my head to sneeze (didn’t want to offend or infect the donkeys—dignity in their final hours) did I realize that some of my Mormon colleagues were watching and listening. For a moment I was aware of how kooky-granola-northern-California I must look clinging to the rails of the truck clad in pink paisley skirt and bright yellow Steelhead SpecialT-shirt—clearly, the antithesis of wholesome Mormon conviction and spirituality.

But without missing a beat, and with much purpose, I said, “I’m singing to them. I’m giving them my love right now.”

“We know.” And they continued standing, my Mormon friends, keeping vigil with me.

In a few moments, Mary, my boss, slowly approached and said softly in my ear, “Just wash your hands when you’re done. This is China.”

This is China, right? Birthplace of SARS and avian flu—point made, point taken. Thanks, Mary.

Buddha was a teacher.

Surreal as it was, the whole situation proceeded as if it were the most natural thing for me to do—to go and comfort miserable animals as they headed toward death. I could feel the donkeys, and they could feel me, and most powerfully I could feel they needed the presence of something, someone, compassionate who could embrace the ugliness and still love them. And sing. That my colleagues—the Mormons—seemingly condoned all this was perhaps equally as surreal as my singing Amazing Grace through the rails of a vehicle laden with donkeys headed to a slaughter house in China.

It was all heart-breaking, gross, and so very modern China.

Just when you think all is lost and there's no use in speaking...

Well, if I haven’t completely creeped you out with all this donkey talking, death, and slaughter stuff, then perhaps…you’ll keep reading? I’ve more pictures below from this trip. I hope you enjoy, and please, go hug a donkey, sing to a tree, and love your neighbor. Don’t suck. :) ~Jos

Mary, please don't hate me. But I had to do this--it was just too good a photo. Have fun in Kashgar. We will miss you. Rugs? Can you?! ~Jos :)

Student monk, Shaolin Temple, kung fu meditation

Buddha statuary, Longman Grotto, Louyang, China

Pagoda forest, Shaolin Temple

by Josephine Johnson

It’s 8:00 am Saturday, March 26th, and I’m waiting at the gate of Xi’an International Studies University for Professor Songtao Guo. Dr. Guo has invited me to join

Golden Monkey Research Station, village somewhere in the Qin Lings

him and a Beijing research team on a trip to the Golden Monkey Research Station in the Qin Ling Mountains. I’m at my university’s main gate. And so are 1000 or more students. There’s a national language exam today, and my university is one of the test sites—the plaza, sidewalk, and surrounding streets are jammed with impatient motorists and students rushing to the exam building. There’s no way the team will be able to pick me up here. After a quick call to Dr. Guo, we agree I should take a taxi to the highway ring road and meet there. A half hour later, I’m riding shot gun in a Toyota 4Runner headed to the research station.

Road to Research

For two hours we travel south. The Qin Lings to the east are discernibly jagged on this rare, very clear day, and as we turn and begin winding into the mountains, the paved highway gives way to gravel and dirt. We travel two more hours on a washboard one lane path, the 4Runner often within inches of the road’s edge. After a series of hairpins, deep ruts, and a steep climb, we arrive. The research station rests on a knoll in a valley within a village of approximately forty people.

Research Station

Dr. Guo has been researching the golden monkey, also called the snub-nosed monkey, for the past ten years and has made key behavioral and genetic observations of the species. He and his advising professor have worked tirelessly for more than twenty combined years to develop the research

Grand Views, Epic Food--Cooks Shed

station into a flagship for golden monkey research. Primatologists from all over the world, including researchers from Cornell and the San Diego Zoo, visit the station to observe the monkeys and learn. And today, two researchers from Beijing are on board to assist with new subcutaneous tracking equipment. The team from Beijing will help with data collection and processing that the tracking equipment monitors. The golden monkey is an endangered species and is threatened most by human encroachment and loss of habitat. The tracking equipment will aid the researchers in better understanding the range and habitat use of the monkey.

Primate Research

As Dr. Guo and the Beijing team

Dr. Gou & New Equipment

begin unpacking and cataloging the new equipment, I take a quick walk around the grounds. The research facility is spacious, tidy, and accommodates seven to eight researchers. Once the equipment is photographed, Dr. Guo, a graduate student, the Beijing researchers, and I hit the trail and head toward the monkeys.

“I remember my first winter in the field with two other undergraduates,” reminiscences Guo, “we only had tents. In the middle of the night they went down the mountain to get warm. They said they would be back in the morning, but they didn’t come back. They went home they got so cold. But I stayed.” Dr. Guo smiles, “Now, ten years later there’s a nice research facility with electricity, and it’s known all over the world.” He pauses, “OK, primatologists and researchers know about it.” He chuckles and walks ahead of me.

To the Monkeys

As we hike out of the village and into the forest, we encounter a black, four-door Volkswagen Jetta on the dirt trail. It pulls up to us, stops, and I see four policemen, under thirty, clad in neat black uniforms. Dr. Guo, ever smiling, approaches and hangs his head in the open back passenger window. They talk

The Village

for several minutes. Though he is still beaming, the twinkle is gone from Dr. Guo’s eye when he comes away from the vehicle. In a cheery voice he says we should keep walking. A bit further up the path we encounter several high-end, parked vehicles, one of which is a BMW. Another is a Lexus. As we pass by, Guo says nothing.

Drying Corn

Dr. Guo begins telling me about the group of golden monkeys we’re about to see. He explains that there are two populations—the east population and the west population—and that we’ll be observing the west group. This population is more habituated to humans and we’ll be able to get very close to them. They might even approach us.

Guo continues, “The social structure of this species is unlike any other primate. The larger social group consists of smaller family groups headed

Two Female Golden Monkeys

by one male.” He explains that a family group will have one male, seven or eight females, and two or three babies or juveniles. The west group has ten primary males, so there are about one hundred animals total in this social group. There are also fifteen bachelor males outside the main social group. These males are waiting for their chance to take over a family unit.

And then there is a sound like a large house cat meowing.

The Big Guy

“There,” Guo stops abruptly. “That is the monkey.”

We continue hearing them though they remain hidden as we cross a dry wash. And then as we emerge from the boulders, I catch a glimpse of golden fur in bare branches.  Suddenly, all over I see monkeys. In the trees, on the ground, some stretched on rocks in the sun. Golden monkeys, everywhere.

There are also people, a bunch of people—sixteen, maybe eighteen people with huge cameras

Monkey Family

and telephoto lenses. They are crowding around the animals clicking and noise-making attempting to get them to look in their cameras.

“These are friends, rich friends, of the village officials. Part of Chinese culture,” says Guo. He’s steadfast in his smile but discernibly crestfallen. And I put it together. The SUVs must belong to these people.  The village police must have accepted some kind of payment so these people could come and take pictures of the monkeys. Ah, part of the culture. Typically, only researchers are allowed here not tourists or weekend photo vacationers.

Regardless, Dr. Guo is bent on making this awkward situation as educational as possible. He knows each individual monkey in this group and has known them for years, and he uses these years of study and observation as a springboard to educate the uninitiated photographers. I watch as he

Baby

goes from person to person pointing to the monkeys, presumably

Primates

explaining aspects of behavior and other bits of important biological information. His animated explanations can’t help but catch and demand attention.  The photographers relent and listen.

Eventually, Guo returns and explains in English to me and a Chinese graduate student his observations of one female monkey that set the social hierarchy on end. One female in this social group, he

Big Conversation

explains, is considered so desirable that she actually has more power than several of the primary males. And he knows this because she will be able to eat first or will have access to better tree branches and resting spots.

So Much Alike

Usually, he explains, the males hold the highest rank in a family group, and they eat first and generally direct the action of the family group. Then, among primary males of a social group, there is yet another hierarchical ranking. But this one female holds enough social sway to be akin to a middle-ranking primary male. I wonder what desirable attributes grant her so much power? But before I can pose this question, Guo is off to another group of people, pointing, explaining, smiling.  The grad student and I remain standing and smiling, positively beaming at how Dr. Guo has turned this research-wrecking photo-op into a finely managed, most important teachable moment.

Of course, behavioral research, genetic study, and close scrutiny of familial associations go a long way in developing a cohesive body of knowledge about a species, knowledge that will ultimately be used to protect and preserve it in the race against extinction. But maybe just as important as field research and scholarly publication, when it comes to protecting a species, is an adroit spokes person who can give voice to the story of an animal or species. Watching Dr. Guo flit from group to group gesticulating, smiling and explaining drives this point home. His work with the golden monkey, no

Not Just a Bump on a Log

doubt, provides baseline information crucial to the species survival. But Dr. Guo’s ability to translate years of observation into insightful, easily understood, and often witty anecdotes is just as important. He knows the monkey’s story. And because he is able to share these monkey tales with such accurate and unabashed enthusiasm—his adept story-telling ability will also go a long way toward protecting the golden monkey.

It’s after 4:00, and the sun has fallen behind the mountain. We walk back to the research station, and I’m in awe of how much I’ve learned, how close I’ve gotten to so many golden monkeys, how I am now (and so are you!) a small part of their story. And I’m thankful to have been invited on such an adventure. Thank you, Dr. Guo. You’re so much more than Professor and primatologist—you’re a primate protector, golden monkey savior, and perfect interspecies ambassador.  :)  ~Jos

 

Oh, primates & their tools...

April marks six months of being here, so it’s probably time for that “what-have-I-learned-since-I’ve-been-in-China” post. I think

What did you just say?

this is that.  What I’ve learned. No quiz.

I Get Around

where I want to go by myself has been an adventure in communication.  Yep, I’ve learned how to negotiate the bus system and can pretty much get to gigs and other places as I need to. I’ve kind of learned how to take taxis to different parts of the city, too, though I’ve gotten lost a couple times. Once on the way to a gig—I thought I said one thing when in fact I didn’t. Oops. Arrived somewhere and had no idea where I was and couldn’t say anything to indicate where I really needed to be.  Thank goodness I have awesome colleagues I can call (put a mark on the wall: I have a cell phone) who not only speak Chinese but who are also willing to help me untangle transportational miscommunications regardless of the time. (Thank you, Josh, Krystal.)  But mostly I take the bus and get where I need to be no problem.

Work It Out

Essentials

I’ve learned there are certain things I have to do every day or else I will go crazy. Really, I mean crazy.  It probably goes without saying that singing, playing guitar are daily requirements; writing, getting outside, socializing also gotta happen every day. But the biggie? I have to exercise.  In Humboldt, I ride my bike for miles and hours. I’m used to extended physical exertion, so of course, I would need to keep exercising in China. Duh, right? I thought I would buy a bike when I got here but had to re-think that. The traffic here is crazy—I mean crazy—crazier-than-I-am-if-I -don’t-exercise, crazy.  Because I know people at home love me and that I would be putting my life in extreme jeopardy were I to take these streets as an inexperienced rider, I decided against the bike. I joined a gym instead. It’s nothing like biking—especially nothing like riding in Humboldt—but it works for now. Plus, it provides fodder …

*Gym tangent—Gyms in China are a pretty new phenomenon. Mine’s only a year old. So, gym etiquette that I’ve come to expect (and appreciate!) just ain’t happening.

...in front of spin room

 Example? The thigh abduct machine (you know the one) is located outside the entrance of the glass-fronted spin classroom. At 7:00 pm the class begins, and if you’ve poorly timed your

workout to be on the thigh machine at any point during spin class, you’ve set yourself up for an eighth degree ogling.  So, there it is, 7 o’clock, and I’m doing inner and outer thigh exercises in front of the spin room. Ladies behind me bent over stationary bikes, posteriors raised.  And there’s a line of eight, twelve, guys in front of me their eyes darting from the thigh master to the spinners behind me. They are nearly immobilized, standing, staring…drooling? Then one approaches me—while I’m on the machine, mid-thigh master motion—and in jerky English asks if I would play ping pong with him.  Yep, ping pong. Is this euphemism??

Humboldt, I Need You

But I think the greatest life lesson so far is fully understanding how important my relationships are at home.  Earlier this year a dear friend passed away unexpectedly, and it was not possible for me to get back to the States. The experience made me stop and examine how I express love and appreciation to the people I care about most. Admittedly, I’m not often the most demonstrative in my relationships. But I do care. A lot. And when you’re in a foreign country without any training in the language, no friends or people who know you, it makes you appreciate the folks at home who have taken the time to really get to know you, warts and glories.  And when you don’t have those folks around anymore, it

:)

makes you realize that you probably had a lot of love that you took for granted.  It makes you appreciate how when you’re home you can go to Has Beans and strike up a conversation—in English!—with nearly anyone because you know just about everybody who’s there. Or how you can go to Old Town Coffee and Chocolates and spend Wednesdays with your music pals at open-mic with Sky. Or in Eureka how you can walk down A Street to the waterfront and stop and chat with your neighbors about their beautiful rhododendrons and spring iris. You can talk to their cats, too, and call out to the ravens on the light pole without anyone thinking you’re too weird. Even though you probably are, but because it’s Eureka, and you’re wearing an orange hat and cute calico skirt, they figure you must be harmless, which you are unless you haven’t exercised. In which case you’re crazy which is still perfectly acceptable in Eureka.

You can stay here. Visit.

But the point is I miss my home and all the people who have been kind and loving to me.

Love.

Terri, you, me ginger weasels, lunch.  Lyndsey, music!!!   Leslie, art night, your yard, making messes. Joe Shermis, poetic response always. Sarah, I miss your sweet voice. Seven-o-Heaven, I just miss your dorkiness? Something like that…Yo, Goff, bass? Guitar? Startare, drums, yes?  Valerie, do you know how many times you held my spirit? Frankie H. :)   Renee, January, tree spirits. Sabrina, voice of reason, rationale. Gretchen, hey you’re a ginger, too—lunch! Rose, scones and all your goodness—you’re a goddess.

I can’t wait to be that weird, geeky bird girl neighbor again, camera in hand, singing.  But in the meantime, I did raise my hand for this, and the brave little soldier remains steadfast.  I have a mission—preparing firs t year Chinese college students for Humboldt State.

I’ve geeks to make.

Geek on!

Much love from China, ~Jos

*Centered pic? It’s what it’s like taking the bus to gigs around Xi’an–they’re always packed!

the bus to Belgian Bar

With a hard-case guitar even...to the Belgian Bar, to music!

At the top—a new song ‘Make it Right’ enjoy!

 

Learning in China: Primary & Secondary School, National Exams, University

rainy day xi'an

Feb. 28 xi'an, china

When I accepted the position teaching writing at Xi’an International Studies University, I had no idea, really, what China’s education system or students might be like. I assumed that since I’d be working with first-year students, they’d have matriculated through a system similar to the U.S. or Europe and be prepared to tackle the rigors of college courses taught in English. Though they were—and continue to be—up for the challenge, in no way had my students been through an education system like the West’s. None had ever written an academic, thesis-driven paper. Most had written—hand written—up-beat, brief descriptive pieces praising the attractions of their hometowns or their favorite family vacation, writing well-suited for Chinese travel magazines but not so much for academic papers. The Chinese virtue of ‘harmony’ is omnipresent and likely influences all communication written and oral.   So far—and I say this as observation, not judgment— most student writing tends to lack assertion or argument. And this makes sense—there’s no argument in harmony, right?

But this seeming lack of critical writing skills doesn’t mean Chinese students aren’t sent through a meat-grinder of an education system.  It’s different, here. In China, the ability to memorize and recite is highly revered; even my lower-performing students can quote facts, numbers and historical dates—in English—to give the best Jeopardy contenders a run for their money.  Our students have been through a rigorous system to be sure, but its focus is more on memorization and not so much on synthesis as this recent USA Today article alludes.  (I know, I know, USA TODAY—the McDonald’s of news. But it’s relevant. Check the comments, too.) This New York Times opinion piece (01-15-11) offers insight and a slightly different perspective.

umbrellas, Feb. 28 Xi'an, China

umbrellas at the market

There’s also keen emphasis on raising and educating children to be successful, prosperous, so that they will be able to take care of their aging parents. This one-child policy, instituted in 1979, continues to shape demographics and increasingly confounds long-held cultural values.  Nearly all my students are only-children, which means there’s tremendous pressure on them to be successful not only to provide for their futures but for their parents’ as well. There are some loopholes, of course. If you’re wealthy you can get out of anything—like anywhere else in the world; if you are an ethnic minority, you can have more than one child; if you’re a farming family, you can have multiple children. There may be a few other exemptions, though I think these are the main ones. But the bigger issue, the elephant in the pagoda, is that the State-sponsored pension fund is just not enough to cover the cost of retirement. (This article from the China Daily, State-sponsored media, briefly addresses the issue.) In China, your kids are your retirement and security.  So, all of my students have been made from a very young age to learn, study, and achieve in order to get a good job, ostensibly with a high salary, so that they will be  able to provide for their parents.

One of my students told me of her childhood spent reading, studying, memorizing, test taking. For as long as she could remember, her mother woke her at 5:30 am to review and prepare for the day. By 7:30, she was at school until noon. From noon to 2:00, she could take a nap or rest. From 2:00 to 4:30 pm she resumed school work.  Each day from 4:30 to 6:00 she studied piano, took ballet lessons, or did some kind of sport. From 6:00 to 7:00 pm, she ate dinner; after dinner, she would meet with a private English tutor until 9:00 pm. From 9:30 to midnight, she did homework. And then at 5:30 am, repeat.  All of this in preparation to get a good score on the national exam that determines which university a student will be placed in as well as what major the student will study. In some instances, though, all the preparation, focus, and study is for naught. The subject or university a student is interested in, sometimes, is not the one he or she ends up in. The national exam score determines a great deal about a student’s future, but in some cases, students are just placed in a university and given a major and must follow the path they’ve been given.

Take a look at this—Foreign Teacher’s Guide to Living and Working in China—lengthy, but good. Check out the timetable/ course schedule near the bottom. This is how my students have spent most of their lives.

hot pot vendor, street market

hot pot, feb. 28, xi'an

So, students at Humboldt College have been burning midnight oil most of their lives, combusting, and will continue to do so throughout their undergrad experience. For example, our students take Chinese and English courses during both halves of their first year; half are Chinese classes—Chinese Literature, Moral Ed. & Study of Law, P.E., Contemporary History of China, Math—and these classes meet twice a week, two hours each class period. Classes at Humboldt College include Academic Writing and Research, Creative Writing, Western Civ., 20th Century Film, Oral & Cross Cultural Skills/ Communication (3hrs/wk). Plus, a two hour writing workshop lab once a week. These are their classes for one semester.  Tally the hours:  18 classroom hours per week in their Chinese coursework. 21 classroom hours with Humboldt College. That’s 39 hours per week our students spend in class.

39 hours a week in class. There’s precious little time for anything else but study. Forget free-time, boy/girlfriends, daydreaming.

I think the words of one of my students are particularly insightful. Last semester Mia wrote a personal essay about her biggest dream. She did a great job with it, and it gives her perspective of and experience with education here in China. She’s bright, talented, and the embodiment of  ‘if you want something badly enough, you won’t stop until you get it.’ Highlighted words are vocabulary I asked students to incorporate into their papers. *Mia knows I’m posting this and is happy to share with you—if you’d like to make comments (constructive, please) for her, I’ll make sure she gets them. (Her paper is below.)

As always, thank you for reading and listening. I so enjoy all the comments, emails, and feedback I receive.

Mia, Eunice, Vicky---Library Project fundraiser, Feb. 25, 2011, Xi'an

Mia, Eunice, Vicky---Library Project fundraiser, Feb. 25, 2011, Xi'an

~Jos

I Know You Are the Most Beautiful One

A dream is a seed in each person’s heart; it brings hope and impetus when you are in difficulties. A dream is a guide.  It tells us the most beautiful way in our life. “What is your dream?” My teacher in primary school always asked us. “Scientist,” one classmate said. “Writer,” another classmate said. “I want to be a designer and build up my own company.” This is my answer for her question. Yes, being a designer and building up my own brand is my dream, and I have had this dream for many years. It is an important part of my life. I found I really liked design in my childhood, and I tried to do something about design and learn more about it. This made me feel good. This dream gives me huge impetus to face any difficulties, and I also have made some plans for the future to achieve my dream. Having this dream, to be a designer and build up my own brand, makes my life vibrant and clear, and I have encouragement to face any problems.

When I was young, I liked drawing and doing handicrafts very much. I often watched a TV program called, “Change Space,” a really famous TV program in China about decorating rooms. Two families changed spaces to design each other’s rooms, and then they were all surprised. It’s really funny because they often use rubbish like cola cans or broken CDs for creative decorations. Each time I watched that program, I thought it was creative, and it aroused my interests. So I found I really liked design in my childhood.

When I was in middle school, I tried to do many beautiful handicrafts. I read some books about how to match colors or how to do a handicraft step by step. I combined my ideas with decorations, and they were really wonderful. For example, I used some colorful papers to fold a small box or a cute animal. I also made some beautiful cards to send to my friends and family. I drew some wonderful pictures on them. I made a lovely doll for my little sister as a gift on her birthday. Each time I finished my work, I felt really good, and it made me feel that I did a good job. Making decorations in my room and doing handicrafts often fascinated me.

When I was in high school, I worked really hard to pass the exam to enter a university where the design major is very good. My physics is not very good, but I insisted on doing exercises everyday and tried my best to get high scores no matter how difficult it was, or how tired I felt. I had encouragement to face all of these problems, because of my beautiful dream. But at last, I couldn’t go to a design school, but I will never give up. I believe that “where there is a will, there is a way.” If I insist on working hard, I know I will get more opportunities. One year from now, I will go to America and have a chance to choose another major to make my dream come true. My dream always gives me encouragement to face any problems.

rainy day dog

rainy day dog

To make my dream come true, I have some plans. A big goal needs to be divided into different small goals; in this way it will be easier to achieve it. My first goal is to study hard in Xi’an International Studies University this year and maintain a g.p.a. greater than 2.4. I also need to improve my English skills to make sure I’m ready for life in the US. Second, I want to study hard on my major in U.S. and get good grades, so I can develop great ability. I think classes will be more interesting, and I will enjoy them a lot. Then I will come back to Xi’an International Studies University and finish my classes here. Meanwhile, I want to be a graduate student. I am not sure whether my graduate school will be in US or China. I will decide in the next two years. Then I want to become a designer in a company, gain more experience, and earn lots of money. At last, I will leave that company and build up my group and set up my own brand.

When I begin to build up my brand, I will use much time to design a series of products with my most creative ideas. I will make the first series of products to influence the marketing. And then, I need to create advertisements to advertise my brand. Then, I will continue to design more and more wonderful products, expand my market, and strive for great influence. At last, maybe everyone will know my brand and ideas. They will use my products and feel really comfortable. I’m looking forward to that day when my dream comes true, and I will be happy to see that. Maybe there are some difficulties, challenges, or nuisances that I can’t expect now, but I will keep this dream in my heart and face the problems with encouragement.

I do have some trepidation about my dream, because there is more pressure in modern life. There are many people in China, and that results in a lot of competition to find a job. There are many elites in our society, and it might be hard for me to find a good job that I really like. But I believe that if I insist on working hard now and make myself more outstanding, I will find a nice job. If I couldn’t find a good job, I will try my best on apprenticeship to improve my ability, and then I will find opportunities to achieve my dream.

Being a designer and building up my own brand is the most beautiful dream in my heart. I have had this dream for many years. It inspires me to face all problems and encourages me to solve them; my dream makes my direction in life more unambiguous. My dream makes me grow up. My dream is a teacher teaching me success in my career. Oh, dream, I know you are the most beautiful one in my heart!

Back in China now, ready to rock, teach.

**Friday, February 25 I play a fundraiser for the Library Project.

8:00 to 10:00 pm Belgian Bar, South Gate Xi’an, China.**

If you’ve been following, you know from last month’s post (phew, a month!) that my friend and colleague

Josephine Johnson

Going to the bus station--Travelers: do not walk to Vientiane's north terminal...

sunset, Nong Khiew

sunset, Nong Khiew

Clinton Powell passed away quickly and unexpectedly at the beginning of the year. His passing overwhelmed me with more than a few dark nights of the soul here on the other side of the world. Being alone and grieving unable to get back to the States in honor of Clinton and all our goodtimes left me wondering what’s the point in my being in China? What do I really want to do? What am I doing here?

So, I got out of China to make sense of it all.

I traveled mostly in northern Laos exploring the countryside, visiting temples and learning about religious belief systems and tribal people. Buddhism, animism, and interestingly enough, Christianity are all present and

Special Tree

Special Tree, Nam Ou River on the way to Nong Khiew

in some places combined. In a village outside of Nong Khiew, I met people who seem to have combined the most positive attributes of all three systems—the best of Buddha, Jesus (Catholic-flavored Christ, remnant of French colonial presence late 19th/ early 20th century), and jungle and animal spirits. It seemed to make for very kind and compassionate people—hiking alone on trails, roads, and waterfalls I encountered people eager to share sticky rice and fruit and practice English. Most folks I met, if they spoke English, liked to tell me about their village, customs, and people and national history. I learned a lot.

For example, did you know that Laos is the most bombed country in the world? 2.8 million tons of ammunition were dropped on the country, especially around Phonsavahn and in Xieng Khouang Province, thanks to American involvement in Viet Nam in the 1960s and 1970s. Because the Laos government (still communist) supported Viet Nam’s communist regime, this justified U.S. bombers dumping bombs and

birdhouse in my soul

spirit shrine: Buddhism & animism meet *They Might Be Giants, proud

ammunition that was unable to be dropped on Viet Nam. It worked like this: The U.S. had an air base in northern Thailand where bombing missions were flown from. If a plane was unable to drop its payload on a target in Viet Nam, it would instead dump bombs over northern Laos as it returned to base in Thailand. Mission pilots were instructed to do this because it was allegedly too dangerous to land with a plane full of unexploded ordinance.

As I listened to this explanation, I wondered why couldn’t pilots just drop the stuff in the ocean? Not a perfect

rice paddy

rice paddy, on the road between Luangphrabang & Phonsavahn, Laos

solution but so much better than dropping bombs on civilian subsistence rice farmers and villagers. In Xieng Phouang Province tons of unexploded ordinance remain from bombing missions run between 1964 and 1973. Currently, as many as 300 villagers are mortally wounded each year working their rice paddies—bombies, small explosives from cluster bombs that never exploded, remain buried in the mud, and in the springtime children, rice farmers, and water buffalo are the unfortunate ones to stumble upon and detonate them. Mostly, it’s children who find them.

If you want to learn more about this little-told story of American/ South East Asian history, check out this BBC documentary. And check out the British-based MAG website.

Plain of Jars, Phonsavahn, Laos

Plain of Jars, Phonsavahn, Laos

Phonsavahn also has its beauty. The Plain of Jars, multiple sites of large sandstone-carved funerary urns dating from 500 BCE, are especially inspiring. They are breathtaking and full of character, seemingly immovable in the higher, drier climate of Xieng Khouang—elevation here ranges between 3,600 and 5,500 feet making for azure skies, crisp clouds, and bright sun. The landscape is more like an African plain or western U.S. cowboy

Jars & blue skies

Jars & blue skies

outpost than the tropical jungles of South East Asia. But evidence of bombs and bombing remain. Hillsides are cratered from explosions, and cafes and restaurants display detonated bombies as a sort of grisly badge of honor, reminding citizens and tourists of what remains buried some thirty years after the war. Regardless of these scars, the area remains stunning, and the Jars transport the mind to ancient ceremony and respected ritual.

Remnants of the Secret War

Ordinance behind the counter of Phonsavahn guest house

Sobering Fun Facts:

Laos population = 6 million Xi’an, China population = somewhere between 7 & 9 million    China population = 1.3 billion   U.S. population = 300,000,000    Estimated number of cigarette smokers in China = 300,000,000

bombies

Little bombies inside big bombs dropped

Luangphrabang in the north central part of Laos is perhaps the best little ‘big’ city in South East Asia. Between 40,000 and 44,000 people live here and it boasts a great night market with quality, inexpensive Laos and Thai food. At the night market you can also find amazing textiles, jewelry, fresh fruits & veggies, all things tiger and elephant inspired. Oh yeah, and great, super-fresh fruit smoothies. I rented a bike here and explored the city and surrounding area.

Moving the Boat, Luangphrabang, Laos

Moving the Boat, Luangphrabang

But the best place for bike exploration is in the valley that cradles Luang Nam Tha in the north. If you’re going by bus from China to Laos and Northern Thailand, this is the first town you’ll encounter. And it’s great, known mostly for its diverse ethnic population—12 different tribes, or ‘ethnic minorities’ as the Laos government labels them, live in this region’s low and highlands.

I was lucky, very lucky. One afternoon I rented a bike and went around the valley and up into one of the highland areas. I ran out of water and had to stop at a Namu village (they sold bottled water). I caught my breath and re-hydrated. I sat and watched matriarchs and young girls gathering materials for making

More than Harvard

Tried to convince her I need to marry into her tribe...

brooms; I watched a woman cut long strips of bamboo for making baskets for steaming sticky rice. They let me recuperate and take photos. We had little language in common, but we exchanged smiles and good feelings. When I asked if there were any young men in the village who might be eligible for marriage, I know the old woman cutting strips of bamboo knew exactly what I’d asked. She smiled and broke into shoulder-shaking laughter. I nodded and said I was serious. She kept smiling and continued cutting bamboo.

collecting materials for brooms

Namu woman carrying materials for making brooms

I mean why not? I know it’s not easy living in a village—it’s hard work, and people die young from disease and malnutrition. I’m not all rose colored glasses about this, but being there for an afternoon sitting silent and watching people, learning what they do, how and why they do it, made me realize how backward we in the West, and in China, are. We spend all this time working to make money to buy food, clothing, shelter, while the Camu and other subsistence tribes work hard to grow their own food, make their own clothes, and build their own homes. I saw people working hard, but I also saw people laughing and engaged in games, some playing cards, some singing. Lots of singing.

You know, there’re mail order Thai, Russian, Chinese brides. Why not mail order American brides wanting to down shift, wanting out of the Western game of progress, more, more, more? Yeah, I know the rice paddies have leeches, and bathing’s always in cold mountain water, but I’d get over it. Yeah. I want to start a new trend—mail order American brides for small tribes. You think I’m joking?

star temple buddha, Luangphrabang

star temple buddha, Luangphrabang

But seriously, it was an amazing adventure, and I’m thankful for the escape and opportunity to meet new people, take photos, and live, breathe, love sunshine and warm temperatures. I thought the break would help me figure out a little better the purpose of being in China teaching right now. Still not so clear. But Being in China did give me the opportunity for this very life-changing adventure, gave me the chance to see an inspiring part of the world which very well may hold more for me in the future.

Josephine Johnson

Josephine Johnson, Village Cafe, Xi'an China, Dec. 2010

Oh, and I play Friday, February 25 at a fundraiser for the Library Project.  8:00 to 10:00 pm Belgian Bar, South Gate Xi’an, China.

*Not quite a mail order bride yet. Too much music in me.

:)Much love, Josephine

New website, too. www.josephine-johnson.com

Taidan River Festival, once every 3 years, Luangnamtha, Laos

Taidan River Festival, once every 3 years, Luangnamtha, Laos

Nong Khiew

Nong Khiew

Luangphrabang sunset

Luangphrabang sunset

*On January 2, 2011, my friend and colleague, Clinton Powell, passed away. Aggressive stomach cancer quickly got the better of him. Clinton, great heart artist, word inspirer, I honor you here, now.*

Clinton Powell & Josephine Johnson

pic of a pic Clinton Powell and I circa 2001, You Smell Like Cheese

Clinton, I’m not sure if I told you, but I’m in China teaching for a year, and were I in the States right now, I’d be in Savannah. I’d be there remembering, celebrating, praising you. But I’m not there. And this makes me feel painfully helpless and disconnected.  At the very least, I can praise and love you with these words and memories from my chilly Xi’an, China, apartment.

Melanie emailed yesterday, and from between the lines I could tell the memorial service this past weekend was beyond words, overwhelmingly attended by the people you coached, taught, and inspired over the years. She said that though she’s known you for ten years (Clinton, TEN YEARS!), at the service she felt she hardly knew you.  All the people, different ages, different walks of life there to show their love made her realize how small the slice was that she (and I) knew of you. Melanie was blown away by all the lives you touched, Clinton. She also said no one performed your ‘Peanut Butter’ poem, probably my favorite—Melanie’s too—of all your work. But, really, could anyone other than Mr. Clinton D. Powell profess his love of peanut butter with such unabashed joy and genuine conviction without sounding trite, saccharine, or too precious? No one could spit that like you.  No one. Yours is a peanut butter flame. The rest of us mere jelly Smuckers.

So, do you remember how we met? I’m pretty sure it was at an open mic, pretty sure it was the one at Barnes and Noble in Savannah back when the store was cool enough to host and promote local events and artists, back when Melanie Smith was the Community Relations Manager. In fact, I’m pretty sure Melanie introduced the two of us and suggested we do something, be creative, do stuff together.

And that was it. The beginning. We got creative.

Clinton, how many open mics you think we did between 2000 and 2003? The Sentient Bean, Starbucks Montgomery Crossroads and Bull and Broughton, Gallery Expresso (for a minute at the tiny place). Didn’t we do Cagney’s at both locations—River Street and down at the new venue closer to the waterfront? And there was another little bar where Jason Bible was playing and trying to get a scene going. What about that weird bar/ club place in mid-town where we did that talent show and totally cleaned up? We did a bunch, all practice for figuring out what material would work best in a workshop-type situation for elementary students, and rehearsal for our own show, You Smell Like Cheese. *Thank you, Taylor Schontz and Islands YMCA afterschool programs—life breathing inspiration into art. Art in turn imitating, poking fun at life. What was that line? “Save the drama fo’ yo’ Mama, ‘cause at 3:00 ya’ll go home. Go home!”

Jos and Clinton D. Powell

Yep, You Smell Like Cheese

Then, you figured out how we could take this stuff to classrooms and perform it throughout Savannah. And you roped Ren and I into doing it with you. And it was great.

You know, Clinton, performing in the schools with you and Ren are some of the best performance memories of my life; “Chalkboard Races;” “Peanut Butter;” that one about Skittles and spitting words in rainbows; me picking out some chords and getting all avante garde on the guitar while you and Ren free-formed; the kids writing and performing their work. Clinton, remember when we were invited by Savannah Country Day to come and put on a week-long music and poetry workshop? That was it. We knew we made it—the rich kid private school wanted us to do magic with their students. Oh yeah, and we got paid, remember?!

But there were a few near misses. How about that time at the junior high where they wanted you, Ren, and me to do our thing in the school gym without any amplification? In front of 200+ students.  That was the performance where some of the female students wanted to beat me up.  And none of us wanted to talk about why, none of us wanted to say it was because I was white and female. We all knew it was racial tension stuff, but you and Ren handled everything so professionally and right on. Thanks for that. Yeah tough, that one, and as I recall after that we made sure to state explicitly our performance and workshop requirements.

Clinton, those are great times perhaps the best in my life so far where I felt like I was combining my love of and talent with word and music with doing something very positive and proactive in my community. Those times are the gold standard, and in many ways my endeavors now often seem attempts to get back there where my talents and means of making a living were so perfectly aligned with my purpose. Thank you, Clinton, for helping me see how sweet it can be when it all lines up, when energy  and intention are in balance.

at his best

Clinton D. Powell

Clinton, do think this is possible? I want all these things to line up again—singing, writing, performing, doing good stuff—heart work—in my community. I want to feel like my art is bigger than just my performance at a gig in some bar or coffee shop somewhere. Or maybe touching people with my words and voice, be it coffee shop, bar, or school gymnasium, is all the same in terms of significance with respect to positive effect in the lives of others.  Or maybe it’s a balance of all these things further balanced with healthy doses of faith and love, too. Any insight? Sure would love your thoughts on this.

Clinton, you have words. I have words and this music thing inside that I need to get out to inspire. Part of my purpose here is to inspire people with my words and voice. I know this. You helped me see. Tell me it’s possible. Because I know for sure I don’t want to teach English in China for the rest of my days (no offense, but it’s just not being true to my purpose). Oh, the hardest thing is being here and being utterly helpless to get back to Savannah to see you off, to be with all our people remembering your great light. Oddly, though, I know I’m where I need to be right now, to get my priorities focused, get it figured out. I’m in China time-out. To get it right.

Your passing feeds this fire. We know it, you and me—music is it for me. But more importantly, I’ve learned in all of this—leaving Savannah, grad school, Humboldt, crappy office jobs, China—it’s also my words that are important.  They were my force in Savannah, and my voice carried it home to the heart. And yes, I believe in the value of these talents—I finally understand my worth and what great gifts I have been given. Your passing and this China-time limbo lights it for me, Clinton. You lived your life as a spitfire artist and teacher so your words could, would be heard because your words should, must be, be heard. All those lives you touched? All of us needed—need—your words, Clinton D. Powell.

Clinton, I get it. If I do not sing, write, share my words and music, my life is diminished in your light. You did it. I can, will do it, too.  You just have to do what you have to do. Do it.

Clinton, I know you know, but I got it when you passed, though I chalked it up to taking my vitamin that morning with water from the tap. (Only drink bottled water in China.)  That Sunday, which would have been Saturday for you, I lie in bed all day, guts aching, cursing the water. My whole body ached tight and hot. You were in such pain. Monday it cleared, and I found out you’d passed. Rest easy, now. Dear friend, rest easy. Clinton, you showed me greatness and inspiration—you showed me how it is to be done. Help me now. Help me get my words out there, to sing, inspire. Give me hints as you can with what you know now—these healing words are what I have. Help me with what you know now. What you know now.

Rest in Peace, Clinton D. Powell.

Love,

~J

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,086 other followers