Tag Archive: music


I’m getting ready for the tour.

And SoCal sunshine.

It’s still there, right, sunshine?

Here’s a quick vid – enjoy!

(stay dry)



stars that rock


Josephine Johnson returns to Humboldt County for an evening of music, art, and poetry at the Arcata Playhouse, Saturday, February 21, 2015.


Piet Dalmolen (guitar), Dan Davis (bass), and Jay Forbes (drums) join her to create a smooth sonic force to be reckoned with.




Therese Keslin

poet, wordsmith, the night’s MC


Electro Saloon

acid coutry, gloomgrass duo

(Colin Begell, Alanna Jane Powell)


Matt Beard

surfer, painter, all ‘round rad guy

live paints during the performance


Doors open at 7:30


Show starts 8:00


Tickets available Wildberries, Peoples Records, and The Works

$12 pre-show

$15 at the door


A portion of the proceeds from the evening goes to support Food for People, Humboldt’s primary food bank. Just before Christmas 2014 a big rig bound for Eureka was destroyed in a fiery crash south of Benbow. Thankfully, the driver sustained only minor injuries, but the entire shipment of food was destroyed. Concert-goers are asked to bring a canned food item. Artist Matt Beard will auction his creation to the highest bidder at the end of the night. Mr. Beard is graciously donating half the final bid to Food for People.



Bring a can of food.


And get ready to rock

Gabe Pressure designs, Matt Beard Art:

because we can. rock. like stars

because we can. rock. like stars

Well, what can I say? I’m bitten.


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.


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!


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


princess frank's guitar

royal glory

by Josephine Johnson

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



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.



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!”


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.



princess frank thirsty crow silverlake

princess frank thirsty crow silverlake

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.


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.’



I’ll be thinking of you.


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.

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!

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.

(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.



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.


12 plants 3 passenegrs 1 bike

12 plants 3 passenegrs 1 bike

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


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

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


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


~love, Jos



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!

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


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!