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A Cupcake Zine and Maia Kobabe at Book Soup

Last Sunday was the July zine workshop at the West Los Angeles Regional Library. Last month I mentioned I was working on a new zine that I hoped to reveal soon, and this month I finished it! A Cupcake ATM Misadventure tells the true story of what happened when I tried to use the cupcake ATM at USC at this year’s LA Times Festival of Books.

From the zine workshop, Isabelle and I took the bus to Book Soup, a bookstore on Sunset Blvd. Maia Kobabe and Samuel Sattin were there to talk about their recent comic books. They were joined by their respective collaborators, Phoebe Kobabe and Ian McGinty. Maia and Samuel met as members of the guinea pig cohort in California College of the Arts’ comics MFA program. Isabelle and I had discovered Maia’s zines at Comic Arts LA in December, and I was interested in eir debut book, the graphic memoir Gender Queer.

The event was pretty intimate, and the authors seemed to know a lot of the attendees. Maia and Samuel kind of interviewed each other, with Ian and Phoebe contributing their thoughts. They discussed the genesis of their books, the comic making life (taking care of your body is important too!), time management, themes (identity, climate change, anti-capitalism), and trusting that the time you’re investing in creating art rather than, say, registering voters is still worthwhile. (Or is it? Sometimes I wonder… Sarah McCarry’s diamond-sharp expression of a certain kind of hopelessness hit home this week.)

Afterward, I asked both Maia and Phoebe to sign my copy of Gender Queer, and I gave Maia a copy of my just completed A Cupcake ATM Misadventure. By the way, this zine, with all the others, is available to be printed under Other Writing.

Kittens and Commencement

Earlier in June, Adam, Iara, Isabelle, and I visited the Tiny Beans Kitten Lounge, a summer pop-up offshoot of our local cat café, in downtown Los Angeles. The kitten lounge, just a few blocks from the Last Bookstore (which Isabelle and I stopped by beforehand), was very small and decorated like the bedroom of a small child who loves pastel colors, rainbows, unicorns, and cotton candy. It was also full of two- to three-month-old cats of every stripe and color. Some were playful while others just wanted to snooze next to our bags. Though I tend to prefer adult cats, I had to admit they were pretty cute. And since it was a Monday afternoon, the four of us had the lounge to ourselves.

Kitten

A few days later, I walked in the UCLA Doctoral Hooding Ceremony and graduated with my Ph.D. After 10 years of postsecondary education, I am no longer a student! It’s funny to think that, of all the schools I’ve attended, UCLA is the one I spent the most time at. My parents, brother, aunt, and cousin came to Los Angeles for the ceremony and met my committee.

Me, a newly-minted doctor, and my brother (photo by my aunt)

After commencement, we explored LA, visiting many of our now favorite haunts (the Getty Center and the Getty Villa, Topanga State Park, the Huntington). My parents and I went to the Griffith Observatory and saw Foucault’s pendulum and took in the panoramic views. With my family and a couple of friends, I also visited Mission San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Beach again.

A water lily at Mission San Juan Capistrano

My time in Los Angeles will be coming to an end this summer, and amidst all the busyness I hope to fit in some last firsts and bucket list items. The most interesting should find their way to this space!

Agave Baroque, Etc.

Summer is here! What have I been up to since spring break, besides defending my dissertation? Well, I can safely say I’ve finished my doctorate; I graduate tomorrow! I also went to the LA Times Festival of Books and YALLWEST, which were fun, but I wonder whether I’m starting to get author paneled out… I went on a couple of top secret trips to the Upper Midwest; sooner or later the outcome of those trips is likely to become clear.

In between said trips, Isabelle and I went to a wonderful concert at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, which is part of UCLA but is located in the West Adams neighborhood. The Clark houses a rare book and manuscript collection and hosts UCLA’s Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies’ chamber music concert series. We had actually been to the library before, for a performance combining piano pieces and personal storytelling. This time, the performers were Agave Baroque, a San Francisco-based ensemble, and the countertenor Reginald Mobley. Apparently it was the first time a singer had ever participated in this concert series.

The Clark Library (check out that theorbo!)

The program was devoted almost exclusively to the extended Bach family. I’m a big Baroque music fan, so I enjoyed the whole concert, but I was especially excited for the penultimate piece, the chaconne “Mein Freund ist mein” from the cantata Meine Freundin, du bist schön by Johann Christoph Bach. I had stumbled upon this piece on Youtube, searching for music by J. C. Bach, as one does, and I loved it. (Amusingly, for the title of the cantata Google Translate gives “my girlfriend you are beautiful.”) I should’ve realized sooner the text was from the Song of Songs. The organist told us the cantata had been composed for a Bach family wedding, but it was a Lutheran wedding, so the piece was in G minor. In any case, it was as wonderful as I’d hoped to hear the chaconne performed live. I was surprised to understand some German I had never caught before, just listening to a recording.

The title given in the program for the final piece, also by J. C. Bach, wasn’t familiar to me. It was “Es ist nun aus mit meinem Leben” (Google Translate: “it’s over with my life now”). The organist said the song was about death, but it was happy (can anyone say shape note?). As soon as Reginald Mobley began to sing, though, I recognized the piece, which I knew as “Welt, gute Nacht.” It’s very beautiful and soothing, and I was delighted to hear it performed live too.

The next evening, I got to see Rachel Hartman (of whom I am unabashedly a fan) and Fran Wilde at Children’s Book World, the bookstores where I held my Los Angeles release parties. I’d enjoyed Fran Wilde’s Updraft, and she was touring for her newest book, an MG novel with a protagonist named Eleanor! She also had a stamp of a witch ball, which she was using in signing books. It was lovely to see Rachel in person for the second time and catch up a little. She was promoting her extraordinary Tess of the Road.

At the end of May, Isabelle and I went to the LA Zine Fest at the historic Helms Bakery in Culver City (the official baker of the 1932 Olympic Games). We discovered some new-to-us zinesters, saw artist Maggie Chiang in the flesh, ran into Jackie Lam, whom we knew from the West LA Burrito Project, and donated some zines to other branches of the LA Public Library.

Speaking of zines and the public library, last Sunday we went back to the zine workshop at the West Los Angeles Regional Library. I kept working on my latest zine, which I hope to finish and reveal soon, and we found that some of our previous zines were now on shelves in the library’s collection!

Mobile Museums and Rare Books

Earlier this month Isabelle and I went to the Mobile Museum Fair at the Los Angeles Central Library downtown. The fair brought together a couple dozen exhibits and libraries, from the International Printing Museum‘s printing shop on wheels (which we’d once seen in front of our building on campus) to the Feminist Library on Wheels to a native plants pop-up seed museum. The trucks were lined up outside the library on 5th Street while other exhibits were scattered throughout the library’s halls and meeting rooms.

We’d heard there would be tours of the Rare Books Room, and we were lucky enough to snag the third and fourth spots out of twenty for the second and last tour. After signing up, we visited the Connecting Cultures Mobile Museum, which featured a large collection of masks and musical instruments from around the world. On a table in the middle of the room were a handful of instruments you could play, including a few thumb pianos, a guitar, and something Isabelle thought was a guzheng. She showed me how to pluck it. On the walls were many more instruments: balalaikas, an erhu, a kora, a hulusi, a banjo, a violin… There were also the masks, but I was more into the musical instruments.

Part of the instrument collection, including Scottish highland pipes and the violin-like hashtar from China

We checked out the museum trucks outside and visited the Department of Recreation and Parks’s eco trailer, with stuffed wildlife from the Santa Monica Mountains. Inside the library, we also saw the screen printing station in the courtyard, a couple of mobile libraries, a mastodon skull, and volunteers cuddling a tegu (a very big lizard) and a snake. Later on, after the Rare Books Room tour, we arrived in the rotunda just as the inflatable planetarium was toppled. We examined the seeds and seedpods at the seed museum and then took a quick look around the 21 Collections exhibit in the Getty Gallery.

Fox in the eco trailer

At four o’clock, those of us who had signed up for the tour were taken up in an elevator to the Rare Books Room, where we were welcomed by Xochitl Oliva, Senior Librarian of Digitization and Special Collections. Now, I received Susan Orlean’s The Library Book for Christmas, and I had finished reading it shortly before the Mobile Museum Fair. Orlean’s book is about the history of the Los Angeles Public Library and, in particular, the central library, the building that houses it, and the 1986 fire that destroyed hundreds of thousands of books there. She also writes about a number of current library staff, and Oliva is in her book! Reading it also gave me much more context for this visit to the library; the only time I’d been before was with Mike the Poet over two years ago.

Alice in Wonderland, illustrated by Salvador Dalí

Oliva oriented us to the library and then spoke about each of the pieces from the collection that had been selected and set out for display on two wooden tables in the center of the reading room. There was a large-format edition of Alice in Wonderland with illustrations by Salvador Dalí. There was the oldest book in the collection, a 13th century Latin manuscript from the priory of Nostell in England. There was a Shakespeare Fourth Folio, a page from a Gutenberg Bible, a map depicting California as an island, a Sumerian temple dedication cone with a cuneiform inscription (the oldest item in the collection), and samples from the library’s collections of menus and fruit crate labels.

The oldest book in the special collections, a 13th century Latin manuscript from England

The Books I Read in 2018

In 2018, I read 74 books, 4 more than in 2017. That’s the first increase in number of books read since 2015, but I’m still way down compared to the early years of grad school. (I also mentioned last year that I was reading more short fiction online and tracking the short stories I read; I did so again in 2018, and I think I read many more short stories than in 2017.)

Here are the books I read in 2018, rereads bolded, with links to (sometimes just barely) related blog posts:

The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe
The Bear and the Nightingale Katherine Arden
La Petite Sirène suivi de Conte du Vent Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Louis Moland
La Reine des Neiges Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Louis Moland
The Language of Thorns Leigh Bardugo
The Best We Could Do Thi Bui
The Chosen Chaim Potok
Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence Nick Bantock
Sabine’s Notebook: In Which The Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Continues Nick Bantock
The Golden Mean: In Which The Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Concludes Nick Bantock
The Gryphon: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Is Rediscovered Nick Bantock
Dubliners James Joyce
Alexandria: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Unfolds Nick Bantock
The Morning Star: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Is Illuminated Nick Bantock
The Pharos Gate: Griffin & Sabine’s Lost Correspondence Nick Bantock
Seven Surrenders Ada Palmer
Soie Alessandro Baricco, translated by Françoise Brun
The Honey Month Amal El-Mohtar
Lucy and Linh Alice Pung
Fans of the Impossible Life Kate Scelsa
Saints and Misfits S. K. Ali
Tess of the Road Rachel Hartman
All Out edited by Saundra Mitchell
All American Boys Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
This Savage Song Victoria Schwab
That Inevitable Victorian Thing E. K. Johnston
Let’s Talk About Love Claire Kann
Tash Hearts Tolstoy Kathryn Ormsbee
Raven Stratagem Yoon Ha Lee
Giant Pumpkin Suite Melanie Heuiser Hill
I love this part Tillie Walden
The End of Summer Tillie Walden
Jane, Unlimited Kristin Cashore
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk David Sedaris
Sky Blue Water edited by Jay D. Peterson and Collette A. Morgan
The Poet X Elizabeth Acevedo
Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories Kelly Barnhill
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire Susan Tan
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret Misa Sugiura
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns Julie C. Dao
My Name Is Red Orhan Pamuk, translated by Erdağ M. Göknar
Wink Poppy Midnight April Genevieve Tucholke
The Art of Starving Sam J. Miller
The Small Rain Madeleine L’Engle
Amitié amoureuse Hermine Lecomte du Nouÿ
Picture Us in the Light Kelly Loy Gilbert
Somewhere Among Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu
The Tea Dragon Society Katie O’Neill
Original Fake Kirstin Cronn-Mills & E. Eero Johnson
Wild Beauty Anna-Marie McLemore
La Jeune Épouse Alessandro Baricco, translated by Vincent Raynaud
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories Ken Liu
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores Jen Campbell
Smoke Dan Vyleta
S. J. J. Abrams & Doug Dorst
Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day Joan Bolker, Ed.D.
Till We Have Faces C. S. Lewis
Monstress Volume Three: Haven Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
And The Ocean Was Our Sky Patrick Ness and Rovina Cai
Bats of the Republic Zachary Thomas Dodson
The Drawing Lesson Mark Crilley
Feux Marguerite Yourcenar
Little Black Book of Stories A. S. Byatt
The Astonishing Color of After Emily X.R. Pan
Inkmistress Audrey Coulthurst
Another Phase Eloise Klein Healy
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing Hank Green
Puddin’ Julie Murphy
340 mps Léa Silhol
Girl Made of Stars Ashley Herring Blake
We’ll Fly Away Bryan Bliss
A Skinful of Shadows Frances Hardinge
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy Mackenzi Lee
Darius the Great Is Not Okay Adib Khorram

The Numbers:

  • Total books read: 74
  • Books in French: 7 (9%)
  • Books that were not novels: 30 (41%) (Well, this proportion leaps up every year! Non-fiction/miscellaneous: 2 (funny how weird things customers say in bookstores and a guide to dissertation writing wind up in the same  category); Short story/poetry collections: 13 (I think about one and a half were poetry); Graphic novels/comics: 6; Shorter works: 9 (includes fairy tales and Nick Bantock’s books)
  • Books read in translation: 3 (4%) (Italian to French: 2; Turkish to English: 1)
  • Books read for the first time: 71 (96%)
  • Books read not for the first time: 3 (4%)
  • Books written by women (where at least one co-author, co-editor, or contributor is a woman): 46 (62%)
  • Books by authors of color (obviously, how someone identifies can’t always be deduced from a name and an author photo, so this isn’t guaranteed to be 100% accurate): 17 (23%)
  • Books by category (as decided by me): Adult: 34 (46%); Young Adult: 31 (42%); Middle Grade or Younger: 6 (8%); Indeterminate: 3 (4%)

Finally, my favorite books of 2018 (no rereads, I didn’t set out to choose a certain number of books, and some of these choices are because the book made me think, even if I didn’t necessarily love the whole thing):

  • The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien and Navah Wolfe
  • The Language of Thorns Leigh Bardugo
  • Soie Alessandro Baricco, translated by Françoise Brun
  • That Inevitable Victorian Thing E. K. Johnston
  • Jane, Unlimited Kristin Cashore
  • The Small Rain Madeleine L’Engle
  • Amitié amoureuse Hermine Lecomte du Nouÿ
  • S. J. J. Abrams & Doug Dorst
  • Till We Have Faces C. S. Lewis
  • A Skinful of Shadows Frances Hardinge
  • The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy Mackenzi Lee

Comic Arts LA

The other weekend Isabelle and I went to Comic Arts LA, an annual festival featuring tons of graphic novelists, zinesters, and printmakers. It was held at an Armenian American community center in Glendale. We made the rounds of all the artists’ tables, flipping through zines and admiring artwork. In the middle, we took a break at the drawing wall.

CALA 1

That cute fuschia cat is Isabelle’s doing. I’m drawing a cat’s paw.

I ended up getting two zines by Maia Kobabe. Then I circled back to Aminder Dhaliwal‘s table because I’d decided I wanted a copy of her new graphic novel Woman World, set in a future with no men. It had occurred to me to worry that she might be sold out, and as we approached, I noticed that the only book I could still see was the display copy. Indeed, it was the last one left, and I got to buy it! She seemed very happy too and took a picture of me with the last copy, which she’d signed and dedicated to me.

My CALA comics

After leaving the festival, we walked to the nearby Forest Lawn cemetery, which is immense. Through the tall wrought iron gates and past the half-timber main building, there was a fork in the road and a huge sign, like a tablet of the Ten Commandments, indicating which way to the Little Church of the Flowers, the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather, and so on. We took the path toward the Little Church of the Flowers, but then we turned toward the mausoleum, which looks a bit like a castle. After getting a good look at it from multiple sides, we left the way we’d come, and unlike last time we didn’t get locked in the cemetery after closing.

The Forest Lawn mausoleum

Lisbon, Part I

In the second half of June, I went to LabPhon, a phonetics and phonology conference, in Lisbon. I had never been to Portugal before, and so when I and several other colleagues from my department were accepted, I decided to go to my first international conference. In preparation, I ordered a Portuguese phrasebook from France and proceeded to study European Portuguese extremely halfheartedly for weeks. It didn’t help that the phrasebook’s explanation of Portuguese pronunciation was abominable.

LabPhon itself was good. I presented my poster and had some fulfilling conversations with fellow linguists. It was also a good place to see friends from other universities. That said, I did skip a lot of the conference to explore Lisbon. Here are the highlights:

Tuesday

Isabelle and I met up in the afternoon and walked to the Terreiro do Paço, on the estuary of the Tagus. From there, it was a short walk to the Casa dos Bicos, or House of Beaks, a 16th century house whose façade is covered in pyramid-shaped protrusions reminiscent of beaks. It reminded me a little of the beaky portal of the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Iffley.

Casa dos Bicos

Inside, on the ground floor, there were remnants of the Roman walls, and upstairs was the Fundação José Saramago, the museum of one of my favorite authors! The permanent exhibit featured hundreds of copies of his novels, translated into many languages, including Georgian! There was a lovely account of how after Saramago died, as the airplane carrying his remains took off from the island of Lanzarote, his neighbors read passages of his novels aloud, to bear him away, so to speak. And then when the airplane landed in Portugal, people waved copies of his books to greet it. It was rather moving. We also learned that Saramago’s ashes were buried under the olive tree we’d admired out front before entering the museum.

We then took a break, and I ate my first pastél de nata, bought at a fancy bakery earlier. This pastry is akin to the Chinese egg tart served at dim sum, but it’s thicker and richer. I’d heard of them long ago but never had one, and my first was delicious!

Next we visited the Igreja de Santo António, where mass was being celebrated (in Spanish…?). We went down to the crypt, where a sign indicated that St. Anthony was born HERE. Just up the hill was the Sé de Lisboa, the cathedral. We climbed one of the towers to get to the treasury and found you could walk through a narrow doorway onto the balcony at the back of the sanctuary. It was rather magical when it was just us up there.

In the evening, Meng and I walked around the narrow streets of the Bairro Alto and ate at a restaurant, where we got the bacalhau (salt cod) for two. It was also delicious.

Wednesday

This was the day I presented my poster. After the conference, Meng, Jeremy, and I walked up some very steep streets in what seemed to be a sort of Chinatown. We met up with Adam, Marc, and Jamie, all graduates of our program, and their partners on a bar patio overlooking the Tagus and shared some sangria. Then we went to a restaurant in the Alfama district, where I had rabbit in a plum sauce with couscous.

Thursday

After a day at the conference, I met up with my friend Andrew and two other Berkeley grad students to visit the Castelo de São Jorge. There were splendid views, as well as peacocks, peahens, and their babies. We had fun climbing around the castle walls.

View from near the castle

The castle

We had dinner at a restaurant downhill from the castle, and I had my second salt cod dish, bacalhau à Brás. It’s sort of like fish with egg and hashbrowns, all mixed together. It was tasty and filling. Two of the Berkeley students had bacalhau com natas, which looked a bit like a lake of cream with bits of fish in it (this is how I learned that nata means ‘cream’).

My bacalhau à Brás

After dinner, we kept walking downhill, enjoying Lisbon in the evening light of midsummer.

Azulejos in a little square near the cathedral

View from the square

To be continued!