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Archive for August, 2008


Saturday, August 16th, 2008

spkr5.jpg LISTEN NOW | Day to Day, August 13, 2008 · James D. Houston’s latest book, WHERE LIGHT TAKES ITS COLOR FROM THE SEA, is filled with stories and essays about his native California, and particularly Santa Cruz. He lives there with his family in a roomy Victorian house with a water view. Karen Joy Fowler, author of THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, also lives in Santa Cruz, and has set her new novel, WIT’S END, in a house very much based on Houston’s home. (Rick Kleffel reports for member station KUSP.)

spkr5.jpg LISTEN NOW | James D. Houston in conversation with Andrew Tonkovich at KPFK’s Bibliocracy
30 mins (give or take)

Click images

houstongif.png Photo © Paul Kitagawa | Sacramento Bee



Cover image: Monterey Bay from Santa Cruz Pogonip © Tom Killion


By James D. Houston
Foreword by Alan Cheuse

A stirring collection of short prose by the author of Snow Mountain Passage and Bird of Another Heaven.

Taking inspiration from California’s breathtaking landscapes, history, and distinctive ways of life, Where Light Takes Its Color from the Sea reveals a writer’s keen appreciation of place. This selection of James D. Houston’s essays and short stories illuminates the themes and styles he has explored in his forty years as a writer.

Heyday Books
Spring 2008 release


Monday, May 5 at noon on KPFK
y guest [was] novelist and essayist, short story and travel writer James D. Houston. Like Joan Didion and John Steinbeck, Jim Houston has chronicled life in the West, California, the Pacific Rim over a career as a writer that has spanned forty years. He is author of the prizewinning novels Snow Mountain Passage, a telling of the story of the Donner Party and Bird of Another Heaven, about the last king of Hawaii; nonfiction classics including The Men in My Life and Californians: Searching for the Golden State. He is author of one of our country’s most influencial and enduring books, another classic, Farewell to Manzanar, with Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, read and studied as part of the public school curriculum. Now in its 63rd printing, it is the singular story of the internment of Japanese-Americans as told from the perspective of young Jeanne Wakatsuki. Jim Houston was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and has written on family, surfing, Hawaii, and in every medium so that it’s a real pleasure to welcome him to Bibliocracy on the occasion of the publication of his career-defining collection from Heyday Books, Where Light Takes Its Color from the Sea.

— Andrew Tonkovich (Host of Pacifica Radio’s Bibliocracy; editor of Santa Monica Review)

Bibliocracy Radio Blogspot
James D. Houston’s Web Site


ISAAC HAYES (20 August 1942-10 August 2008): Celebrated Musician, Composer, Arranger, Actor

Saturday, August 16th, 2008


Isaac Hayes | Courtesy Photo

August 11, 2008
Isaac Hayes, 65, a Creator of ’70s Soul Style, Dies
The New York Times

Go to the New York Times original

Isaac Hayes, the singer and songwriter whose luxurious, strutting funk arrangements in songs like “Theme From ‘Shaft’ ” defined the glories and excesses of soul music in the early 1970s, died on Sunday in Memphis. He was 65.

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said that Mr. Hayes’s wife, Adjowa, found him collapsed near a treadmill at their home in Cordova, an eastern suburb of Memphis, and he was pronounced dead an hour later. The cause of death was not known.

With his lascivious bass-baritone and flamboyant wardrobe, Mr. Hayes developed a musical persona that was an embodiment of the hyper-masculine, street-savvy characters of the so-called blaxploitation films of the era. In his theme song to Gordon Parks’s “Shaft” from 1971, the title character is summed up in a line that has become a classic of kitsch: “Who’s a black private dick/Who’s a sex machine to all the chicks?”

(Furthermore: “He’s a complicated man/But no one understands him but his woman.”)

The “Shaft” theme won an Academy Award and has become one of his best-known songs. But Mr. Hayes’s career stretched far beyond soundtracks. For much of the 1960s and into the ’70s he was one of the principal songwriters and performers for Stax Records, the trailblazing Memphis R&B label, and in the 1990s he revived his career by providing the voice for the amorous and wise Chef on the cable television show “South Park.”

Isaac Hayes was born Aug. 20, 1942, in a tin shack in rural Covington, Tenn., to a mother who died early and a father who left home. He was raised largely by his grandparents, and worked in cotton fields while going to school. He began playing in local bands, and by early 1964, when he was 21, he was working as a backup musician for Stax. His first session was with Otis Redding.

Soon he began writing songs with David Porter, and their music — numbers like “Soul Man” and Hold On, I’m Comin’ ” for Sam and Dave, and “B-A-B-Y” for Carla Thomas — came to embody the Stax aesthetic. It was tight, catchy pop, but full of sweat and grit, a proudly unpolished Southern alternative to Motown.

By the late 1960s Mr. Hayes was stepping out as a solo artist, and his reputation grew as much for his dress as for his music. The cover of his 1969 album, “Hot Buttered Soul,” pictured him in customary style: shaved head, dark shades, gold chains, bare chest. The album was similarly eccentric, consisting of just four songs, including lengthy, elaborate versions of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Walk On By” and Jimmy Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.” It also included spoken segments that he called raps, and the album became one of his biggest hits, reaching No. 8.

When he was approached to create the score to “Shaft,” one of the first blaxploitation films, Mr. Hayes said he also wanted the lead role. The part went to Richard Roundtree, but Mr. Hayes recorded the music anyway. It was done in four days with several members of the Bar-Kays, one of the house bands at Stax.

With a cymbal pattern borrowed from Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness,” which Mr. Hayes had arranged, the song layered funk guitars, horns, woodwinds and strings, prefiguring disco. It became a No. 1 hit.

In 1971 he followed up the “Shaft” soundtrack with “Black Moses,” a double album that was another ambitious expansion of the vocabulary of soul music. In its original issue, the cover folded out to reveal a portrait of Mr. Hayes in crucifix form.

In the mid-’70s Mr. Hayes’s finances collapsed and his music turned explicitly to disco, which turned out to be a career dead end.

Through the 1970s and into the ’90s he acted in several films, including “Escape From New York” in 1981 and the spoof “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” in 1988. His music from this era sold poorly, but his career revived in 1997 when he began playing Chef on “South Park.” A Scientologist, he quit the show in 2006, saying that he had been offended by an episode that ridiculed Tom Cruise and other prominent Scientologists. He also had a radio show in New York in the 1990s.

Mr. Hayes had health problems in recent years but had continued to tour and work occasionally in film (he had a role in “Soul Men,” a comedy set for release in November and starring Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac, the comedian who died Saturday).

In an interview on Sunday, Mr. Porter, Mr. Hayes’s fellow songwriter, said that his friend was “recuperating from a stroke,” but added that “in the middle of all that he was still trying to have fun” and had even returned to his birthplace in Covington to go fishing.

Mr. Hayes had been married three times previously. In addition to his wife, he is survived by their son, Nana, and 11 other children.

John M. Hubbell contributed reporting from Memphis.

© 2008 The New York Times



Vinyl LP cover from the Hit 1971 soundtrack album of the Gordon Parks film, Shaft



Courtesy IsaacHayes.Com

MAHMOUD DARWISH (13 March 1941-9 August 2008) Renowned Palestinian Poet

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Go to the English Al-Jazeera original


“Every beautiful poem is an act of resistance.” — Mahmoud Darwish

10 August 2008

Mahmoud Darwish, the renowned Palestinian poet, has died after open heart surgery at the Memorial Hermann medical center in Texas.

Ann Brimberry, Memorial Hermann’s spokeswoman, confirmed to Al Jazeera that Darwish died at 1.35pm (18:35 GMT).

Siham Daoud, a fellow poet and friend of the 67-year-old, had asked not to be resuscitated if the surgery did not succeed.

She said Darwish departed for the US ten days ago for the surgery, and he had undergone two operations for heart problems before Saturday’s surgery.

Best known for his work describing the Palestinian struggle for independence, the experience of exile and factional infighting, Darwish was a vocal critic of Israeli policy and the occupation of Palestinian lands.

Many of his poems have also been put into music – most notably Rita, Birds of Galilee and I yearn for my mother’s bread, becoming anthems for at least two generations of Arabs.

“He felt the pulse of Palestinians in beautiful poetry. He was a mirror of the Palestinian society,” Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist and lecturer in cultural studies at Al Quds University in Jerusalem said.

Last year, Darwish recited a poem damning the deadly infighting between rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, describing it as “a public attempt at suicide in the streets”.

Early life

He was born in the village of Barweh in Galilee, a village that was razed during the establishment of Israel in 1948.

He joined the Israeli Communist Party after high school and began writing poems for leftist newspapers.

He was put under house arrest and imprisoned for his political activities, after which he worked as editor of Ittihad newspaper before leaving to study in the USSR in 1971.

Originally a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Darwish resigned in 1993 in protest over the interim peace accords that Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, signed with Israel.

As a journalist, he worked for al-Ahram newspaper in Cairo and later became director of the Palestinian Research Centre.

In 2000, Yossi Sarid, Israel’s education minister, suggested including some of Darwish’s poems in the Israeli high school curriculum.

But Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister overruled him, saying Israel was not ready yet for his ideas in the school system.

In 2001, he won the Lannan prize for cultural freedom.

Leaves of Olives was published in 1964 when Darwish was 22-years old. Since then more than 20 volumes of his works of poetry have been published.


Mahmoud Darwish

They did not recognize me in the shadows
That suck away my color in this Passport
And to them my wound was an exhibit
For a tourist Who loves to collect photographs
They did not recognize me,
Ah . . . Don’t leave
The palm of my hand without the sun
Because the trees recognize me
Don’t leave me pale like the moon!

All the birds that followed my palm
To the door of the distant airport
All the wheatfields
All the prisons
All the white tombstones
All the barbed Boundaries
All the waving handkerchiefs
All the eyes
were with me,
But they dropped them from my passport

Stripped of my name and identity?
On soil I nourished with my own hands?
Today Job cried out
Filling the sky:
Don’t make and example of me again!
Oh, gentlemen, Prophets,
Don’t ask the trees for their names
Don’t ask the valleys who their mother is
>From my forehead bursts the sward of light
And from my hand springs the water of the river
All the hearts of the people are my identity
So take away my passport!


NOMAD CAFÉ POETRY JAM (Oakland, California) Every Thursday Night

Friday, August 1st, 2008



How do I love thee? / Let me count the ways.



I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.

Courtesy Nancy Reagan and Mister T in 1983




Friday, August 1st, 2008


August 7, 2008- August 29, 2008

Venue: Tribes Gallery Address: 285 East Third Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10009

Thur. August 7th, 6-9 pm: “Bird in the Bush” – Group art exhibition

7 pm: Live music by Search

Artists include: Itziar Barrio, Dianne Bowen, Stephanie Colonna, Robyn Desposito, Nikki Johnson, Hilary Maslon, Kelley Meister, Grace Rim, Emily Steinfeld, Angela Valeria, Chin Chih Yang, Alessandra Zeka

Sun. August 10th: “Dead Bird Films” (Films from the year of Charlie Parker’s death)

In Tribes Garden

8 pm: Ryder Pales – Live Concert

9 pm: Film Screening – “The Man With the Golden Arm” (1955 Frank Sinatra)

Tues. August 12th: 7-9 pm: Piano and Cello Duo featuring Francesca Tedeschi and Noelle Casella

Sat. August 16th: “Bird in the Bushes”

In Tribes Garden

5 pm: Poetry Reading featuring Erich Christiansen, Steve Dalachinsky, John Farris, Merry Fortune, Yuko Otomo, Amy Ouzoonian, Eve Packer

7 pm: Live Music – Will McEvoy Ensemble

8 pm: Live Music – Bobby Sanabria’s Quintet

Sat. August 23rd: “Love Does Not Make My Cat Play Ragtimey”

8 pm: Multimedia Performance and music featuring Sabrina Chapadjiev, Joseph Keckler and Chavisa Woods

Sun. August 24th: In Tribes Garden

6 pm: Acoustic Jam – Flash-Back Puppy Band featuring Denmark’s Carsten “Nado” Kragelund Adrian Chan, Cello plus an Open Mic

Fri. August 29th: “Charlie Parker Birthday Block Party” – Free!

2-9 pm: Day-long Street Fest featuring:

An Artist Flea Market

An Open Mic in the East 3rd St. Community Garden.Sign up begins at 2 pm and the event lasts until 5 pm (all types) with featured poets Jennifer Blowdryer, Steve Dalachinsky, Hattie Gosset, Tom Savage, Danny Shot, Chavisa Woods, and Susan Yung

7 pm: Street Concert featuring the Stumblebum Brass Band

Contributions are accepted at the door $7

This event is sponsored in part by: Capital One Bank, Poets and Writers, Loisaida Drugs, the DCA, the L Magazine, Astor Wines & Spirits, Chez Betty Café, Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, Phil Hartman, Anyssa Kim, Robert Mnuchin, Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and other private donors.