Boxing Day 2010

As the year (and the decade, again,) dwindles to a close, our mailbox fills up with holiday letters from friends far and wide. I love reading these letters. This year people died, people were born, people lost and found jobs, and traveled to places I can only dream of. My favorite this year was a page of family photos with a short note that said, “Santa brought Matt a new colon for Christmas.” Read More...


Why I Deserve a Nissan Leaf

We didn't answer this question properly when we made our 30-second video after the test-drive, so here it is...

From right to left:
  1. Donald deserves one because, even though he really loves Lamborghinis, he's put a Tesla Roadster higher on his wish list because he knows how important it is to create a new fast-car universe that doesn't rely on fossil fuels.
  2. Felix deserves one because he is a trend-setting hipster and could get all his friends to buy one. Besides, Felix has figured out how to make any car make less emissions.
  3. Griffin deserves one because he would probably take it apart and put it back together again and then design an even better engine (and let Donald design the body). (And by the way, doesn't he look like a mini-Felix?)
  4. Ben deserves one because he is awesome and needs to keep his braces shiny. His mom deserves one, too; she's raising two kids on her own and commutes a lot.
  5. I deserve one because I already do a great job living a low-impact life and think it would be amazing to have something new. My car is 17 years old and is starting to burn oil, and I've been pretending it's a hybrid for the last four years. Even so, 80% of our carbon footprint comes from driving it, and I'm dying to start living in our fossil-fuel-free future. (I'm even trying to start an idle-free campaign in my city.) As a writer/volunteer/mom/homemaker/bohemian creative, I could never afford to buy a new one, but I am truly obsessed with and enamoured with the Leaf. I even gushed about it on Chinese TV last year... "It doesn't even have tailpipes! How awesome is THAT?"
  6. Steven deserves one because his Honda has a quarter of a million miles on it. We all know it is greener to drive an old car than buy a new one (the materials and parts make quite a dent), especially when you're getting 35 miles a gallon already. However, I'd be afraid to let Steven have a Leaf since he's already so tall.
The problem is, who gets the Leaf if we win it? We all live within a few miles of each other, so it's not unlikely that we'd share. But we're a loving family and don't like to fight over anything, so we'd probably give it to my mom, who is awesome and deserves a new car for all she's done for all of us!

PLEASE VOTE FOR US! We'll give you a ride if we win! Thank you!
Note: Nissan only uses your email to count votes (you have to click a confirmation link), so there's no risk in voting.


Seasonal Segue

Last month I wrote about Lederhosen (and 350). Speaking of German words... it's time to segue into the next holiday! A year ago this time, my son was wandering around on Thanksgiving, quoting a cartoon of mine he'd found in a pile of rough drafts. Then he and a few awesome friends did a "dramatic cartoon reading" of it at my book launch. Here 'tis... Read more


Hymn to Asphaltia (Goddess of Parking & Traffic)

Press 'play' on both tracks at once... close your eyes and listen...  
When you're done, scroll down and click the cartoon.... 

1. Goddess of Parking and Traffic by and courtesy of David Garner

2. Hymn to Asphaltia read by Kristen Caven at Heart of the Muse, 11/4/10

I sing to thee, Asphaltia!

To thy hard and pulsing veins
ribbons of desire and direction that
connect our home driveways,
one to the other,
across this great and blessed land!

I sing thy praise, Asphaltia!
Goddess of Parking and Traffic,
before these, thy blessed servants,
devoted drivers of thy scenic roads!

I offer thee this sacrifice:
A mangled bike.
A twisted wheel.

For you, benevolent goddess of the streets,
there are not enough poems in my grateful soul
to express my delight
in your watchful eye.

I praise and thank thee tonight!

For the grip you gave the screeching tires when the driver saw the child.
For the clear streets that swiftly brought the ambulance.
For the green lights as I followed the sound, screaming in my car.
For the pavement you made soft where he landed.
(There were no broken bones or skin.)

Asphaltia, I praise thee!

Our devotion is our salvation:
To the zipper dance of merging manners;
To the air in the tires of your prayer-wheels;
To the tar we pour to patch the scars in your skin.
Our attention to your ever-blinking eyes of light.

There are not enough words in my ravaged soul
to thank you
for preserving

my beloved.

(Oh, and for that sweet parking spot you gave me tonight.)

-kristen caven 11/4/10


Pumpkin Pie - a holiday superheroine

Meet Pumpkin Pie, partner of Jack-O-Lantern, who was dreamed up in the Mini-Maker Faire's Comics Class taught by The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay author Michael Chabon and Marvel Comics artist Nick Dragotta.

Jack is a master pumpkin carver and superhero who got his superpowers when he ate a radioactive GMO pumpkin seed.

Pumpkin Pie was a mathematician at Monsanto who ate one, too. It gave her a hyper-hormonal anxiety which she can only calm by baking. She hangs around Jack because she needs the pumpkin guts. She also has a tremendous throwing arm. In the picture you see her using calculus (Pi is her favorite number) to determine the best angles for throwing pie. She wears an oven-proof lycra suit printed with an apron pattern, and oven mitts, since the pies she throws are sometimes fresh out of the oven. She wishes she could stop baking and take a rest, but if she does the craziness (the evil side) takes over.

Yes, her headpiece is made of an aluminum pie plate. It's recyclable.



It's 10-10-10...

and I'm sending this ten seconds into 10:10 a.m.... and gosh, it would be just magical  if you read it before 10:10 p.m., since I have something important to tell you.

Today's Cobbler is brought to you by the number ten. Ten is a great number for lists of all kinds—from commandments to comedy—and on a scale of one to ten, ten is the perfect number for rating things. So by all accounts, today should be a pretty outstanding day.

All over the world today, people are working together on bringing attention to thirty-five times ten, which happens to be ...

The Most Important Number in the World.



10 powerful actions to start on 10-10-10

  1. Calculate your carbon footprint if you haven't already.
  2. Find 10 appliances that use electricity in your house and find ways to keep them off. (Here's a good helper.)
  3. Get a good bike, find a good route, or make some friends to carpool with to your regular places.
  4. Learn the 10-second rule of idling and cut your car's carbon 10% or more.
  5. Find 10 ways to make better food choices.
  6. Start a recycling and composting plan in your home or workplace if you haven’t already.
  7. Plant 10 trees in your neighborhood or in a national forest. (Here's how.)
  8. Tell 10 people about 350ppm! It's easy to forward links from Youtube.
  9. Write a letter to a newspaper or tv station and ask them to report the daily carbon ppm count with the weather report.
  10. Commit to writing 10 letters, going to 10 rallies, or signing 10 petitions to demand responsible climate leadership this year.
What else should be on this list? Any other or better ideas?


Planet of Slow Learners

I just sent my two Planet of Slow Learners cartoons in to an art show at my old alma mater. This one's about MEAT. (The other one is about Earth Day.) Sorry, it's kind of a crappy photo. The black & white version is in my book. In which I wonder: has anything changed in the last twenty years?


The View from Here

I am really appreciating and enjoying all the congrats on top of the sheer satisfaction of completion. My friend Rhonda just said, "I'm so glad you are 'getting out there.' 'There' seemed so far away for so many years and now 'there' is ... 'here'!"

Last week I got my first Amazon review and there was a nice article about me in the local paper. The week before, there was another feature in the Mills College paper's Strike Anniversary Edition, which covered the big event that surrounded my book launch. Which by the way resulted in a small photo of me in the L.A. Times on 5-10! Enjoy all the ups and downs of the adventure in my author blog/scrapbookRead More...


Completion Satisfaction!

Sold! Twenty-one books! Gave some away, signed them all too....

Put that to the tune of 21 Guns and you'll get an idea of how I feel right now. Rockin' Out! Open heart! White light! Camp high!

The final book sales count was the icing on the cake. The cake, and the nourishing meal that preceded it, was the completion of a year of dreaming and scheming. Tonight I launched my book to the audience I wrote it for, and by for I mean to read it and in their honor. Tonight I sat behind my table and listened to stories about an amazing moment in history, by the people who made it. Tonight it was not about me.

President Jan stood up and talked about how she came to put Mills back together after it had been torn by the drama of the strike. She led the SPAM chant—"Strong Women, Proud Women, All Women, Mills Women"—a joke I made twenty years ago when I saw the "Strong Women, Proud Women, Mills Women, All Women" slogan (but took a stand against it in my book). We watched the old documentary and everyone told stories that filled in some of the mysteries. Did you know Mills College is the ONLY women's college that decided to go co-ed and then reversed the decision? One woman told about her school back east, Wells, that decided to go co-ed. The students went on a six week strike, including a 30-day hunger strike and a fundraising campaign, all to no avail. They let men in, and three quarters of the students left. Mills is the only women's college that mustered all its forces to make and keep its commitment.

I stood up and spoke a little, about how when I arrived at the strike there was nothing I could do to help, just observe. I was too stunned to speak, but I found my voice through drawing. Tonight I finally made my contribution. By helping the alumnae and the student activities office organize this emotion-filled evening of conversation and memory—a book launch party about something much greater than my book.

All night long some guy from the LA Times -- yes, THAT L.A. Times -- kept taking my picture. (I'm sure everyone felt the same way.) I was too surprised to protest. I was just grateful all the stress had subsided, and my cold sore had healed just in time. But the part my heart loved best was seeing old friends who have grown twenty years older, and who have become more of who they are. Kind of like I have.

At the end of the event, the Director of Student Life took the mike and sang "We are gentle, angry people, who are singing, singing for our lives." I hummed along. Then she sang, "We are perfectly revolting people..." And then the rowdy war-heroines of 1990 started chanting: "Woman energy! Woman energy! Women in a jeep!"

I really didn't want the night to end. I ended up sitting in the parking lot under the stars, talking to an old pal and listening to the stories of a recent grad with a bitchin' mohawk who is just getting into Roller Derby. (Ah, that old familiar would-that-I-were-queer longing...). I thanked myself for coming out to California to finish my college career at Mills. You meet the most interesting people here. And maybe, if you're lucky, you become one.


Mad about the Hatter

(caution: contains spoilers)

Love Tim Burton. Love Johnny Depp. Love Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway. LOVE Disney!

But as it turns out, I love Lewis Carroll even more.

I couldn’t have been more excited to see Burton’s interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. I couldn’t wait to see what sense he would make of the caucus race, the caterpillar, the enigmatic oysters, the meandering logic of Alice’s dream.

But it was no dream he re-created. It was an adventure! It was a re-invention of this favorite tale through his own ego. Imaginitve, yes. Insulting to any English student who studied Jabberwocky or, god forbid, loved the book enough to read the annotated version. Burton admits to reading the book—once, as a child—and not liking it. All of his influences came from pop culture interpretations. (And he must have read the screenplay for 2009’s clever sci-fi tv miniseries, ALICE.)

There are a few repeated lines that work as story themes. One of them is, “Why, my father always said he could imagine six impossible things before breakfast.” (Originally from the stupid White Queen’s mouth in Looking Glass.) Here are six impossible things about his version of the movie
1) Alice did not shun the Bandersnatch. (She tamed it.)
2) The Mad Hatter wasn’t mad, just weird… and political.
3) It is a hero movie with a magic sword and a dragon; not a trial, not a chess game. It is a movie about finding the power to kill when one doesn’t want to. (Huh?)
4) Why no caucus race, kings, or Mock Turtle? Why no sneezing, running to stay in one place, drowning in tears?
5) Why no Bill the Lizard? Why no Lobster Quadrille?
6) And the unforgivable sin: They all called the Jabberwock a Jabberwocky.

Another one of the oft-repeated sentences is, “How is a raven like a writing desk?” The question is not posed as poetic madness, but as a taunt: “are you clever enough to guess?” A yellow-eyed Johnny Depp asks this question over and over, pretending not to know the raven, duh, in this metaphor, is powerful, soaring filmmaker Tim Burton, Poe-loving master of underworlds. The writing desk represents earthbound and ancient Lewis Carroll. Poor crazy pedophiliac mathematician Dodgson. He can’t touch the power of a successful Hollywood career, in which you can do whatever the hell you want. The raven is the writing desk’s manxome foe.

But in spite of the madness (as in, anger) raging in my head as I watched, my eyes were enchanted. In Burton’s fully-realized version, I found much to love:

1) The air-swimming, smoke-like Cheshire Cat, a fully-developed character who turns the tide.
2) Alice’s growing and shrinking dress – a character in itself.
3) Depp’s theatrical delivery of “Jabberwocky” in the golden light of a wet forest to a tiny Alice on his brim.
4) A framing story that brings us a grown-up Alice who has been to Wonderland before.
5) The third repeated sentiment: “You’re bonkers. Gone around the bend. You’re utterly mad…. But all the best people are.”
6) Futterwhacking.

Screenwriter Linda Woolverton admitted, “It will infuriate the purists, but this was never meant to be a remake. This is Alice as a young woman.” Yes, Linda, it infuriated me. BUT you created a marvelous re-invention, and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially where this beloved story is concerned. I blame the Disney exec who okayed, or insisted on, selling it as a remake. He or she should be stuffed into a treacle well.

The Hatter and other characters call the place “Underland,” not Wonderland, which makes perfect sense since it lies, somehow, under this world, accessible by falling a long, long way. Had Disney released the movie as Tim Burton’s Alice in Underland, all departures from the source would be forgiven, even by purists; all creative licenses celebrated. Under a different name I would consider this would be Burton’s best, not his worst. Audiences would have felt the love, not the disdain.

And I would be mad for it, not mad about it.


Perfectly Exciting!

I keep saying to myself, "I'm an author... I'm an author..." but it doesn't feel real yet....
Everyone had fun at the great unveiling ("soft opening" in business terms). I got in free to Wondercon as a "professional creative." Last Sunday I sold my first book online. I've done my first media interview. I've got three booksignings scheduled in Oakland. And everything is set for the big launch ("grand opening") at Mills College, with two book signings, an art exhibit, and a great big event about women's education!
Now I think I'd like to take a nap...