Angela Bocage

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the books category.

Seconds like these; Mosquito girl; and dogs like Merle

What a fantastic week. Full of energy, with my Berekiah dog feeling good and eating well, I’ve been drawing and writing and talking to fantastic people who feed my brain and heart, and reading great books. Some who know me will understand my pleasant surprise and delight at a new level of ability to quiet the over-thinking, anxious, horrid-scenario-pumping-out, noisome chatter of my monkey mind. Meditation, yoga, music, dogs, exercise, fresh vegan food? Or–or could my Official First Mosquito Bite of the Summer earlier this week have been……..radioactive?!

[Comicbook fantasies duly cued—Watch out, hatahz: it’s Mosquito Girl! Capable of annoying the hell out of any one person, even the Dalai Lama! Or  a whole roomful! Like the Kolot Chayeinu congregation on a Day of Awe!  She can fly (erratically, but yeah, guess you’d have to call it that)! On broadcast media she can annoy the hell out of millions at a time! Not only by her essence-sucking curiosity, but even at a distance, via Mosquito-humming with the exact opposite of perfect pitch… Ahem. Anyway. Silly’s part of it, honesty’s part of it, but the key might conceivable be mitigating the merciless self-loathing a tad; it’s so distracting…]

Am increasingly thankful for my awesome housemate and the loving, smart, sneaky funny dogs who share our lives. We do our best to listen to them and learn from them, but she can seriously read their minds, I’d swear to that in court, so she was demonstrating her considerable kind wisdom by lending me Merle’s Door, by Ted Kerasote, and thinking I’d like it. An account of a man’s adoption of a young stray and their subsequent life together, this book blew me away—super-nutrition for the mind of any dog lover, trainer, or anyone who works or lives with canines.

I am a right snot about dog books, and do not apologize. What we know about, do with, and teach our dogs is literally a matter of life and death for them. If you never read another word of dog lit, flip through Ian Dunbar’s gentle, witty masterpiece, How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks just to read his brief snapshot-like selections from the brief biography of a badly socialized, haphazardly trained dog. And note how normal it sounds. And then, if you like, check the statistics regarding how many “pet” dogs are euthanized before their second birthday.

For over a decade, I’ve been studying with APDT-member trainers (the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, one of whose founders is Dr. Ian Dunbar), formally observing classes taught by CPDTs (Certified Professional Dog Trainer is the APDT certificate of expertise as measured through broad knowledge, substantial practice, and requiring continuing education), assistant teaching now and then, and taking both my canine friend and several foster kids through CPDT-taught puppy, “teen,” pre-agility and obedience classes. My first teacher, the awe-inspiringly quick, intuitive, dog-observant Deb Manheim, could see the fascination thus inspired, and introduced me to the APDT, the Dogwise book site, and the required reading list for CPDTs. Vast, eternal gratitude, Deb! The balanced, thorough, and scientifically current approach taken by this training organization and the breadth and quality of the literature they recommend opened my eyes to the minds, behavior, and whole world of dogs in ways I could never have foreseen.

When I began Merle’s Door, I admit to some trepidation that this would be another example of poetic wankage (see, e.g.,  Jeffrey Moussaieff [ck splg)…full of testimony to the author’s being a sensitive dude and an excellent writer, but far lighter on real insight into the canine mind.

Slap my face and call me Susan: Kerasote’s the real-ass thing, citing real anthropology, real science, even tracing the twists and turns the science has taken in our own adult lifetimes. A few examples: he cites the Belyaev study, Raymond and Lorna Coppinger, Patricia McConnell, and Dr. Dunbar, reviews the recent archeological thinking on the human-facing-canine burial finds, and manages to tell a good story in which he seemed to, hallelujah, actually listen to what his dog was teaching him! Highly recommended.


Spring IS gonna come.

I’ll simply have to insist! A couple days in the last week when the snow had melted and I could walk along actual damp SIDEWALK…and then this last couple days’ vaunted blizzard being a “Feh, THAT you call a blizzard?!” sort of event for the now-ever-so-much-more hardy citizens who’ve been digging out from several feet, and I’m convinced. Yup. Spring! Maybe not THIS week, but…it’ll get here.

This spring at the Willliam Way center in Philadelphia my friend Pearlette Toussant is presenting a supremely cool event—which she’s already blackmailed me into attending because now that I’m dating again, girl has way too much inculpatory evidence which, while formally inadmissible as hearsay, could prejudice my case.*

On Tuesday, March 25 at 6:00, jumping off from the lobby of the center, to “Whet Your Appetite for Spring:” a walking tour of Philly’s Gayborhood to pick out all manner of places and things creatively includable in romantic spring date plans—but ahead of time so we’re not all frantic! Whee! This is also just a cool way for newcomers or visitors to Philadelphia to learn their way around and discover some amusing, healthy, fun and fascinating LGBTQ destinations, for Philadelphians of all tenures to meet nice people, and for everybody to enjoy.

*Anyone who knows me knows what a big lie that is; if I were a language I wouldn’t have a word for “overshare,” or “TMI”!** I love information! It’s all about the information…which reminds me to recommend, as well, Lisa Lutz’ shriekingly funny, like when you can’t help but yelp like a sea lion with laughter,  Curse of the Spellmans! A lot more than funny, too, in its unsparing but ultimately nonjudgmental portrayal of a most non-traditional family. (“Uh, I request Mal Blum’s ‘For Making Art’ song plizz, goin’ out to Lisa Lutz…”) I hope the first one, The Spellman Files, is as good, since I’ve accidentally ended up reading them out of order, but I’ll let you know when I read it, which WILL be as soon as possible!

(**In terms of MY life I’m like that proverbial open book, that is. Secrets told to me, I keep to the grave. Serious as an aneurysm about that.)

Tasty vegan cookies, yummy book, & who is most suicide-prone?

I was surprised to learn that Oreos, at least in the US, are vegan. But Newman-O’s are even more delicious, with a creamy and succulent chocolate filling, and give much much moolah to charity. Late July vegan cookies have organic ingredients and green tea and also taste quite nice. It has not proven difficult at all to adhere to my vegan choice, since I can look up any ingredient in a trice on Google on my Blackberry. Pom Wonderful, Quaker Oats, and Naked Juice also answered my questions about their ingredients readily, either via email or on the phone. Seems the thing to watch out for is that when they list “natural flavors,” that could mean something animal-derived.

For some reason, well, PMS, I found myself looking at all the women in the list of suicides on Wikipedia. I know, it’s hardly a representative sampling, but if it were, one of the most psychically hazardous professions ever would be South Korean actress. Also the girlfriend or wife of a male artist/writer/musician. Men outnumbered women at least four to one–again, like South Korean Actress Syndrome, this is skewed because it only lists self-slaughterers the Wikipeople consider notable–but I discovered a terrific photographer, Francesca Woodman, whom I am rather annoyed not to have learned of earlier. The work is so haunting, evocative, yet just as much disciplined and rigorous, I could see why so many people are moved by this art despite Woodman’s few productive years.

Spook Country, the latest novel by William Gibson, is just an absolute delight, like a sweet Diebenkorn painting, with all the elements everyone loves, plus generous buckets of imaginative abandon, technological inventiveness, humor, understanding, forgiveness, family at its best and worst, and a graceful postmortem of cult fame. If I were a betting woman, I’d wager you’ll enjoy it and want to pass it along

New crack for the lawyers…much more enjoyable than synthetic blood…

Twilight having reached pinnacles of synergistic ubiquity heretofore unknown, it’s fortunate for me that, in a frenzy not dissimilar to that which possessed me during the first few days after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows dropped, I’d long ago read all the books plus Meyer’s grownup book The Host before any randomly heard conversations between dumbass fellow SEPTA-passengers could spoil any surprises. So now, the wonderfully clever and amusing young (mostly young) attorneys with whom I share space have moved on to discussing True Blood and devouring Charlaine Harris’ series of southern vampire novels on which the HBO series is based. It’s my personal version of watching football, I guess, in the sense of being utterly useless and silly and bewitchingly fun vicarious involvement in events so far from our own real lives. In the same way as the football fans discuss the games—what coaches might do, relative skills of players—we discussed throughout the first season whether Sam could have killed vampire-friendly female Bon Temps citizens to frighten Sookie away from Bill, whether the Sheriff’s Department could have been covering up for one of their own, what Amy was REALLY after. But the brilliant twist of the whole series, books and HBO, is that in making the vampires the latest civil rights-vs.-bigotry flashpoint, they force the viewer to exist in a world where race and sexuality aren’t all that important. This can be very disturbing, e.g. when Sookie’s friend and coworker Lafayette, both gay and African American, confronts a high-profile politician with whom he’s had various extra-legal business dealings—because he’s outraged by the would-be senator’s anti-vampire stance, not his homophobia—and then proceeds to use the politician’s constituents’ racism to harm his electability by posing for a friendly photo. The choice of music and the swampy southern atmosphere of the show are also rather enchanting. Next season it’ll probably suck, so I’m glad to have at least been turned on the the books.

One is highly recommended for endorphinizing ROTFLing…one just because

Down in the dumps, apathetic, downright glum? Pleeeease go to the land of mondegreens, I swear it makes me crumple helplessly laughing so hard it’s almost like a seizure, or a sea lion yelping in pain. Today in Whole-Paycheck-For-Foods, this adorably koala-bear-like li’l fella behind the fish counter was regaling my colleague and me with his no doubt highly-qualified theories on humor; the pun, he asserted, was the lowest form. He had a reason to be so assertive: he himself championed another reviled form of humor, the Fart Joke. Which, he told us, has a rich classical literary history, not only specifically citing Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, but directing us right to the fart of the matter, The Miller’s Tale and The Miller’s Wife’s Tale therein. Well, two people I love very much also champion the fart joke–one was known to have been the miscreant who placed the whoopie cushion under the PASTOR’s chair at a respected academic institution, first carefully adding a teaspoon of water for enhanced audio! But for me, humor’s pinnacle, at least in terms of making my ribs hurt, will always be the mondegreen, of which a Jimi Hendrix line misheard as “Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy” is the iconic example. So if you’re at all interested in popular music, do check out the site; if you looked at it awhile ago, it’s also gotten a lot easier to get around.

Second, and there’s some ground I still have to cover to completely make sense of this one, the Stephenie (yes that’s how she spells it) Meyer series Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn, has taken over the reading hearts and minds of dozens of extremely bright, articulate, mature professional young women at my workplace. It is most commonly compared to crack. It is wonderful. I felt like a latish adopter on this one, but after all I am in Philadelphia, so cut me some slack, and if you have any idea why this series is soooo addictive, delightful, fun, compulsive, etc., please to comment. I’ll give you some of my theories tomorrow, tonight I have to go to bed early for work.

Very, very late on posting this….

Because I think it happened in January. But it was this magical night in Philadelphia, warm and ever so slightly misty, and very dark, and I worked a bit latish in center city to then walk over to the Borders bookstore to Charles Burns’ book signing. Whee, there I was, [trying to pretend not to be terrified at being out in public where I could be observed and despised by my fellow humans who would recoil in disgust and possibly crush me like a worm were they to notice me, for how could they not then instinctively intuit my loathsomeness and the need to rid this plane of existence of an evil of my ilk?!] getting to meet this great artist at last whose work just inspires me to my core. And besides being this amazing artist whose crisp black and white inkinesses and negative space somehow by sheer vibration create color, being this prolific imaginer whose dark baroque eruptions dance elegantly with language clean as a Morandi painting in words, he’s a real sweetheart, super nice and gracious. I’ve never been able to really understand the whole color-out-of-black-&-white thang, I just stare at his pages at length. If you’ve never read his stuff, please don’t deny yourself this experience of beauty. You might go to his entry at as a start, because for some reason I’m not finding his actual website tonight–I’m lucky if I can walk and think at the same time actually, we’re dealing with humongous sinus infections in an epic microbial badminton match around here–or look at the hardcover collection of Black Hole which is what he was signing and discussing that evening. When I spoke to him I of course told him how fantabulous he was, but mostly we talked about our BREEEEEELLLIONNTT seventeen year old daughters and how they’re juuuuust starting not to be too embarrassed by us 😀 and how one of our former publishers who’ll remain unmentioned is a total asshole. And bless his heart, Burns is a Philly boy now, too, after doing the childhood-as-trek-around-the-U.S.-cauza-Dad’s-job that I and many other artists did as well. Go buy his books, y’all….

Oh noes it was puppy war! Plus more on the Pembrokes…

I received the unsettling news today that two puppies I know by their photographs and the enthusiastic reports from their uncle, Napoleon and Dutch, a brace of spirited golden red mini-dachshund adopted brothers, were not seeing eye to eye. My friend their uncle emailed me that Dutch had “attacked” Napoleon. Over chewy playthings. But but but….if there are fewer chewy playthings than puppies, I reasoned, will not some healthy exercise of puppy muscle ensue?? I was apparently in denial. The bite on the Napoleonic noselet was described as “ugly.” Now, I am wanting to think, ze dachshund, thees eez a scrappy dog, non? I am again wanting to minimize, in the tiny space of my own mind–that very very tiny space–any inter-puppy unpleasantness. But here, I suppose, is the question–is the dachshund, included, here in the States, in the HOUND group, who knows why (–but the Norwegian Elkhound is, I most strongly suspect, in there by sheer translation error, the “hund” part just meaning “dog” in the Norway and the Elk anyway not even meaning Elk as we know them at all but Moose)–a hound?? A laid-back-less’n-ah’m-huntin’, sprawlin’ in the sunshine, lovin’ them other canines in mah pack, big-ol’-voiced, HOUND?? Or perhaps—since the other part of the word “dachshund” refers to their being employed hunting badgers, who live in burrow-like-thingies called setts—in fact terriers??? I must find the answer, and will report back.

The Corgis I mentioned seeing last night in their canine-Oscar-winning performance were Pembroke Corgis, sweet little blacknosed golden-and-white-faced ones. As the old saying goes, “The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is the one with the tail. The Pembroke is the one with the Queen of England.” Something about how that statement works linguistically has always just flat out delighted me. While, as you can see, I had lots of discussion over my injudicious, premature and oh just perhaps a tad over-the-top criticism of Mr. Jeff Sharlet’s Rolling Stone article (I mean it now babies, no stealing his book! When it comes out purchase it or get your library to order, yes!) , no one wrote about the Corgles until now. Apparently there’s a wonderful book called Noble Hounds and Dear Companions about ALL the dogs the British royals have been involved with, and it includes a mention of the oh so most noble and *fluffical!!!* Japanese Chin! And here is a link to some its pictures. Thanks ever so, y’all!

Click here: Telegraph | Picture Gallery | ROYAL DOGS

More on Nikki Craft…

I just read a splendid article about the mechanisms of discrediting feminist writing (Over Her Dead Body: How Ariel Levy Smears the Ashes of Andrea Dworkin, by Julian Real at )   because thinking about how much I like my praying mantises and miss my times with Nikki Craft prompted me to look up some websites by and about her. Although it was a painful and difficult time, memories of Nikki are mostly so joyful and full of energy and hope. I remember sitting with her and some other young women in her beautiful artful rented room in a house in Santa Cruz, where there was a little stepladder up to her bed, I assume thoughtfully placed there so her little dog Casper wouldn’t have to jump up and down. How funny she was in her observations of the some of the ludicrous goings-on in Santa Cruz at the time. But how ardently she spoke against cruelty to animals, how she lived her compassion with Casper, and how cogently she linked her witness of  mass murdered dogs in a field to the murders of women we seemed to hear about every other week back then. She was the kindest, most passionate, most friendly individual I’d ever met at my work on the school newspaper, City on a Hill Press.

Most of the people working there when I first started in 1977 or 1978 were really scary to me, a very sheltered Southern girl who’d never been out after ten p.m. except to church events before coming to the University. They were also, compared to me, extremely affluent, well-traveled, with experience of the world and a lot more choices. I was just an illustrator and paste-up person, working there to afford rent, cheap film series, the occasional record, used (yup, they were vinyl then) at Logos. I had to drop out of school repeatedly to pay for school; cleaning houses,  cleaning the machines at the Wrigley plant or graveshifting packing tea boxes at Lipton, eventually getting what I thought was the greatest gig ever, selling tickets at the Del Mar theater, which meant that by local convention I could attend any film in the area free–yes, even at the arthouses, hallelujah! Other students had internships at museums or national magazines; my first summer in college I’d made change from a booth at the boardwalk arcade because I was too clumsy on the machines that sold tickets to the rides. Boy, was I an idiot–depressed, isolated, and of the world outside my devout theoretical universe (I coulda told you reams about the history of the Christian Church and the labyrinthine eddies of its doctrinal samba-dancin’ over the centuries!) I knew so so little. The guys (mostly guys) who did writing & editing were every bit as sure they came from a different and superior universe from me as I was.

Knowing and working with Nikki changed my life. Even after the young woman had a firebrand reputation, even after she’d become a lightning rod in the debate between people who cared about women’s lives and the men who loved their porn, she was able to walk into the offices of City on a Hill Press–testosterone central–and charm all the guys immediately with her genuine friendliness, humor, precious little white dog, and killer shoulder massages. I was gobsmacked at her elan! Oh, but like the thing with the vinyl, I guess I gotta explain that everybody gave everybody shoulder massages in those days. Just not always on first meeting! And before desktop publishing, y’all, layout and pasteup people were extremely grateful for Nikki’s. And she was drop dead gorgeous with those huge clear eyes and glossy dark hair, whether she was wearing claystained sweat pants and a bandana on her head or a funky crazy sparkly Myth California gown. She inspired me to read, read, read, read, Susan Griffin and Mary Daly and the Take Back the Night anthology and take a class in lesbian literature…I’ll continue this sometime, but I have to wake up early for work now, so that’s just a few random memories of a shrewd and sneaky saint of my early life! Definitely, definitely check out the Julian Real article. Apparently Ms. Nikki Craft was also an inspiration to that author.

Reading like a kid

Juvenile reading is fun. At the train station closest to home there is a very nice lady working most mornings who shows you pictures of her grandchildren, leaves out bowls of peppermints, and, thank Goddess, has three or four cardboard boxes of recycled reading labeled with simple directions to take whatever books you want and leave your own unwanted books. What a splendid idea for a train station! I got Clive Barker’s Imajica there. It’s lots of fun! An out author, hallucinogenically beautiful or grotesque settings, realistic sex, and–so far–a near-Aristasian perception of women and men as different species. Everyone else read that in high school, or undergrad at the latest. The first how-to-draw-canines books I found that weren’t $150 vet school texts were kid-directed (and not very good). And, after running into quotes from them in twenty-two places this summer, I finally obtained used copies of those dorm-room faves I didn’t read in college, Principia Discordia and The Illuminatus Trilogy. Not to mention one of the biggest events of the summer–Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows coming out! My fellow young lady attorneys at the office and I were fully prepared to do serious harm to anyone who’d think it amusing to tell us anything about it prematurely, but fortunately no blood had to be shed. OK, I also read a lot of  other stuff: about sustainable architecture, fashion, global warming, canine evolution, color theory, and radical feminism (read Mary Daly’s Amazon Grace aloud–it’s enspiriting!) but reading like a kid has been really fun. Especially on this beautiful beautiful rainy day that’s bright green and watering my crops for me.

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