Sandra Tsing Loh was struggling with the weekend’s surreal California landscape, crossing the state lengthwise, last weekend.
She was returning from Northern California where she delivered her youngest daughter to a Berkeley dorm as the California fires raged and COVID strategies brought confusion and silver linings.
The orange skylines of NorCal and that epic firenado have sparked talk about global warming and that’s just what Loh will be considering as host for the Broad Stage’s Red Hen Press Poetry Hour on Thursday, August 27, a free program on Facebook Live at 6 p.m.
Fans of Loh may be familiar with her ruminations on global warming in her play “Hot,” where she fought a losing battle to be a better eco citizen than her brother and her The Loh Down on Science podcast has also featured segments on the issue.
“Previous to this time, climate change was arguably the world’s most pressing issue. Unfortunately, it was politicized,” Loh said.
Loh has been living a low-key life under COVID-19 restrictions. Although her new book, “The Madwoman and the Roomba” came out on June 2, COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the book tour and related events. Instead, Loh hosted COVID-safe curbside pickups of her book that included free swag (goddess pants) at her Pasadena home every Saturday in June and July.
“It was a fantastic person-to-person almost performance art way of visiting,” Loh said. There was “a more old-fashioned slowing down way of visiting.” Check her website (sandratloh.ag-sites.net) for future events.
The pandemic does have some plus points. Although her daughter missed many senior year perks (senior prom, grad night and the senior musical), COVID-19 restrictions meant the UC campus and the dorm were at 25% capacity—no roommates. Although they originally intended to visit relatives on the way up, the air quality was too bad to stand outside and chat. Still, once the decision was made to be on campus, Loh was determined to get there and have her one hour to unload the kid “even if the room is filled with hot boiling lava and there’s a T-Rex in there.” Luckily, she didn’t have to “throw cans of Progresso soup at the dinosaur,” yet the whole experience of driving toward “an angry devil-red dot fringed weirdly by blue.”
Graduating from Caltech with a BS in physics in 1983, in 2005 Loh reconnected with the institute when Caltech and KPCC created a podcast for Loh to host “The Loh Down on Science.” The show is co-produced by LDOS Media Lab, Inc. and SCPR (Southern California Public Radio), in association with the University of California, Irvine Science Communications. The actual content is researched, written and edited by students from the UC Irvine School of Physical Sciences, School of Biological Sciences and School of Engineering. The 90-second show, which was just added to Google News in May is broadcast five times a week to over 4 million listeners on 150 public radio stations across the country, including the Armed Forces Radio, so it strives to not have a particular political stance, but fully embraces science and scientific thought.
“I knew what it felt like to be confused by science,” Loh said, but in her program, she hopes to make it more accessible so that her listeners “understand it and feel comfortable with it.” She also hopes to change children’s view of scientists. “When children see mad scientists in movies, it doesn’t make them want to become a scientist. They think it’s weird and dangerous and kind of smelly.”
Even Doc Brown on the “Back to the Future” trilogy, whose fictional home was Pasadena’s Gamble House, was just a “wacky scientist with wild white hair wearing a lab coat.” Loh and her “Hive” mean to foster a different image.
They’ve even made special 50 pandemic podcasts to help people better understand pandemics and their effects on people—not all of them bad.
“Sometimes a global crisis can foster incredible technological innovations.” In a follow-up email, Loh declared, “I believe a silver lining in this pandemic is that everyone compelled by the stories/research of science due to wanting to ‘solve’ COVID.”
The Red Hen Press Poetry Hour has also benefited by going virtual. Loh believes it is attracting a better following and one doesn’t have to get dressed and face the freeway. Beginning its first season just two weeks after shutdown (March 28) with Loh coming in last-minute as the host, it is now on its second season. The hour seeks to engage people by presenting different poets addressing different topics. This Thursday’s “The Poetics of Climate Change,” includes panelists poet/naturalist Elizabeth Bradfield (“Towards Antarctica”) and science journalist/playwright Alanna Mitchell. Mitchell’s play, “Sea Sick” about her 13 oceanic journeys to observe manmade chemical changes comes to the Broad next year.
Critically acclaimed poet Natalie Diaz (Gila River Indian Tribe member) and 2014 Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis J. Rodriguez (founding editor of Tia Chucha Press and co-founder/president of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley) and Poet Laureate of Utah Paisley Rekdal will give readings.
The Red Hen Press Poetry Hour is part of The Broad Stage at Home, original monthly programming via the online portal that will broadcast through December. So, get comfy on this Thursday (Loh recommends watching “with a glass of wine and in your pajamas”) or check out the past programs and enjoy one of the silver linings of the catastrophic clouds over Pasadena and Los Angeles County.
“It’s phenomenal, intimate and free. Tune in.”