On Top: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Miami Holocaust Memorial, South Beach. The giant hand pointing at the sky is only the first thing you see as you approach.

Miami Holocaust Memorial, South Beach. The giant hand pointing at the sky is the first thing you notice on the approach.

View from the Airplane on the way to Miami, November 2013

Clouds, Sunset:  Airplane View en route to Miami, November 2013

Bacolod City: the view from her hotel room

Dear Departed Dad’s Hometown, Bacolod City:  Self never tired of the view from her hotel balcony.

3rd Thursday of April 2014: Tired (But Not Depressed)

Hey, hey, people, it’s been a long day, and self is sitting in front of her computer, tired.

One thing she is so happy about, this year, is that her garden is so — fecund.  That’s the only way she can think to describe it.  Plants that haven’t thrown off a bloom in years — like her Sheila’s Perfume — suddenly have big, fat flowers.  Her oldest clematis, a montana rubens, suddenly has growth lower down on its gnarled, woody stem.  And the wisteria she thought she’d killed is luscious, winding over the falling-down trellis, almost choking off the old wood.

Self checked out a site called Grey Magazine, and loves it.  It seems to be a magazine about Italy, which is probably why she bookmarked it.  But as she scrolls to the bottom of the page, she sees other things, like an article about the Reykjavik Fashion Festival (There’s one country — Iceland — she’d love to visit one day) and a review of a production of Bohéme.  And there’s a fabulous, absolutely fabulous picture of the actress Charlotte Rampling (still a knockout).

Well, all this musing started because she sat down at her desk, read a new piece of fanfiction, thought of something, wrote it down, finished it — bam, bam, bam.  It’s just one page, but self thinks it is fabulous.

Self thinks all her pieces are fabulous.  That is, she thinks they are fabulous right after she finishes, or thinks she has finished.  The feeling doesn’t last long, so she might as well enjoy the right now.

This new one-page flash fiction takes place in a future universe.  It’s called “Memories of Trees” and is so angst-y and self loves it.

She remembered that when she spoke to Zack’s class last Monday, one of the students remarked that her story “Mayor of the Roses” and her story “Thing” — one set in a small town in Laguna and the other set in a dystopian future universe (Self swore she would never use the word dystopian again, especially after gazillions of reviewers used it when reviewing Hunger Games:  Catching Fire, but she is forced to admit that it certainly is a very effective word, and anyway her fiction really is DYSTOPIAN, she’s not trying to be clever or anything, just really really honest) — seemed to have similar themes.  Self’s first reaction was to go:  Oh no!  Because she hates thinking of herself as being so transparent and predictable.  Which was not a useful line of thought:  no one who’s predictable can be fabulous.

After much perusing of the newly re-designed Daily Post,self finally realized that it still has the links to other people’s blogs, a feature she thought had been lost.  With the old layout, she would click on “Post a Comment,” and all the people who had posted on the week’s photo challenge would then appear on a list of links.  Self would methodically move down this list, looking at each blog.

With the re-design, self couldn’t find a button for “Post a Comment.”  Only today did she realize that the links still exist, although in a very different form.  All self had to do was scroll down to the very bottom of the page, where there is a gallery of squares.  Clicking on one of these squares immediately brings one to a blog post on the week’s photo challenge.  In other words, the links are so much more visual now.

OK, so here’s what self has lined up for next week:  She will board a plane for London.  She will arrive in London.  She signed up for a tour of Stonehenge, which takes place the day after her arrival.  Jennie Lewis’s new poetry collection, Taking Mesopotamia, is having a reading at the British Museum on April 27, and self has tickets for that.  Then, she’s the guest of Joan McGavin for a few days.  Then she flies to Dublin.  Then she sees FATHER HASLAM, who she hasn’t seen in 20 years.  Father Haslam has asked a fellow priest, Father McCabe, to drive her to the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  She will then be in a self-catering cottage in the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  There is wi-fi, so she will really have to wean herself off Facebook.  Then Penny arrives in Dublin.  Then self clears out of her self-catering cottage and takes a long train trip to Cork, where she’s booked into a magnificent Irish country home that serves four-course dinners every night. Then she loses her passport so she can’t go home and will have to stay another couple of weeks until she gets a new passport.  She’ll live off Irish ale and get fat.  She won’t be able to squeeze into an Economy airplane seat, so she’ll just have to be bumped up to First Class.  She will live happily ever after.

THE END.

3rd Friday of April (2014): Still a Humongous Pile of Stuff (Sigh)

And here we are, another week gone, and yet another issue of The New Yorker pulled from the humongous Pile of Stuff, but this one’s from 2012.

What the — ???

She remembers the story, one by Said Sayrafiezadeh (and no, don’t ever expect her to remember how to spell that name).  That is, she remembers beginning it.  And googling the author.  In the two years between 2012 and now, he’s achieved some measure of success. Having a story published in The New Yorker can do that to you.

The story in this particular issue (January 16, 2012) is called “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy.”

A man volunteers for the army and gets shipped overseas (Country isn’t named. This might be science fiction, for all she knows).  The story begins with his platoon, marching towards a distant hill.  But the man’s mind keeps wandering (as self’s mind would keep wandering, too, if she was ever forced to take a protracted hike.  It wanders when she’s in yoga class, even.  Which is supposed to be pleasurable, with the cool wood floors and the dim lighting and the mood music and the fabulously toned teacher whispering encouragement in dulcet tones.  Where were we? Better get cracking, self, as you have to return a whole pile of books to the library, books you checked out months ago, which you never got around to reading, and probably never will because next week you are going to Ireland)

Anyhoo, if anyone is planning to read this story, then read no further because THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

As the narrator muddles on, he realizes

that I’d come here for all the wrong reasons.  Vanity and pride topped the list.  Girls, too — if I was being completely honest.  In other words, ideals were very low.  Staring at a hilltop that was getting closer and closer, I would have traded all of it never to have to see what was on the other side.

But the inevitable, ineffably boring future arrives:  they take the hill.  And, nothing.  No enemy soldiers, no fortifications.

After we’d discovered nothing is when the boredom set in.  Excruciating boredom.  We’d eat, we’d shower, we’d clean, we’d train.  In that order.  Then we stopped training, because there was no point.  That was about the fifth month.

This story is so good, it’s like Joseph Heller and Kafka, all mixed together.  There is not one instance of bonding between the narrator and his fellow platoon members, so no, this is not the second coming of Tim O’Brien.  But self likes it.  Maybe it’s a little bit like Kobo Abe.  The Woman in the Dunes?  That kind of perplexing (and hopefully never explained) mystery.

A Letter to a Member of Our Armed Forces (80% Redacted)

A Letter to a Member of Our Armed Forces (80% Redacted): In the Story “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy,” by Said Sayrafiezadeh, The New Yorker, January 16, 2012

This is probably the only New Yorker story she’s ever encountered that has an accompanying visual: a letter to our bored soldier, everything redacted except for the salutation and the “xoxo.”  Ha, good one!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Triumph!

Triumph!  Self can finally remove one piece from her humongous, ever-growing, overflowing Pile of Stuff:  The New York Review of Books Mar. 6, 2014 issue.

She read it cover to cover, backwards and forwards.  The only thing she skipped reading were the Letters to the Editor and the Classifieds.

And self was even able to compile a list of the books she is interested in reading (which she will probably get to six or seven years from now:  since the start of the year, her reading rate has sunk to the truly abysmal.  She’s still on the same Jhumpa Lahiri short story she began about 10 days ago)

Without further ado, here are the books self is adding to her reading list:

  • Gabriele d’Annunzio:  Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War, by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (The review, by David Gilmour, makes passing mention of Alberto Moravia’s L’amore coniugale :  Conjugal Love, which self now wants to read)
  • Lina and Serge:  The Love and Wars of Lina Prokofiev, by Simon Morrison (The review, by Orlando Figes, makes passing mention of two other books self is now interested in reading:  The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and The Fiery Angel, by Valery Bryusov)
  • The Missionary’s Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Village, by Henrietta Harrison (The review, by Ian Johnson, makes passing mention of Jesus in Beijing, by former Time journalist David Aiken. BTW, what a fabulous title)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Monument 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

The WordPress Photo Challenge this week is MONUMENT.

Self took a whole lot of pictures when she dropped by the Cantor Arts Center, a couple of weeks ago, on the Stanford University campus.

Rodin’s sculpture of Adam is standing to one side of probably his most favorite work, the Gates of Hell.  But self didn’t have a good picture of the Gates, so she turned to perusing her photo archives.

And she found these from the Miami Holocaust Memorial, which she and The Man visited last November.

Adam:  Rodin Sculpture Garden, Stanford University

Adam: Rodin Sculpture Garden, Stanford University

Holocaust Memorial, South Beach, Miami

Holocaust Memorial, South Beach, Miami

Detail, Holocaust Memorial, South Beach, Miami

Detail, Miami Holocaust Memorial

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

“Look! The Pie!” : Game of Thrones 4.2

No Khaleesi in last night’s episode. Good.  Episodes just get so portentous and clunky when Khaleesi and her dragons put in an appearance, at least they do in self’s humble opinion.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

There was one major character death, some scenes of further Theon Greyjoy degradation (He apparently now sleeps with the hounds), some fluff involving Shea and Tyrion and the much-anticipated Purple Wedding (No, that scene between Tyrion and Shae was more than fluff.  More like Shakesperean tragedy. Ugh, self hated Tyrion’s words. Of course he had to say them.  Is it possible that Tyrion could love Shae any more than he does? But in order to save her life, he had to get her away as far from himself as possible. Tyrion, you are so noble!)

There was more of that slim-hipped bad guy with the neatly trimmed beard.  His partner to the wedding feast looked like she might have stepped out of Return of the Jedi or something. (There was a snippet of him exchanging amorous looks with Sir Loras, one of self’s favorite secondary characters. A promise of intrigue yet to come!)

The scenery was bright, more Mediterranean than United Kingdom.

Cersei was monstrous.  Perhaps even more monstrous than Joffrey.

Self’s favorite line of the night:  “Look!  Here comes the pie!”

Strategic Distraction!  Such a clever girl, Margaery Tyrrell is (Not to mention, her wedding gown was absolutely gorgeous.  The color! The intricate beadwork! The relatively discreet baring of back and front! Sexy but definitely NOT salacious!)

Brienne appeared, plainly garbed in a blue tunic, and Cersei became very hard-eyed.

That scene where Cersei approaches Brienne, and starts making all kinds of nasty insinuations — self loved that the camera gave at least equal attention to Brienne’s face.  And the Maid of Tarth’s face, especially at that moment, and given who she was talking to, just looked so — pure.  Baffled.  Like maybe Brienne was thinking:  What is this woman going on about?  But when Cersei stated (not asked, stated):  “But you love him,” bless her heart, Brienne didn’t even have the good sense to make up a lie.  And at that very moment, with this woman (who wishes her only harm) standing right in front of her, she looks around, and sees — who else?  Jaime Lannister, looking at her and Cersei.  That right there, in self’s humble opinion, was the BIG REVEAL of the night.  Self could feel her heart breaking into a million tiny pieces.  She fervently hopes Brienne’s end doesn’t come in Season 4 because — the FEELZ!

R.I.P. Joffrey.  Your death scene was magnificent.  Jack Gleeson, you did a superb job.  Truly superb.  Self, for one, will truly miss you.

Stay tuned.

2nd Sunday of April (2014): Prokofiev and the Nostalgia of Returning

A new issue of The New York Review of Books has a very poignant essay about the Russian composer Prokofiev and how his decision to return to his native Russia proved so catastrophic, not to himself, but to his first wife, Lina, also a composer.

The two Russian emigrés met in Paris, but “in a way that Lina could not fully understand, he longed to go back to his native land, to renew contact with his childhood friends, with the Russian language, Russian songs.”

Lina had no point of reference for her husband’s longing beyond his sardonic, ill-tempered assessments of his Parisian competition and occasional declarations of weariness with life on the road.  His longing was existential — for a guild of like-minded composers, a support network, the inspiration that direct access to Russian culture, of the distant and recent past, had given him.

“. . .  only in his native land,” Prokofiev felt, “would he be recognized as Russia’s greatest living composer . . . At a time when interest in his music was declining in the West, he was seduced by the lucrative commissions he received from the Soviets for operas, ballets, and film scores, and . . . ” convinced himself that “to rescue his career as a theatrical composer, he needed to shift his sphere of operations from Paris to Moscow.”  There were danger signals about the Soviet regime’s tolerance for artists, but Prokofiev “thought his music was above all that.”

To make a long story short, he returned to Moscow with Lina, and at first they were treated like celebrities:  “He had a blue Ford imported from America and a chauffeur.”

Anyhoo, the move was hard on Lina and put a strain on their marriage.  Prokofiev left her and their two young sons for a much younger mistress, and during the war Lina and her children were left to fend for themselves.

The story becomes sadder when Lina was arrested, taken to Lefortovo prison, and tortured.

But, upon her release in 1956, she still served as a kind of cultural ambassador for Prokofiev, “donating papers to archives” and attending his concerts:  And never once did she mention her own ordeal in the camps — and what it cost her to survive.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Monument 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Hong Kong, monument to the Chinese money-making instinct:  Summer 2006 (Last Trip to Asia with Sole Fruit of Her Loins)

Hong Kong, monument to the Chinese money-making instinct: Summer 2006 (Last Trip to Asia with Sole Fruit of Her Loins)

The Golden Gate Bridge:  View From Land's End, San Francisco:  December 2008

The Golden Gate Bridge: View From Land’s End, San Francisco: December 2008

The Layout of Stonehenge: Diagram From SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson. Self has always been fascinated by the abiding mystery of these stones.  She even used the monument in a short story that got published in Wigleaf ("Stonehenge/Pacifica")

The Layout of Stonehenge: Diagram From SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson. Self has always been fascinated by the abiding mystery of these stones. She even used the monument in a short story that got published in Wigleaf in 2008:  “Stonehenge/Pacifica”

Excerpt, “Stonehenge/Pacifica” published in Wigleaf (1/11/2012):

It was a dream I had, some restless night.  One of those weeks or months or years when we were worried about money.

But when were we ever not worried?

First there was the mortgage, and then the two.

And then your mother got sick, and your father died.

You can read the story in its entirety, here.

Right after posting this, self decided to book herself a tour of Stonehenge.  An evening tour of Stonehenge, not one of the day tours that take in multiple sites, with Stonehenge thrown in.  That’s on April 26. She has to find a way to get to Salisbury, where the tour starts.  The tour starts in the evening, though, so she has almost the whole of the 26th to figure out how to get there.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Monument: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

The Daily Post has a completely new look.  Self was mighty confused because she received no advance warning.

It’s a maroon color theme.

As usual, self gets ahead of herself.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is MONUMENT.  Herewith, three photographs representing three of the places she has traveled to in 2012 and 2013:

The Venetian Lion:  San Marco Square, April 2013

The Venetian Lion: San Marco Square, April 2013

Cathedral of Sacre Coeur:  Paris, July 2012

Cathedral of Sacre Coeur: Paris, July 2012

The Golden Temple:  Amritsar, Punjab, January 2012

The Golden Temple: Amritsar, Punjab, January 2012

 

Spawn of THE HUNGER GAMES

Self can hardly wait for Sunday night, when she and The Man will be riveted to the HDTV for Game of Thrones 4.2  Mebbe Yara Greyjoy will put in an appearance, finally?  Could we have more of the Brienne/Jaime interaction, please?  Mebbe Tyrion and Joffrey do a little arm-wrestling?  Mebbe Jaime Lannister feels in the mood for another bath?  Mebbe Jon Snow undergoes an inititiation ceremony requiring — another bath?  Mebbe Khaleesi also feels in the mood for a bath, like the one last season where Daario surprised a malevolent intruder and offered his sword and everything that entails to naked-in-the-tub Khaleesi?  Does Sansa end up running away with Littlefinger?  When is the Purple Wedding?  Hopefully, not too soon.  The show would lose a tremendously rousing villain in Joffrey.

Anyhoo, self is as usual on her fanfiction.net site.  It’s just so great that there are also authors who do the Brienne/Jaime shipping and write fabulous fan fiction about this pair.

But nothing so far has dislodged her devotion to The Hunger Games match-ups.  Peeta/Katniss is still her favorite (Though, self must admit, Four as played by Theo James is pretty delectable. She’ll hunt up Divergent fan fiction shortly).

This morning, the fan fiction she’s reading has an arena:  Prim has volunteered to take Katniss’s place in the Reaping, because Katniss is preggers with Gale’s baby.  Peeta gets reaped per usual.

There is an eye-watering scene (Angst to the nth power) where Peeta swears (on national television) that he’ll do everything in his power to send Prim home.

So, from the very first scene in the arena, while everyone else starts running for cover away from the Careers and the Cornucopia, Peeta stops to pick up an exceedingly bulky backpack.  Then he follows Prim (and her ally Rue) to the shelter of the forest.  But the girls get separated from Peeta because even though they are using the four-note Mockingjay signal to alert him to where they are, Peeta doesn’t know how to whistle back.  That is, he is terribly out of tune.  So the girls and Peeta wander around, looking for each other.

Then the Game-makers start a huge forest fire.  Then Peeta gets horribly burned but still carries the bulky backpack.  Then the girls find Peeta, who’s passed out.  Then Prim attempts to heal his burns.  They open his backpack, and discover the following items:

  • several packs of dried beef and fruit
  • a few packs of hard crackers
  • three grain-and-nut bars
  • a bag of walnuts and a bag of almonds
  • several thin protein bars
  • two dried sausages
  • a hunk of cheese
  • three cans of soup with pull-tab lids
  • a box of tea (What need there would be for tea in the arena is — well, never mind)
  • a “largish” bag of rice
  • a blanket
  • some rope
  • a cooking pot
  • a sewing kit
  • and, at the very very bottom of the backpack, a medical kit

YAY!  YAY!  YAY!  Which means Peeta will live — for at least another day!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

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