Saturday, Day of Mother of All Barbecues

Slept at 2 because self was marinating latest batch of rib-eyes for today’s barbecue.

Woke up 7:30 because dogs yapping to be let out — usually let them out at 5 AM, little crits must have sensed something was amiss.

Still bleary, but possess enough presence of mind to crawl to where son has left laptop — in his favorite nesting place, on sofa in front of TV.

This morning, on Good Morning America Weekend Edition, see eight people solemnly gathered around a circular table piled high with all manner of tempting items: angel food cake, brownies, gummy bears, lemon bars, apple pies, etc. etc. Banner at bottom of screen announces: Anti-Sweet Chewing Gum. Sure enough, all eight individuals are chewing. Chewing and looking at the table, arms firmly affixed to sides. Switch to interview with inventor of said chewing gum. Interviewer says, “Gum tastes awful!” Interviewee says that is precisely the point; nothing tastes good after chewing said gum, not even sweets. See, it’s a matter of conditioning. Here we arrive at the matter of Pavlov’s dog again (said dog has been entering self’s thoughts very much of late).

Interview starts chain reaction of thoughts in my head.

Casting mind back over wreckage of the week, the week AFTER self’s last class at xxxx community college (until April 9, that is) when, instead of relaxing, concentrating on self’s writing, self spent time running to and fro and acting generally demented.

Well, yesterday was not half bad. Was even pretty good. Stay tuned for mother of all barbecues, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

Week in Review

Weekend is upon us. Does not feel like a weekend since tomorrow we are having “mother of all barbecues.”

Tomorrow night, son drives back to Cal Poly, still disgruntled at hubby and self’s adamant refusal to fork over $1500 for new laptop. (What? Son, you mean the HP desktop we got you for freshman year is already outré? And you’re not happy with your mum treating you to lunch Tuesday and yesterday? And doing your laundry? And washing your dishes?)

Wednesday night, Dearest Mum departs for Philippines, but is shortly to return, for wedding of the year — son of Fave Tito is getting married June 2 in New York. It promises to be social occasion of decade. Hubby and self opt not to attend, everyone disses us behind our backs.

Dearest Mum blah- blahing about great pants she has bought for self from Nordstrom’s Rack. Showed up yesterday around dinnertime, insisted I disrobe in front of her, tugging sweater and jeans helpfully to hurry self up (She always told people self was soooo clumsy), glances admiringly at self’s tummy folds. “I’m fat now,” self says, unnecessarily. Dearest Mum says I must wear tight clothes so that I will be so embarrassed by my fat-ness I will diet. I feel like saying, after she leaves I will magically shed 10 lbs. because I will no longer be indulging in stress-eating.

Anyway, home alone, parked in front of flat-screen HDTV, munching on petite brownies from Costco (purchased for tomorrow’s big shebang, but in moments of stress — ’nuff said). Still need to find containers for six more rib-eyes, no more room in fridge, dog hair all over the place, paint peeling, student papers scattered over dining room table, modem wires and electric cords tangled over sofa, where son left them since appropriating my laptop to play his games.

Let’s see, what *nice* things have happened to me this week?

Hmmm… bought cute little pair of booties for sister-in-law Ying, who’s expecting baby girl in a week. Found embossed silver business card holder at Edwards Luggage in Stanford Shopping Center (Dearest Mum paid, so shopping was not complete wash). Read over proof of story which is coming out soon in Sou’wester. Heard from Zack.

Women Writers class, I found, has only SIX sign-ups, so is pretty much dead in the water. Other class, which Dean asked me to teach at the last minute, has 30. That class meets 8 AM — aaargh.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

PAGTATAGPO: A Filipino Writers Summit

The Filipino and Philippine Literature Program at the University of Hawaii – Manoa presents:

Pagtatagpo: A Filipino Writers Summit
Thursday, April 12, 2007
2 – 5 PM
Queen Liliuokalani Student Service Center, Rm. 412
(For more information, please contact Dr. Ruth Mabanglo: mabanglo@hawaii.edu)

Featuring:

Ma. Josephine Barrios
R. Zamora Linmark
Ninotchka Rosca
Michelle Cruz Skinner
Francis Tanglao- Aguas
Marianne Villanueva

and

Local writers from Hawai’i
Katipunan Literary Journal Contributors

Sponsored by the Center for Philippine Studies; the Center for Southeast Asian Studies; the College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literatures; Department of English

Quotes of the Day: GERARD BUTLER

Know, dear blog reader, that today I have decided to stay home. And stuff my face with tostada chips (the last of four bags son brought home with him from Cal Poly). And respond to student queries (Most frequent: What’s my grade? This even before they have turned in final research paper and final exam). And put aside The New Yorker in favor of the deathless prose of Marie Claire.

Last month’s issue has a picture of Gerard Butler, who I honestly did not recognize because he was clothed, but know I am not mistaken because article’s title is: Two Minute Date: GERARD BUTLER.

Because I know dear blog reader is thrilled to bits to read anything new about said star of 300, have culled two excellent passages from the very short (only four paragraphs long) article:

Quote # 1:

    “The first day, when I had to put on the leather thong and walk through the crew . . . all these guys stopped chewing their sandwiches, with bits of egg and tuna hanging out of their mouths. I was thinking, Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

Quote # 2:

    On the subject of Butler’s “Scottish lilt”: “… the manly burr came in handy while he was playing Leonidas: “There’s nobody tougher than the Spartans,” Butler says. “I didn’t want to be shouting things like ‘Spartans, tonight we dine in hell’ in an English accent.

Some Things I Have Learned From Going Around Yesterday With Dearest Mum

She uses Clarins but is open to trying new things, as witness half-hour spent at La Mer counter in Neiman-Marcus.

Her doctor (Doctora Uy) loves antiques.

Niece Blanca is turning 13 and needs training bras (Very disappointing that Victoria’s Secret does not carry).

Dearest Mum loves milkshakes! (Finished almost foot-high glass of “extra-thick” strawberry milkshake at Peninsula Creamery in Stanford Shopping Center)

Dearest Mum loves hubby’s steaks! (Kept asking for “a little more” at dinner last night, then ended up inviting Fave Tito, Fave Tita and all their children and grandchildren — I’d say about 20 people — to our house for hubby to barbecue for, this Saturday)

Dearest Mum has forgotten that we were supposed to go to Carmel this Saturday, as son is returning to Cal Poly and the plan was to accompany him part of the way down.

Dearest Mum always professes interest in books self is reading, provided her with three at start of her trip, she returned all to me last night, unread.

Edwards Luggage has very nice business card holders. The ones from Italy are $35 each.

Tiffany sells a silver crucifix on a thin chain, perfect for a 13-year-old, only $150 (also, sterling silver bracelet with a heart — $195)

Papyrus sells very nice lined journals, also perfect for a 13-year-old: $12.95. Also sells Crane’s stationery, but no open stock.

Neiman Marcus no longer carries stationery or playing cards. There are some very beautiful porcelain fishes on the third floor, next to cafe: $495 each.

Dearest Mum thinks Bebe store is nice.

Dearest Mum has a “lucky” green lizardskin wallet, which she says she will bequeath to me at end of her trip, if she remembers. Self inquires (dense) why wallet is lucky; Dearest Mum winks, whispers: “Because it is always full of cash.”

Rome Requiem

Well, Rome the series is over. Last episode was almost low-key. No wild and over-the-top liaisons, no torture scenes, no vituperative language (or hardly any, anyway). In place of aforementioned, lots of mewling (by Cleopatra, Marc Antony). Son, who watched replay with us last week, declares it is kibbosh: “Cleopatra was a strong woman, nothing like that whiner!” Well, had to admit, on second viewing, quite a number of scenes with Cleo clutching stomach, falling on floor, etc. etc.

Anyway, Marc Antony (of course) dies. Cleopatra has deliciously tacky death scene in which she has to make up her mind between death by belladonna and death by asp, decides on asp because it is quick (“no more than 40 breaths”, provider of asp swore, but dear Cleo still alive and able to curse Octavian when he enters her palace with his soldiers the next morning).

Atia survives but the late Servilia’s curse, that she eat nothing “but ashes and iron” seems to have become self-fulfilling prophecy.

Octavian now emperor; if history books are to be believed, had a long and illustrious reign.

Best scene in last night’s episode, IMHO, was the coronation. No, not because of the pomp and gathered assemblage, but because camera focused on intimate details, such as Octavia catching the eye of Marcus Agrippa; Atia looking around at the gathered crowd, all her sadness and loneliness seeping from her eyes.

Lucius Vorenus died. He lasted a whole month in the back of a wooden cart while faithful Pullo trekked (with little Caesarion in tow) from Egypt to Rome, just so that his old friend could see his children before he died.

And guess who turned out to be the REAL father of little Caesarion. No, of course not Julius Caesar. Let me give you a hint, dear blog reader: it’s one of the two truly comic characters in this vast and richly hued canvas. One of those two friends, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. You try and guess which one.

Now self will have to find another way to fill in Sunday nights, was so totally addicted to Rome’s weekly dose of history and intrigue. There is always, of course, good old Battlestar Galactica, which, in its latest season, is dark, dark, dark, and seems to be making increasingly pointed political commentary about current events.

Of course, there will be other occasions to watch such fine actors as Polly Walker (Atia), James Purefoy (Marc Antony), Kevin McKidd (Lucius Vorenus), and Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo). But they won’t be in Rome, and things just won’t be the same.

Who, who was my favorite character of the whole series? Well, Lindsay Duncan was damn magnetic as Servilia, and I was truly sorry to see her go. Brutus was not bad. Octavian’s just a stick (sometimes I thought I preferred little young Octavian, the Doogie Howser look-alike). Titus Pullo was amusing. Lucius Vorenus was flawed and heroic. Cleopatra made my hackles rise (That ick-y voice! Those boobs always on display!)

But my favorite characters have to be the mother-daughter team played by Polly Walker and Kerry Condon. I’ve never seen such a magnetic duo in my entire life. In the end, I felt, Rome was about the women. Particularly these two women.

This Afternoon in the Bayanihan Center

Well, as dear blog readers know, have terrible insomnia, so was awake at 2 AM and wrote e-mails (lots) until was too groggy to go any further, and napped a little bit before having to get up for the day. What this meant was, had terrible eyebags and this was the day I had to go to the City to participate in Literary Salon: Lamon at Bisyo.

Was really worried that I had nothing to read, and briefly toyed with the idea of backing out. But, figured, I should at least read something, even if unrelated to the theme. (Why do I suffer from such qualms? I should just grab the opportunity by the throat and wring every last vestige of life out of it …)

Decided to park in the Fourth & Mission garage, because was considering going to the Museum of Modern Art after the panel. Today was noticeably cooler than yesterday; saw usual assortment of drunks and homeless people walking along Mission. Asian man scattered buckets of lysol right in front of me on the sidewalk, too late to avoid, shoes received plentiful dose of lysol from wet pavement, imagined myself walking into Bayanihan Center and everyone sniffing.

Met a fellow writer named Philip, one of the writers presenting, and we talked about manuscripts and such. I had brought 120 pages; not that I planned to read them all, of course not. But I figured, I’d see what the others were reading, and then was sure I could find something in those 120 pages that would fit.

Which was exactly what transpired.

We all sat in a circle, JT in the middle. He began by asking me to share with the group what I had found in my research on “vice, excess, gluttony”. I told him that it wasn’t exactly research; all I did was google “vice, excess, and gluttony.”

“So?” JT said. “What did you come up with?”

I came up with a site from the Newman Center; explained to the group that I hadn’t realized until just then that the writer of the article I found was a priest, the Reverend something-something. At which, group got into a very curious discussion of whether the word “Reverend” belonged to a Protestant, possibly Evangelical clergy member, or to a Catholic.

“The Newman Center’s Catholic,” I said (at the same time wondering, how did we get here?)

So, anyway, read my little paragraph about the five kinds of gluttony, which I will now share with you, loyal blog readers:

The first kind of gluttony is being overly picky about the food you are served. An example of this would be my son, I said (recalling times when son would have nothing else to eat except McDonald’s happy meals; this, of course, was before the movie Supersize Me showed us all how people who eat Big Macs regularly eventually develop heart disease. Naturally, I mentioned none of these reminiscences, which were then flashing through my mind with surprising rapidity, brain on overdrive — must be the tension! — all synapses firing away).

The second kind of gluttony is being overly fussy about how food is prepared, I continued. An example of this would be my husband, who once, when I asked him to beat a couple of eggs for a dish I was making, insisted he could only do it if I found him a wire whisk.

The third kind of gluttony is overeating, and the guilty party is myself.

The fourth kind of gluttony is eating at inappropriate times. Hmmm, I thought, this would apply to my students, who constantly come to my class with all sorts of brown bag food, even, sometimes, Happy Meals.

And the last kind of gluttony, I told the audience, (who were extremely silent, perhaps in amazement at my erudition — if self had known I’d be delivering the gluttony lecture, would at least have taken notes as I read!) is wolfing one’s food, uncouth table manners due to over-intense involvement with the food.

Dear blog reader, it is a miracle that I even uttered the above with calm and equanimity, and made out as though I had spent days and days researching the topic, when all I did was google, five minutes before leaving the house. So, anyway, was relieved when JT called on Lolan Sevilla to read, and her piece was from her chapbook. Before she started to read, Lolan asked audience to tell her whether they wanted to hear about sex or gambling. Majority wanted to hear about sex, so Lolan read an extremely intense, lyrical piece about having sex with another woman.

And so forth and so on, each reader bringing to the fore examples of scintillating writing about various excesses, though I believe hands-down champ has to be JT, who deliverd the raunchiest reading ears have ever yet encountered, complete with hand gestures. JT, you’re such a card! It is really strange for me to listen to readings about sex when I am in a room surrounded by other people. (Can’t help wondering if we all have the same scenario playing in our minds. Probably — aren’t writers constantly visualizing? Unfortunately, not comfortable enough with the rest of the audience to want to imagine what they must be visualizing — or maybe not visualizing — perhaps it is only I who can’t help imagining eruption of bodily fluids, extreme nakedness, extreme physical activity among sheets or on the floor, etc. etc.)

Afterwards, we all helpfully trundled our folding chairs to a small back room, and grabbed whatever we could of the food that was left over from the reception. I was lucky enough to snag an unopened bag of shrimp chips, which I managed to finish even before getting home, with one hand on steering wheel and the other firmly imbedded (that word again!) in bag of shrimp chips next to me on passenger seat.

Example of Gluttony # 5: There are indeed some people who just can’t seem to maintain equilibrium without having something in their mouths all the time

NYTBR Mar. 25, 2007

Another gorgeous afternoon. And pretty soon it’ll be summer :-)

Just back from the City, the afternoon literary salon at Bayanihan Center where, halfway through Lolan Sevilla’s reading, a very large group of students (from Stanford, someone said) shuffled in. It was a nice, laid back crowd, though everyone seemed too shy to ask questions. Stole away with a bag of Dandy’s Shrimp Chips, and munched it in the car all the way home.

Here’s a list of books I am interested in reading (after perusing the Mar. 25, 2007 issue of The New York Times Book Review):

(1) After reading Sarah Fay’s review of Daniel Alarcon‘s Lost City Radio:

Daniel Alarcon’s Lost City Radio

(2) After reading Tara McKelvy’s review of Rene Denfield‘s All God’s Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families:

A previous book of Rene Denfield’s, The New Victorians: A Young Woman’s Challenge to the Old Feminist Order; and All God’s Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families

(3) After reading Rob Nixon’s review of Dinaw Mengestu‘s first novel, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears:

Dinaw Mengestu’s The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears

(4) After reading Ligaya Mishan’s review of Natalie Danford’s first novel, Inheritance:

Natalie Danford’s Inheritance

(5) After reading the end-paper essay by Erica Wagner, “Call Me, Ishmael”:

The Odyssey
Robinson Crusoe
and Paul Auster‘s City of Glass

A Couple of Upcoming Readings

(1) This afternoon:

KULARTS, in association with Bayanihan Community Center
presents
BRONZE LIT – Lamon at Bisyo
Reading series celebrating vices & gluttony in Pilipino American literature

curated by Joël Barraquiel Tan
Gluttony, vice, & art. Joel Barraquiel Tan hosts a merienda salon of writers celebrating sex, drugs, food, gambling, & cigarettes. Hear new work and join us in a raucous conversation with Marianne Villanueva, Jaime Jacinto, Lolan Sevilla, Phil Huang, Cicely Sweed, & Dennis Somera.

12-2:30pm, Sunday, March 25, 2007
Bayanihan Community Center
1010 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94103

(2) Thursday, April 5: LAURIE OKUMA MEMORIAL READING

Marianne Villanueva, author of the short story collections, GINSENG AND OTHER TALES FROM MANILA (Calyx Press) and MAYOR OF THE ROSES: STORIES (Miami University Press) will be delivering this spring’s Laurie Okuma Memorial Reading at San Diego State University

Thursday, Apr. 5, 2007
7 PM
Malcolm A. Love Library
Rm. 2203
San Diego State University
FREE and open to the public
For more information, contact Victoria Featherstone at vfeatherstone@earthlink.net

(3) Thursday, April 12: PAGTATAGPO, A Filipino Writers Summit

A Panel Discussion/ Reading with Marianne Villanueva, Ma. Josephine Barrios, R. Zamora Linmark, Ninotchka Rosca, Michelle Cruz Skinner and Francis Tanglao-Aguas

Thursday, Apr. 12, 2007
2 – 5 PM
University of Hawaii at Manoa
FREE and open to the public
For more information, contact Prof. Ruth Mabanglo at mabanglo@hawaii.edu

One-Sentence Movie Reviews from Esteemed New Yorker

This evening, since self is tired of waiting for beloved son to put in an appearance (has been in vicinity since 4 PM but declined to come home immediately), am passing the time by perusing capsule movie reviews in The New Yorker. Here are a couple of opening sentences. D. D. is David Denby; Self doesn’t know who R. B. or B. D. are. And Ken Marks is, well, Ken Marks:

Amazing Grace: Square, but stirring. (D. D.)

Black Snake Moan: An intermittently engrossing but sanctimonious mess. (R. B.)

I Think I Love My Wife: A missed opportunity. (R. B.)

Reno 911! Miami: Frickin’ hilarious. (Ken Marks)

Also, a few observations about up-and-coming actors:

In a review of Starter For 10, reviewer B. D. describes James McAvoy as having “the nervous energy of a young Dustin Hoffman” (which, strenuously disagree, as JM is ever so much better-looking and more soulful than Dustin)

In a review of Amazing Grace, D. D. describes Romola Garai as “a Gainsborough beauty with a luxurious pile of red hair and an exposed pale bosom.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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