Quote of the Day: Spaghetti Redux

Because we all need a break sometime, and because Zack just told me that the Exalted One was hanging out at the University of Hawaii at Manoa last week . . .

From “The Year of Spaghetti”, by Haruki Murakami, in the Nov. 21, 2005 issue of The New Yorker

Spring, summer, and fall, I cooked and cooked, as if cooking spaghetti were an act of revenge. Like a lonely, jilted girl throwing old love letters into the fireplace, I tossed one handful of spaghetti after another into the pot.

I’d gather up the trampled-down shadows of time, knead them into the shape of a German shepherd, toss them into the roiling water, and sprinkle them with salt. Then I’d hover over the pot, oversized chopsticks in hand, until the timer dinged its plaintive note.

And, now, I end.

(What? That’s it?, loyal blog readers might exclaim. What, you expect self to keep blogging, when self is already late for a dental appointment? Self would have you know, she has a life: a life wherein she works and grades papers and waits for calls from Dearest Mum and watches endless hours of Food Network TV and peruses old New Yorkers for edification of blog readers. Sometimes self imagines blog is like the hungry maw of a gigantic whale, always cruising for more seaweed or baleen or what-have-you. Or perhaps self meant to say that blog reminds her of a shark, one of those predatory hungry creatures, always lurking, waiting for the next blood meal or offering from self’s weary keyboard-tapping fingers . . . )

Reading for the Day: New York Times Saturday, 28 April 2007

April 27, Tokyo —

In two landmark rulings, Japan’s highest court on Friday rejected compensation claims filed by former wartime sex slaves and forced laborers from China but acknowledged that they had been coerced by the Japanese military or industry.

The decisions were handed down as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tried to head off a resolution on Japan’s wartime sex slavery in the House of Representatives during a two-day visit to Washington.

It was the first time that the Supreme Court has ruled on lawsuits by Japan’s mostly Chinese and Korean captives during World War II, effectively quashing dozens of similar cases that have been working their way through the lower courts in recent years.

The court said in both cases that the Chinese plaintiffs had lost their rights to seek individual legal claims against the Japanese government and companies because of a 1972 joint statement in which Beijing renounced war reparations from Japan, a decision supporting the government’s position that postwar agreements cleared Japan of responsibility for future individual claims.

China’s Foreign Ministry denounced the rulings, describing them as “illegal and invalid” and calling the court’s interpretation of the 1972 statement as “arbitrary.”

* * * * * *

But in a striking rebuke to nationalist politicians who have tried to play down Japan’s wartime crimes, the court acknowledged the historical facts of sex slavery and forced labor, two practices that continue to fuel anger in Asia six decades after the war’s end.

In its 16-page ruling in a sex slavery case, the court acknowledged that Japanese soldiers had abducted two teenage Chinese girls and forced them to work as sex slaves for months, contradicting Mr. Abe’s recent denial of the practice.

* * * * * *

A PLEA FROM EVELINA GALANG:

I’ve been working with the 121 Coalition who are private citizens across the country — mostly Asian American — and predominantly Korean American. Out of 40 or so members, I am the only Filipina working with them. One of the coalition’s mission is to do a serious out reach to the Filipino American community. HELP!

Right now, we need to get 20 sponsors to support House Res 121. The coalition recognizes that they need the Filipino American community to push this issue into high gear — and not too soon for so many of the lolas have already died. We especially need the FIL AM community in Northern Cali to step up and write LANTOS and PELOSI. Daly City is in Lantos’ district. These two congress people are key and then need to have constituents bombarding their email — they need Fil AM email.

So here’s what will help me lead this:

1. I need you guys to use the power of your words and educate your communities through those poems and stories you write, through the lectures and readings you give and through the teaching you do. You are all mentors with access to students. You are all on the road reading and promoting words. Please spread the word and encourage your community to write to your congress person and to sign the petition.

NOTE: When your community has a lot of people writing your congress person and you share that with the coalition, let them know and they will send a representative to that Congressperson’s office to speak directly to him or her on your community’s behalf. So write your congressperson!

2. The coalition invites Filipino American organizations and activists groups to join the coalition. If we want to represent the lolas, we’ve got to be a presence in the coalition. We need sponsors and donors and advocates from the Filipino American community. Your groups can and must educate your members. Do you get the sense the Filipino America knows their lolas are 1000 of the 200,000 abducted and placed into sexual military garrisons? My guess is no. So we need community support to represent and spread the word. I’m pushing to get the images of the lolas into the news coverage so that our community can see and identify with our beloved lolas. We’re cutting a mini doc this week about the story of Lola Dolor Molina for YouTube distribution. When it’s out, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, can you send me the names of groups with contact information and leadership. I will personally call these groups to get them invested. Some places to consider: Filipino American Medical groups and alums of UST, UP and other Philippine universities, organizations who are fighting for the FIL AM Vets — these women are of the same generation as the manongs. The men and women of WWII are our elders and it seems like a good time to support the men and women together. College and youth organizations and collectives are also good resources. At conferences and readings, it seems the college students are inspired by these great women and are willing to act. Facebook has been a good resource and put me in touch with many activist students. Send me names and contact info or make the initial contact for me and I can follow up.

3. You. I invite you to join the coalition with me. Perhaps you can be a contact for your city. I am so grateful for the help many of you have already extended, and I can use your help to educate the FIL Am community at large by email blasts, phone calls, articles, spoken word events. Last week we had a DIE IN at UM for Amnesty International and during the DIE IN several of the students read short testimonies of the lolas … During that time students tabled and got another 90 plus signatures on the petition. Maybe there are poets and spoken word artists interested in having a READ IN of sorts …

4. Publishing venues. If you are an editor or have access to publications who want and need articles and stories on the Comfort Women — especially Filipina Comfort Women — please send me their names and contact info.

So this note is an update, but it’s also an invitation. Much of the country is under the impression that Comfort Women were Korean women … They don’t realize all the other nationalities that were also abducted and abused. The Lolas are getting lost in the media shuffle because the Korean Comfort Women are so present and they are present because their community is backing them up. Well, I’m sure that once our community is aware, we can support the lolas too. We work best when we’re working together. Let’s work together.

Thanks and if you have any great ideas or ways of offering your talent and time, I welcome you to join me.

Salamat,

Evelina
Labanforthelolas.blogspot.com

(Last) April Weekend: Gardening, “Pretty Woman”, and Three Calls

Aaaargh! Missed Ebert & Roeper! Because hubby too engrossed in watching Pretty Woman (his third best movie of all time, after Gladiator and Master & Commander) — !!

Must admit Julia Roberts looks really really pretty in this one, and Richard Gere is not bad himself, and isn’t that Laura San Giacomo playing Julia’s best friend/hooker — good heavens, am reminded that self hasn’t seen her in ages, am remembering when she’d just made Sex, Lies and Videotape and was being touted as next “hot” thing . . .

Oh well, nothing is perfect. Today did much gardening, much spreading of compost, though still worried about clematis “henryii”, as leaves are still turning yellow and browning (perhaps Wegman’s guy was right when he told self on Friday: Nothing in your garden needs to be watered every day).

There were two — no, three — calls today. The first, 9:25 AM, from Bank of America, a “fraud alert”, reporting suspicious activity on Dearest Mum’s ATM card. Hubby reacts with immediate panic, thinks self should call Dearest Mum immediately, but self tells him it is only a little past midnight in Manila, and Dearest Mum hates getting calls in the middle of the night.

Next call, Margie K. Her father, who was self’s “host family” when self was a foreign student at Stanford, “has passed.” Those were the exact words she used: My father has passed.

Out of the blue, self decided to visit him a few months ago. Had not seen him in perhaps six or seven years, and, on a whim, dropped by bearing pictures of son at Cal Poly. Then he was hale and hearty and alert and all self could think of now was, Thank God I saw him, Thank God I saw him.

Last summer, self was very busy trundling son all over Hong Kong, Bacolod, Palawan (part of his education, after all!) Self and son had many, many adventures, which perhaps he or self will write about some day. In Bacolod, self dragged son to see cousin Manang D who was very sick, confined to a bed, and connected to oxygen tank. Manang D smiled and rolled her eyes in recognition at us, though was unable to speak. Two days after we returned to Manila, got the call: she had passed away. One of my uncles in Bacolod said: Thank God you got to see her just before she passed.

Which, now that self thinks about it, are the exact same words running through self’s head this morning. Perhaps — oh God — self is developing a kind of “sixth sense” about such things? Eeeek !!!

Third call was son. FINALLY!! Said he was just calling to say “hi” (since self had left him so many messages the last week). “Son,” self asked, “Are you really going to graduate next year? You aren’t, are you?” And he said (suddenly am reminded that son is the master of diplomacy — !) “I might, I might.”

Then, asked if he would like to go around Asia with me for a month, maybe Hong Kong again, my brother’s fab apartment. “What, this summer?” son asked. “No, no,” self said. “This summer I’m going to be in Virginia, remember? I meant, next summer, because I have to plan, save up . . . “

“We’ll see,” son says.

Hand the phone to hubby. Hubby surprises self by asking son about his courses. Apparently, has checked on son’s registration on-line (!!). And he asks what “A Sci” stands for. Son replies, “Animal nutrition.” Hubby says, “Oh, I thought it was some kind of astronomy class or something.”

Animal nutrition??? Is son planning to turn into an animal psychologist? (Self is so confused: when son started at Cal Poly, was in Chemistry. Then, Biochemistry. Last year, Psychology. And now, now — but, perish the thought! Must focus!)

Luckily, self manages to hold tongue.

When finally do reach Dearest Mum in Manila, tell her of “fraud alert”, her first response is typical: CALL THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR’S WIFE.

“What?” self inquires (confounded as usual, by the strange workings of Dearest Mum’s mind). “Why? What can she do? She doesn’t have access to your account! You are the only one who can call!”

Finally convince DM she must call Bank of America number.

After a few minutes, she calls back, but self has gone to Safeway. When self returns home, message from Dearest Mum on machine: listen to her voice breathlessly saying, “Call me back as soon as you get this message!”

When self returns her call, Dearest Mum says, “Well, I managed to get hold of someone, but he didn’t believe I was who I said I was!”

“What?” self responds, practically shrieking. “What did you tell him?”

“Well, I got my mom’s maiden name right,” DM says, “but he said the three-digit number I gave him was wrong.”

“Why? What number did you give him?” self inquires.

“The number. You know! The three-digit number!”

“I know, but WHERE did you get the number from? From your checkbook?”

“No, it’s, you know, my three-digit number!”

“Mom, WHERE did that three-digit number come from?”

Aaargh, aaargh, self is going craaaazy.

Finally, get it out of her: Dearest Mum gave B of A guy her PIN number.

“Mom, isn’t that number FOUR digits?”

“Ooooh,” Dearest Mum whispers.

“Ok,” self tells her. “Turn over your ATM card. To the side where your signature is. Do you see any numbers on top of your signature?”

“Well,” Dearest Mum says, “I see 1 – 800 – “

“No! Not the Customer Service number! I mean, isn’t there another number there?”

And Dearest Mum insists: no, no, there is no other number on the back of her ATM card.

So, self tells her to take the ATM card, and bring it to sister-in-law Ying (who has just had baby, must be very busy, but surely she can find number). And now, am in dire suspense, waiting for news. Feel like calling sister-in-law, but wait, doesn’t self still have a pile of papers to grade? And an 8 AM class tomorrow?

Decide must forebear any further involvement in this issue, have enough problems of my own.

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Saturday Afternoon, Menlo Park

It was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon (but not yet the most gorgeous day so far . . . ). Lavalady said to go see The Lives of Others, so we went. On the way there, noticed old theater (Park) on El Camino between Valparaiso and Oak Grove still boarded up, wondered what was up with that : this was the theater where, when son was in fifth or sixth grade, he and self first met animé (courtesy of Princess Mononoke, the uncut version). Passed afterwards, store where self bought son his first suit (secondhand), for an eighth grade dance. Le Pot Au Feu had closed (other restaurants we loved that have closed recently: Hong Kee Noodle House, Broadway, Redwood City; Sai’s, Laurel Street, San Carlos) and, we noted, had been replaced by a Turkish restaurant. Trellis was still there. So were old favorites Su Hong and Applewood’s Pizza (where self once met Sam Chang for dinner, oh so many many moons ago, when she still lived in Menlo Park).

Parked around corner from Guild, decided to forego $4 popcorn. All members of audience elderly (a decade or two older than us), thought that was funny as all movie previews seemed aimed at younger market, even the supposedly “indie” ones. Noticed for first time that on either side of movie screen are two huge representations of pearly mollusks, and wondered what was the significance of such.

Movie began: civilian with hunched shoulders being led by armed guard down hallway to interrogation room in some nondescript basement. Movie unfolded gradually, never in the way one would expect. At certain moments, every time seemed about to teeter into sentimentality, pulled back. Loved the last part the most, when main drama has ended, when we have many short scenes separated by subtitles: Four and a half years later, A year later, Two years later. Because, isn’t that what makes a narrative narrative, the sense of the passage of time? Have never seen such shown in a movie quite this way before, self thinks it is part of what makes this movie great.

The faces of all three main actors were marvelous.

Afterwards, to Draeger’s to buy some prosciutto. Driving down Live Oak, remembered # 811, where we lived for two years before son was born. There were still the same plum trees in front of property, which we used to pick every summer, which is why plums are still son’s favorite fruit. Around the corner, the building where Diane and Bob used to live. A little further on, where crazy Casey used to live. Where are his parents now? The dad was a race car driver, his mom opened a clothing store on Santa Cruz Ave., which closed. When we lived there, Menlo Park had its first Connoisseur’s Marketplace, what fun it was to walk a block over and see all the booths.

Then, Draeger’s, hangout of all Saint Raymond and Sacred Heart moms. Asked hubby if we could look around second floor, since self was feeling nostalgic and wanted to see the place where self used to meet son after school, when self still worked full-time at Stanford. Hubby impatient to get home and mow, so had time only for brief look-around: Table displays of colorful pottery, on table by escalator a display of beaded suede satchels.

So, self went home without spending anything (except for $4 for pitted kalamata olives), and on that note of contentment will end this post.

Blissful Saturday

Saturday, oh Saturday, could hardly wait for your arrival, but now that you are here, am looking at almost two-foot-high stack of Women’s Lit journals and final exams that need to be graded by Wednesday. So, where does self’s Saturday go?

Yesterday, watched Disturbia, was treated to rather unappetizing glimpses (even close-ups) of hero Shia LaBeouf’s feet, would much rather have seen more of Carrie Ann Moss, and story was fairly stupid. But, hey, as teen thrillers go, suppose this was not that bad. How could any movie be that bad, with Carrie Ann Moss in it?

A few days ago, appeared in the mail the spring issue of the Stanford East Asian Studies newsletter, which they send to self because self is an alumna of said department, although self never shows her face at any of the events. So here are a few of the events (films and lectures), including one by Edward Shaughnessy at University of Chicago, and all self wants to know is: could this be the same Edward Shaughnessy who was TA in self’s Chinese language courses, who used to chuckle over her translations of stories by Mao Dun? Could this be that (blonde and blue-eyed) Edward Shaugnessy, whose Mandarin slayed all? (Am happy to report that it is, dear blog reader: self googled him and found pic on U of Chicago website)

ALL EVENTS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.

* * * * * *

Japan 1960: Classic Cinema Meets the New Wave
Info: reichert@stanford.edu

May 4 : Akira Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well

Kurosawa’s brilliant reworking of the tale of Hamlet, set in the corridors of power in the Japanese corporate world. Kurosawa intensifies the atmosphere of this tale of revenge by employing the moody lighting, deep-focus black and white photography and oppressive camera angles associated with the classic Hollywood film noir.

May 11 : Kon Ichikawa’s Her Brother

Among the many memorable films produced during 1960, Ichikawa’s stark depiction of a dysfunctional prewar family emerged as the work most praised by critics, awarded the coveted Kinema Jumpo Best Film award for the year. Ichikawa offers a moving yet never cloying story of a sister who cares for her dying brother.

May 18 : Kaneto Shindo’s The Island

Pursuing an artistic dream, Shindo produced this unique cinematic poem with his own money. Without dialogue, the film depicts the endless struggles of a farming family to subsist on a small island in the Inland Sea.

May 25 : Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Autumn

One of Ozu’s last masterpieces, this film revisits the familiar theme of a widowed parent trying to convince a sheltered daughter to leave the nest and marry. Exhibiting a lighter touch than his earlier treatments of this issue, Ozu enlivens the scenario with a trio of meddling middle-aged men who all carry a torch for the widowed mother.

June 1 : Shohei Imamura’s Hogs and Battleships

Known for his appreciation of the messy side of life, Imamura explores the underbelly of Japanese postwar society in this film. Specifically, he considers the corrupting effects of the U.S. – Japanese relationship from the perspective of the gangsters and prostitutes who cater to the needs of US sailors stationed in Japan. The film climaxes with a bravura scene in which Imamura has a pack of pigs rampage through the streets of Yokosuka.

* * * * * *

CHINA TALKS
Info: lydiac@stanford.edu

May 8 : 12 – 1:15 PM
Andrew Walder, Professor of Sociology, Stanford
Red Guard Violence: History versus Cultural Revolution Myth
Location: Philippines Conference Room, Encina Hall, 3rd Floor

Red Guard violence was spearheaded by elite high school students from official families who saw themselves as “naturally red” due to birth, and who sought to defend the status quo and divert persecution onto helpless victims. Closer examination of the documentary record for Beijing in the last half of 1966 shows that in fact students from this background were the only ones to object loudly and publicly to Maoist officials who encouraged such violence. As a result they were subsequently scapegoated by these same officials as uniquely violent and reactionary — a myth.

* * * * * *

Colloquia on Japanese Religion

May 10 : 4:15 – 5:45 PM
David Gardiner, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Colorado College
Visualizing versus Envisionings: Metaphorical Theology and Mandalas in Shingon
Location: Okimoto Conference Room, Encina Hall, 3rd Floor East

May 18 : 4:15 – 5:45 PM
Jamese Ketelaar, Professor in History and East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Chicago
Emotion and Religion in Japanese History
Location: Encina Hall West, Room 208

May 21 : 4:15 – 5:45 PM
Abe Ryuichi, Reischauer Institute Professor of Japanese Religions, Harvard University
Ryokan in the Spring of 1916 — Rethinking Buddhism, Writing and Modernity
Location: Philippines Conference Room, Encina Hall, 3rd Floor

May 31 : 4:15 – 5:45 PM
Caroline Hirasawa, Assistant Professor of Art History, University of British Columbia
Morally Determined Malleable Bodies: Images of Transmigration in the Six Realms
Location: Okimoto Conference Room, Encina Hall, 3rd Floor

Happy Friday

8:17 AM

Plan for the day (or for the morning, actually) is to put Clematis H. F. Young (already covered with gorgeous lavender blooms) into ground, next to Clematis Montana “Rubens.”

Meeting a student at xxxx community college at 11.

Then, to Costco for the following essentials: pasta sauce, A-1 steak sauce, pepperoncini (though self hasn’t managed to find it the last couple of times there, wonder if it’s been discontinued — ?), boneless chicken thighs

And, possibly, a movie! Haven’t seen one in ages and ages, self feels she is not really living unless she has seen something on celluloid, on the big screen, on the average of, say, at least twice a month. Choices are these: The Lives of Others (still hanging on in art house cinema in Menlo Park); In The Land of Women (since self likes Adrian Brody and Meg Ryan); Disturbia (since still # 1 at Box Office, according to Box Office Mojo site); and Fracture (since John Cougar Mellencamp, guest reviewer on Ebert & Roeper, declared Ryan Gosling “very handsome” last Sunday, and must admit he may be closest thing to Edward Norton until next Edward Norton vehicle)

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

NYTBR April 15, 2007 (Fiction in Translation Issue)

It was a gorgeous day, dear blog readers! Self would call it the “13th Most Gorgeous Day So Far . . . ” but self is superstitious, does not want to use the number 13, so self will just reserve that title for some other post, later on, as self is sure there will be many many gorgeous days, from now on.

After brief lunch in City (self nearly fell asleep on the drive there, too much cough syrup has soporific effect, thankfully woke up each time felt car bumping over lane dividers — !!), self stayed inside the rest of the day, grading student papers and watching The Montel Williams Show. Today’s topic: “Ticking Time Bombs.”

Had asked students to explain following line from Richard Rodriguez‘s “Late Victorians”: Serendipity has an eschatological tang.

Received all kinds of colorful responses from students. Here’s a sample:

The fate of life lies with “faith.” The girl jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge into the sky, into the heavens and meets up serendipitously with the gods. There is a tang along with it, however — a pleasant shock — She meets the cement like a sweet and sour piece of candy greets the tongue. A certain facial expression. Always caught by surprise, a pinched face with an open mouth, a reaction that helps to withstand the bitter tang of the candy until its flavor wears out and sweet candy resides.

Eeeek! Self has no idea how to grade such.

Turn to venerable NY Times Book Review for relief. Without further ado, here are the books self is interested in reading (after perusing the April 15, 2007 issue of The New York Times Book Review — the Fiction in Translation Issue)

(1) After reading James Wood’s review of Chilean Roberto Bolaño‘s novel, The Savage Detectives, translated by Natasha Wimmer:

Roberto Bolaño’s short novels By Night in Chile; Distant Star; and Amulet
Roberto Bolaño’s short story collection, Last Evenings on Earth

(2) After reading Terence Rafferty’s review of Colombian writer Laura Restrepo’s novel, Delirium, translated by Natasha Wimmer:

Laura Restrepo’s Delirium

(3) After reading Joel Agee’s review of Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek’s most recent novel, Greed, translated by Martin Chalmers:

Elfriede Jelinek’s Greed

(4) After reading Elizabeth Schmidt’s review of Maryse Condé’s latest novel, The Story of the Cannibal Woman, translated by Richard Philcox:

Maryse Condé’s The Story of the Cannibal Woman

Mother of All Headaches

This makes no sense at all, dear blog reader, but just when self had utterly given up hope that blog would ever recover from trip to Hawaii (as viewership dropped drastically when self started going on and on and on about leis and salmon lomi and haupia and such), self blogs about Warriors vs. Dallas and self is back in stratosphere. Must be a lot of sports fans out there!

This morning, wake up with — yowza! — mother of all headaches. Was dreaming about Dearest Mum. Self was a little girl (well, actually a big girl who felt like a little girl) trailing behind her while Dearest Mum performed her usual miracles in social interaction. Remember doing this as a child: watching. Watching Dearest Mum. Whose effervescence was unmatched. Loving her so much and wanting to be her, that effervescent being. But, alas, feet stuck firmly in ground, seem not to have inherited the bubbly gene.

Also, dimly recall that last conversation with hubby before head hit the pillow was about son’s laptop. About whether Dearest Mum was really going to pay half of it, as she had promised. Whether self is going to call Dearest Mum today to remind her. Or whether we will just keep quiet and let son go through the rest of his college career on an allowance of $100 a month, as hubby adamant that he should not be alone in paying (Why not, self wants to inquire. Since you are earning in the stratosphere, or anyway what any writer would consider the stratosphere . . . ) Oh well, conversation inconclusive, must be why head is splitting now, hubby’s arguments wreaking havoc with my neurons.

Still dark, but stumble to living room (Also, have discovered that wireless does not work in the bedroom, so am back to the cord. Also, dearest laptop, which I wipe down religiously every day, now has strange scratches on screen. And black really does show up the dust, now regret decision to forego silver in favor of sleek black “Goth” look, as if having black laptop would magically increase “superstar” quotient — NOT!) to pick up Vanity Fair. Retrieve same, stumble back to bedroom, open to random page and see:

Odds of a child performing at Carnegie Hall: 1 in 73,000

Odds of a child being diagnosed with autism: 1 in 166

And it suddenly occurs to me that, indeed, Dearest Mum has played in Carnegie Hall as a child. She was 13 or 14. How do I know this? Because I have a black-and-white picture of her, wearing a dress with puffed sleeves, facing the audience, an orchestra (all white people) behind her. And the caption of the photo says: Carnegie Hall, New York, 1949.

1949! My God, just a few years after the war. During the war, recall Dearest Mum telling self that her mother forced her to continue practicing, wherever they were. The piano had to be carried through the rice fields (Think this would make a very good scene for a movie, wouldn’t you agree, dear blog reader? Something on the order of that Holly Hunter movie, where she and daughter played by Anna Paquin end up stranded on a god-forsaken beach, nothing with them but their clothes and a black piano). When the Americans came, Dearest Mum performed for the soldiers, and remembered loving the chocolate candy bars they rewarded her with.

Immediately after the war, self’s grandmother bundled up all five children and docile hubby, put all on a boat, and left for New York. Found a home in Flushing, and they lived there the next 10 years, while grandmother got Dearest Mum accepted to Curtis in Philadelphia. Dearest Mum would see the family only on weekends. She was the star. Even today, I see how her brothers and sisters idolize her.

And she had this fabulous, fabulous life. Araceli Dans painted a portrait of her, wearing white tulle. She got to wear evening gowns every time she performed. Self’s father, who was a law student at Georgetown, fell in love. As, who wouldn’t? And the rest, as they say, is history.

The superstar came home. Started a family. Raised two brainy and morose daughters and three good-looking boys. Lived happily in a country she re-discovered after her marriage. The sixties were such a great decade to be living in the Philippines (that is, if one had means). Daughters were in a convent school and wore little sailor blouses and plaid skirts. Lived in Forbes Park, hired kind and gentle security guard with propensity to fall asleep. House robbed only twice, the second time thieves dropped precious antique jars into creek behind the house; we found the shards there the next morning. Did not even have to have barbed wire protecting the perimeter, because behind house was a golf driving range — lawn littered with errant golf balls, and for years listened to the sound of tell-tale “tok-tok” of balls landing on roof. Had nine white Maltese dogs, father had given the first two to Dearest Mum as a birthday present, and they proliferated madly (like rabbits?). Since inbred, later generations were crazy, humped any and all guests, male or female, drooled, twitched. Eventually, thankfully, all died, the last carcass undiscovered in the (huge) garden for many days, finally maid came screaming at sight of indeterminate something covered with black ants.

Eeek! This was self’s life in the Philippines, dear blog reader. Who knew all would be triggered by sight of ad (for Autism Council) in Vanity Fair? Will wonders never cease?

(April) Mid-Week Status Report

Hubby, rapt, watching Warriors vs. Dallas: Dallas leading by nine. Warriors getting called for foul after foul (Boo). Davis agitated, ends up being tossed.

Check of Mental State: OK, considering it’s two more days to weekend

Fingers: Bleeding, pricked by rose thorns

Tooth: Aching

Cold: Much better, though still prone to uncontrollable coughing fits at most inopportune times (as, for instance, when having one-on-one with student; or while dental hygienist attempting to take x-ray of gimpy tooth)

Gracie: Attentive at window, has gained much weight in the past week, since she obligingly consumes whatever self chooses to clear from fridge

Weather: Variable. Chilly this morning, but sun put in appearance (finally) mid-afternoon, at which point was able to rouse self to water (12 buckets).

Roses: Blooming. Champion bloomers: Rabble Rouser and Betty Boop (It occurs to self that roses purchased as much for their names as for anything else)

Hmm, let’s see, what did self do today?

This afternoon, after last class at xxxxx community college, visited dentist, complaining of toothache. Expected to hear dreaded prognosis: root canal. Instead, dentist touched each of self’s teeth with cold something on a metal implement, gave exploratory taps to teeth in problem area, and declared self had no cavities (!!@@), a first. Still, not five minutes after leaving dentist’s office, felt tremendous pain in lower right quadrant of mouth. Help! Almost turned back. But decided dentist might think self was crazy. Decided to wait five minutes, and pain did subside. Dentist had suggested pain might be due to anxiety, stress — ???

But self has absolutely nothing to be stressed about : Dearest Mum doing fine in Philippines, son does not call so self presumes he is still solvent, news shows thankfully no longer broadcasting pop psychology theories about why massacres like that at Virginia Tech occur, and students (still) attentive and docile. What could be the problem?

Watched Hollywood Access. Discover it is James Woods’ 60th birthday (Thank God, someone older than self and still productive) Also, learn that Woods is an MIT drop-out and has an IQ of 148 (genius). Wow! Had no idea why, but have always felt affinity with this actor. Now, high IQ explains all :-)

Have several projects self would like to get started with (such as, that book that’s been lying around unfinished for years and years). Perhaps can get started this weekend?

Stay tuned, dear blog reader, stay tuned.

Class Responses to Assignment # 1

Must admit, self is hugely enjoying class at xxxx community college this quarter. Self has decided to be “creative”, give them odd assignments on the spur of the moment, such as: Write me a paragraph explaining the meaning of this sentence in the Richard Rodgriguez essay “Late Victorians”: Serendipity has an eschatological tang. Have been getting VERY imaginative answers.

Part of the reason must be the time: 8 in the morning. Have given up any attempt to appear organized, that early in the morning. Usually rush in, papers spilling over my arms, dump everything on a (shaky) lectern, and launch right in, not even planning what self is going to say first. But, amazingly, extemporaneous style seems to suit class, we have had the most amazing discussions.

First reading was Tad Friend’s New Yorker article, “Jumpers.” Students very eager to point out the contradiction in their visions of San Francisco and the reality of jumpers on the Golden Gate Bridge. Then, yesterday, Rodriguez’s “Late Victorians.” Students want to know why Rodriguez sounds as if he doesn’t like being gay (never says what he is directly, but chooses to do so by describing a Victorian house, of all things) and why he says such provocative things that have questionable foundations (such as that yuppies copy gays because they are jealous of the gay materialistic lifestyle, now there’s a stereotype for you!)

The other day, assigned them the task of writing an essay on my class syllabus (ha ha ha ha!) Actually got the poor dears excited. Some were admittedly befuddled (“I must admit, this assignment seems a little bit odd to me. I have never written about a syllabus before.”), but most were game.

Tomorrow, am setting them to write for TWO HOURS. Told them they have to synthesize Friend and Rodriguez essays and then come up with their own language (preferably, figurative or metaphorical) to describe San Francisco. Just realized that the more self expects from students, the harder they work. What a paradox! Wish self could have arrived at this nirvana moment earlier.

Today was beautiful. Watered: 12 buckets. Errands: Safeway, Downtown RWC Library (to borrow novel : Marianne WigginsEvidence of Things Unseen). Fed Bella and Gracie asparagus stems, leftover rib-eye self discovered in oven. Even took a nap! Happy.

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