Self ‘Fesses Up

Self was going to the library to pick up a book she had placed on hold (Doris Lessing’s The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 — the only copy of the book in the entire Peninsula was in Burlingame, of all places) when she saw people standing at the corner of Jefferson and Middlefield waving signs. The signs said: SHOE PAVILION GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE — 80% OFF, EVERYTHING MUST GO!

Holy moly! Before self could even say “quick-as-a-wink,” she was heading in the opposite direction from the Library, quite forgetting that she had only placed enough coins for 30 minutes of parking.

And when she arrived at the Shoe Pavilion (which was only a few yards away from the Library, after all), she thought a bomb had hit, for the shelves were practically empty, and the few items that had been left behind were strewn across the floor in no discernible pattern, while the last hungry vultures — er, self means: women — pawed at the ground and stuck shoes sized 6 on their size 8 feet and — Self doesn’t know how she could have missed the sale notice, for she lives in Redwood City, and Shoe Pavilion is less than a mile from her house.

Anyhoo, the sight of women grabbing at shoes must have caused adrenaline to kick in, for in short order self, who when she left the house that morning had no idea that she needed shoes, bent down and began digging through piles of Steve Maddens and Tommy Hilfiggers. Most of the stuff that was left were a hideous brown or enormous size 12s. But, in one pile self managed to unearth a pair of pink loafers, and in another she unearthed a true find: gold Aerosole ballet flats!

Then, clutching these precious items to her chest, self made for the check-out lines, which were about 15 people deep. And then, standing in line, she decided she must consult someone on her purchases. So she tried calling first Penny, then other aunt who loves to go shopping, then Sandy, but no one picked up. Self finally reached cuz in Virginia, who said: “Where are you? Why is there a baby crying in the background?”

Funny, self hadn’t been aware of a baby in her immediate vicinity, but after cuz mentioned it, self looked up and discovered that she did indeed happen to be standing behind a woman with a baby stroller, and the stroller was festooned with at least eight pairs of shoes.

Self then inquired of cousin if, given the choice, she would go for a pair of pink shoes or a pair of gold shoes. Cuz said, with absolutely no hesitation, “Gold shoes.”

So, self decided she would ask the cashier how much each of the pairs were, and if she said something like $20, self would surrender the pink shoes.

It was a long time before the line moved, however, and self suddenly remembered the parking meter. But she knew that if she handed the shoes to someone to hold while she left the store to add coins to the meter, that person would make off with self’s precious stash. So, self swore under her breath but decided that, come what may, she would remain steadfast and wait in line.

Eventually, woman with the crying baby got through paying for her purchases (eight pairs of shoes for something like $50??? Self wasn’t sure she heard correctly), and self was now facing the cashier. Alas, cashier had no idea how much self’s two pairs of shoes cost. “Didn’t these come in a box?” cashier asked. “No,” self said, “They were on the floor.” “But, didn’t you see any purple boxes lying nearby?” Self shook her head; she hadn’t. And this was the absolute honest-to-God truth. So, the resourceful cashier produced an empty shoe box from under the register, aimed her little laser at the UPC code, and out came the amount: $3.50. “For both?” self inquired, when she was once again able to speak. “Your total is $7,” the cashier said.

And then self ran with her $7 worth of shoes to the parking lot across the street, and she saw that she had not yet gotten a ticket. Oh happy happy joy joy. How self loves the day after Thanksgiving in a recession-driven America.

M. LaSalle on “Quantum of Solace”/ Self on “Max Payne”

Self is perusing capsule movie reviews in the Chronicle Datebook of last Sunday, when she encounters Mick LaSalle’s review of “Quantum of Solace”:

After the heights of “Casino Royale,” James Bond falls back into routine, with this pretty good thriller, filled with lots of action, a hard-to-follow story and an easy-to-be-around Bond atmosphere. Craig is still the coolest man in the universe, and that helps, though this will not go down as one of the franchise’s finest offerings.

Self heartily begs to disagree. Any Bond movie that Craig makes will continue to shore up the series’ excellence. And, by the way, self feels the atmosphere in this Bond (Siena, Italy; Austria; Haiti; and Bolivia) is way more interesting than the atmosphere in the previous, absence of Eva Green notwithstanding.

Now, on to what LaSalle feels about “Max Payne:”

The movie is based on a video game — surprise, surprise — and everything in it looks shadowy and cavernous. Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg) is a police detective who walks the night looking for the man who wrecked his life, but our respect for Max is instantly diminished by knowing inside five minutes who killed his wife and child. With its flat story, numbed-out protagonist and faux artistic lighting and set design, “Max Payne” seems a good half hour longer than its running time.

In self’s humble opinion, M. LaSalle is being way too kind. Does he have nothing to say about the absolutely ludicrous plot? Or the awful casting of Beau Bridges? Or the fact that the only interesting female gets offed within minutes of attempting to bed Max Payne? And that the best special effects — involving enormous winged creatures — turn out to be nothing more than hallucinations? Ugh. The only movie self disliked more this year was “Happy-go-Lucky.” Self still hasn’t decided whether it’s worth posting a rant about that one. Stay tuned.

Luisa Igloria’s JUAN LUNA’S REVOLVER

Her words are searing.

Self would like to say, “a seminal work.”

Read, ponder, know.

Genius has no country, genius bursts forth everywhere,
is like light and air — the patrimony of it all, cosmopolitan as space,
as life, as God.

– Jose Rizal, on Juan Luna

Juan Luna’s Revolver
(an excerpt)

could well be the subtitle of an opera
performed to a mostly well-heeled crowd

in Manila’s national museum.

–   among the audience, the great grandniece
of the famous painter’s murdered wife.

The latter’s name was Paz (meaning peace,

that dream of living without fear of arousing
violence when confronted by the strange or

uncanny, or that which seems to bear

little resemblance to ourselves).  Looking
at pictures of compatriots

abroad in the nineteenth century, why

should we think everything was profiteroles,
white gloves, silk ties, salon conversation,

bellas artes?  Bumping into the Filipino,

a woman on the streets of Madrid regards
his Malay features and exclaims, But how well

you speak Spanish (lo posea tanto como yo)!

It’s said the painter’s mestiza wife
and mother-in-law paid for more than half

the rent of his studio and apartments.

Yet one September in Paris, in 1892,
he barged into the bedroom

and shot them both:  his wife, on suspicion of

an amorous liaison with a Frenchman
(possibly taller, possibly better-endowed,

though he himself was said to have wondered

how it could be, given that Paz was not

especially attractive); his mother-

in-law, her brains marbling the mantel,

because she valiantly tried to stop him.
All accounts thereafter become the Petri

dish for gossip:  his trial in a French court,

his conviction of nothing more

than a crime of passion.  His return to

the motherland after seventeen years;

And the rest you must read, dear blog readers.  You must simply, simply read.  You can order direct from the publisher,  here.

Day After Thanksgiving 2008

Self’s been on her computer since 6:30 a.m. Today, she googled the author of one of her gardening books, landed on his website and learned that he is offering a 40-acre property in Tehachapi for sale (He is retiring and moving to the Seattle area from southern California). Self followed his links around to Larner Seeds, where she ended up ordering seed packets of California Asters, Douglas Iris, Coast Lotus, and Bee Plants. She’s never grown anything from seed before, so this is going to be an experiment.

Son didn’t bring his car up, which told self he didn’t plan to do much socializing. He has papers to write, exams to prepare for. Yesterday, he was home the whole day. He and his dad walked the dogs, and then self cooked the turkey breast roast she’d bought from Costco some weeks ago (basted in honey and lemon juice and crushed pineapple, results: outstanding!). After it got dark, hubby started a fire, while self started doing son’s laundry (In fairness, a much smaller pile than she’s used to seeing from previous visits).

There was a James Bond marathon on TV: all the Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies were showing, one after the other. Self got to see Judi Dench’s first appearance as “M.” She saw the best Bond girl of the Brosnan era, Sophie Marceau (What ever happened to her?) She also saw Michelle Yeoh, whippet-thin and kick-ass. The one Bond girl that self absolutely cannot abide, whose acting is so bad that every time self catches a glimpse of it, she wants to barf, is Halle Berry.

By night-time, son and hubby had had enough of Brosnan and decided to order “Casino Royale,” the 2006 re-make, from pay-per-view. Then he and son got to watch Daniel Craig’s excellent first outing in the Bond role, while self fell asleep, right out there on the couch in the living room (Why is self so amazingly tired these days? Yesterday was a vacation from her usual Thursday teaching schedule, but she did not feel particularly rested) Self woke up just in time to see the Vesper Lynd death scene. Self thinks Eva Green was a great Bond girl, almost right up there with Kim Basinger, Sophie Marceau, and Michelle Yeoh.

Son is hitching a ride back to San Luis Obispo on Sunday, with old Sacred Heart Prep classmate Finnesey. Finnesey started college on the East Coast, at his Dad’s alma mater. He didn’t like it and began wending his way back West, trying out a college in New Orleans before ending up in Cal Poly. Finnesey runs cross-country and plays the guitar. Self hasn’t laid eyes on him since son’s senior year in high school, and when he walked in with son on Tuesday night she was surprised to see that he now has a beard and long, shoulder-length hair and a leather bracelet; he would not look out of place in a movie set in the 60s.

Another of son’s high school friends, a boy who loved acting and who has gone with us twice to see Cal Shakes performances in the Bruins amphitheatre in Orinda, fell in love with a girl who dumped him, and then went crazy and stalked her and actually confronted her when he caught her with a new boyfriend and is now facing an eight-month jail sentence.

Yet another of son’s high school friends, Alex, is teaching in Addis Ababa.

Another high school friend, Phil, graduated in engineering from UC Irvine and is working at what sounds like a very boring job in Long Beach.

Son still doesn’t know what he will do after he graduates, next June. He talks of bringing some friends to Asia. They want to stay in brother’s fabulous Hong Kong apartment, but go to Bangkok and Australia as well. Self doesn’t know if she can go back home with him, and hubby is scheduled to go, but in October, for his mother’s 80th birthday. Self sincerely hopes Dearest Mum will not give son too much grief. In the meantime, self has this trip to Manila in January, and then two more trips: both to Chicago. And then who knows what 2009 will bring? Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Looking Back: A List

Because it is Thanksgiving, because food is very much on self’s mind, and because self is feeling *quite* nostalgic, she decides to draw up a list of Filipino food she taught herself to cook after coming to California, 1979:

NOTE: Food descriptions are quotes from Reynaldo Alejandro’s The Philippine Cookbook

Arroz a la Cubana
Bistek (Steak, Philippine-Style)
Chicken Adobo
Pancit Molo (Philippine Wonton Soup)
Picadillo (Ground Beef Soup)
Sinigang
Togue Salad (Bean Sprout Salad)
Tortilla (Ground Beef Omelet)
Pesang Manok (Boiled Chicken with Vegetables)
Humba
Apritadang Baboy (Pork Stew)
Menudo (Diced Pork with Potatoes and Chick Peas)
Almondigas (Pork with Vermicelli)

Before they got married, hubby was a much better cook than self. Now, he rarely cooks, but when he does, whatever he makes is delicious.

Looking at the above list, self sees that it’s been years — perhaps even decades — since she cooked some of these dishes. Almondigas, for example. The one self has cooked most recently is Picadillo, which she always associates with her aunt, Dearest Mum’s younger sister, because it was the first dish self ever actually witnessed being made. In Manila, self almost never stepped into the kitchen. The few occasions when she did, it was only to be served breakfast or merienda at the kitchen table. In light of which, self thinks it is no mean feat that she has managed to turn herself into a pretty decent cook. Especially when she compares herself to aunt in Daly City who, after 25 years in America, has learned to cook nothing, not one single thing. Her family orders take-out from various Chinese, Filipino, or Mexican restaurants in Daly City — almost every day.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

A Very Bond Thanksgiving

Finally, hubby got to fulfill his most earnest Thanksgiving wish: to watch the new James Bond movie. And to watch it at a time when it would not interfere with the great football games taking place Thanksgiving Day. And so there we were, hubby, son, and self, seated in the downtown cinema for the 6:30 p.m. show. Seated directly behind us was a whole row of young-ish men, who were having a “boys night out,” obviously, and chuckling at all the previews (They seemed to like Clive Owen’s “The International.” Self adores Clive Owen, but why is Naomi Watts in the preview for all of three seconds?)

Self is here to declare that all those people who derided this version as “not very good Bond” are talking through their hats. For this was indeed a very good Bond.  Perhaps not as good as the Bond/Vesper Lynd installment (Olga Kurylenko doesn’t have quite the acting chops of Eva Green, in self’s humble opinion), but still very good. There were a lot of slap-boxing fight scenes (reminiscent of the Bourne movies); there was a lot of fancy inter-cutting of scenes of local color with scenes of mayhem (a horse thingamajig in Siena, Italy intercut with fancy rooftop chase scenes; Austrian opera intercut with more chase scenes); there were a lot of really atmospheric shots of Haiti; and there was a hotel of surreal modernity (fantastic!) right in the middle of the Bolivian desert. A young woman named Gemma Arterton (22 years old) who was recently featured in Vanity Fair was on-screen for maybe five minutes. Tim Piggot-Smith of “Jewel in the Crown,” which Penny and self were so ga-ga over during our Stanford days, made a brief cameo appearance, and he was sadly fat.

Afterwards, since self was so exceedingly thrilled by the two hours spent ogling Daniel Craig’s biceps, she wanted to bite the bullet and plunk down $5 for a treat at Marble Slab Creamery. Alas, tonight of all nights, when self had girded her loins to plunk down the money, the shop was dark. So self had to settle for Beard Papa. They have a new type of cream puff called “cookie crunch” and, my, it was heavenly! Self could hardly wait to get home to begin noshing on it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Books: A Very Very Short List (From The New Yorker “Food Issue”) and a Couple More

Day before Thanksgiving, son is home. Self fell asleep with the same peace and contentment she felt on the night when Obama won. On p. 361 of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Santa Sofia de la Piedad starts imagining elves in the house of the Buendias. Meanwhile, here’s a short list of books self is interested in reading after perusing the “Briefly Noted” section of The New Yorker “Food Issue”: 24 November 2008

Bee Wilson’s Swindled
“With the revelations in recent months of tainted food — salmonella-infected jalapeños, melamine-laced milk — Wilson’s latest treatise, on contaminated, adulterated, and fake foods in the modern era, feels almost prophetic.”

Susan Pinkard’s A Revolution in Taste
“Pinkard relishes debunking persistent myths: champagne was not invented by a Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon but, rather, caught on thanks to the invention and diffusion of the modern wine bottle. Her lively account concludes with a series of meticulously sourced ancien-régime recipes demonstrating the finesse with which French food is now synonymous.”

* * * *

After reading James Wood’s review of Rivka Galchen’s first novel, Atmospheric Disturbances (in the June 23, 2008 New Yorker), the following works, all featuring spectacularly unstable narrators:

Georg Buchner’s story, “Lenz”
Knut Hamsun’s Hunger
Italo Svevo’s Confessions of Zeno
Thomas Bernhard’s “devastating” The Loser
Rivka Galchen’s first novel, Atmospheric Disturbances

Luisa Igloria Coming to San Francisco Bay Area!

Philippine American Writers and Artists (PAWA) has been doing a great job supporting the work of Filipino American writers and artists. Last year, Edwin Lozada brought out the anthology Field of Mirrors. This year, PAWA is launching a new reading series, highlighting Filipino writers from around the country. The first reading is Dec. 6, in the San Francisco Main Library. What makes this event extra-special is that PAWA has arranged to bring over Luisa Igloria, whose new book, Juan Luna’s Revolver, has just been issued by Notre Dame University Press. The reading will be preceded by a poetry-writing workshop. Read more below:

We hope you join us for the first event in the PAWA Arkipelago Author Reading & Workshop Series on Saturday, December 6!

from 10am – 1:30 PM: Get inspired, write and meet other writers at the Poetry/Writing Workshop with Luisa A. Igloria & Karen Llagas
to be held at the Latino/Hispanic Community Meeting Room A
San Francisco Main Public Library
Click here for more information and to register.

from 2:15 – 3:45 PM: A reading, featuring Luisa A. Igloria & Juan Luna’s Revolver, Barbara Jane Reyes, Karen Llagas, Joi Barrios
at the Koret Auditorium San Francisco Main Public Library

* Reception to follow *

Reuven Rubin and Why Self Writes This Blog

A Fed-Ex package came for self a few days ago, and when she opened it, it turned out to be a book of the art of Read the rest of this entry »

No Time for a Diet

Self feeling restless this morning. Up since 4, she spent the last few hours grading papers. At 7 a.m., she finally decides to give snoring hubby a sharp poke in the ribs: “Let’s eat at The Cheesecake Factory.” Hubby, even when asleep, always responds on cue: “Where’s that?” Self responds: “University Avenue.” Hubby says: “Can’t. Cheese gives me a bad stomach. I’m lactose intolerant.”

@@!!##

Yesterday, conversing with Dear Cuz in Virginia, self elicited her thoughts on a dish she discovered in Philippine cookbook Galing Galing, by Nora and Mariles Daza (“Pepitoria II”, but since no one read that post self kindly deleted it — instructions involved Read the rest of this entry »

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