The Happiest Day of the Year (2009)

Today, trekked to the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.  Skies were overcast.  City was bitter cold.  The giant hydrangea bushes across from the Botanic Garden were leafless sticks. By the time we arrived (10 a.m.), a line had already formed in front of the museum, but was still manageable.  A lady just ahead of us in the line informed hubby that we could get $3 off the entrance fee by showing our Triple-A cards.

First stop was the roof garden.

The Living Roof

Next stop:  the Philippine coral reef (A wonder)

Upside-Down Jellyfish

Then we dutifully lined up for:  a) the Planetarium and b) the Rain Forest exhibit.

The Three-Story Rain Forest

Our last stop before leaving were the Charles Darwin and Madagascar exhibits.

A Madagascar Lizard

Finished up the day with a meal at Max’s Fried Chicken in San Bruno.  Son consumed an entire fried chicken, all by himself!  Hubby had pork sisig, and self had an absolutely scrumptious halo-halo.

After we got home, self opened two bottles of Martinelli sparkling cider and doled out slices of Whole Foods Strawberry Shortcake (absolutely the best strawberry shortcake on the Peninsula:  so full of strawberries).  What a scrumptious day.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Random: Movies of 2009

Character self loved most in “Avatar”: Zoe Saldana’s, Neytiri.  Second runner-up: Sigourney Weaver’s character, Grace (Except for one thing: why was she the only blue-skinned avatar condemned to wearing safari shorts in the scenes where everyone else was wearing thongs or loincloths? Can’t an older lady be allowed to go buck nekkid if the part requires it?). Third runner-up: Michelle Rodriguez’s helicopter pilot character. Which means that the characters that made the movie worth watching (for self) were all women.

Self’s most pressing question for “Avatar” Director James Cameron: How come, when you spend $230 million on a movie, and you bother to create a planet called Pandora, the only difference between the plants and animals on that planet and the ones on Earth are that the creatures have slightly different shapes and different colors? But all the animals still have four legs and two eyes?

Movie whose last half was as disappointing as the first half was promising: Read the rest of this entry »

Book Recommendations From Kenyon Review Readers

The esteemed Kenyon Review asked readers to recommend books that:  a)  they just finished reading and would recommend, as well as b) classics they couldn’t live without.  Self thought the recommendations were so interesting that she printed out the entire list.  Unfortunately, the formatting was a hot mess and self grew quite dizzy trying to figure out whether the reader recommendations came after their names or before.  So, after Jackson Bliss commented that the book choices she attributed to him were not, in fact, his (Blush, blush), self decided to list the books without breaking them down by reader.

  • Chimamande Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun
  • Charles Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen
  • Elise Blackwell’s Hunger
  • Hermann Broch’s The Death of Virgil
  • Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake
  • Geoff Dyer’s Out of Sheer Rage:  Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence
  • Frederick Exley’s “fictional memoir,” A Fan’s Notes
  • Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants
  • Peter Handke’s The Weight of the World
  • L. P. Hartley’s The Go-Between
  • Homer’s Odyssey
  • Mina Loy’s The Lost Lunar Baedecker
  • Hilary Mantel’s Fludd
  • Andre Malraux’s The Walnut Trees of Attenburg
  • Colum McCann’s Everything in This Country Must
  • Deena Metzger’s Writing for Your Life
  • George Orwell’s A Collection of Essays
  • Charles Portis’ comic novel, The Dog of the South
  • Anthony Powell’s twelve-part A Dance to the Music of Time
  • J. F. Powers’ Morte D’Urban
  • Proust’s In Search of Lost Time
  • William Roughead’s “recounting of Scottish murders,” Classic Crimes
  • Harold Schechter, editor, True Crime: An American Anthology
  • Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader
  • Vikram Seth’s novel in verse about 1980s San Francisco, The Golden Gate
  • Shakespeare’s King Lear
  • Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human
  • Ruth Suckow’s short lyric novel, Country People
  • Patrick Suskind’s Perfume
  • Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the translation by Richard Peaver and Larissa Volokhonsky
  • Peter Trachtenberg’s “harrowing meditation on loss,” The Book of Calamities
  • David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster and A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
  • Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Mr. Fortune’s Maggot

Oh, what a world of books! (Self also belatedly realizes that there is only one Asian or Asian American name —  Vikram Seth  —  on this list)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Places: December 2009

Oakland, Caroline's House: Lillian gave self this fabulous blank journal (It's from Tibet)

Son and Friend (Pepe) in front of Peet's on Broadway, Downtown Redwood City. Self and Hubby have been there almost every day, the past week.

Pepe, Son, and Michael at Lobster Shack, Veterans Blvd., Redwood City

Golden Globes, Jan. 17 (2009)

  • Self thinks it is a crime that “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was not nominated in any of the major categories.
  • Self thinks the nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama are especially strong.
  • Colin Firth is nominated (It’s about time!) as Best Actor in a Drama. For “A Single Man.”
  • Self is pleasantly surprised that “(500) Days of Summer” is nominated for Best Musical or Comedy.
  • Meryl Streep appears twice in the same category: Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical or Comedy (for “Julie & Julia” and “It’s Complicated”)
  • Matt Damon is nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy — for “The Informant.” In the same category: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (for “500 Days of Summer”). What? Hey, olé!
  • Matt Damon is nominated again — as Best Supporting Actor (for “Invictus”). In the same category, self’s personal favorite: Christoph Waltz, of course for “Inglourious Basterds.”
  • Simon Baker is nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Drama (of course for “The Mentalist”)
  • Thomas Jane is nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Musical or Comedy (for “Hung,” which self would love to see, only she doesn’t have HBO, boo)

Where oh where are Zach Quinto or Jeremy Renner???  For that matter, where is Ben Foster?

And this is all for now.

On Christmas Eve (2009): Quote of the Day

Self had a manicure.  Yes, while self was walking from Gourmet (German) Haus Staudt on Broadway (where she bought bars of Lindt milk chocolate for son’s friends, $3.95 @) to Pho Dong (where she ordered huge bowls of beef pho and four orders of imperial rolls —  all so that she does not feel so guilty about her lack of preparation for the Christmas Eve repast), she looked in on Natalie Nail Salon.  And apparently they were not very busy, because self found that she could actually be fitted in for a manicure.  And she sat down for a half hour and chatted with the manicurist, who of course was Vietnamese and looked 25 though she said she was actually 43.

Son went off with friends, hubby has to stay late at work, so self is home alone, watching “General Hospital” (but so far, no sight of James Franco —  GRRR).  She is also resuming her reading of fantastic Colum McCann interview in AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle.  And the interviewer (who is just so good!) asks him a question which elicits a very candid response.  Self will share it with dear blog readers, below:

Interviewer:  A few years ago, at one of the chain bookstores, I came upon a calendar with photos of Ireland, and you had written the text.  For some time now, you’ve been a full-time writer, but now you’ve started teaching.  What is a typical work week for you?  And how do you balance the many writing tasks you take on?  Do any of these other tasks inform your fiction?

McCann:   Ah, Jesus!  My calendars.  That’s just a job.  “Forty shades of green.”  “Diddly-di-idle.”  “Dear ol’ dirty derelict Dublin.”  That sort of thing. It pays the rent for a month. Hey, it’s a job. I have to earn a few bob.

Jim Harrison again says it best: “Children pry up our rotting bodies with cries of ‘Earn, earn, earn!’ ” I have three kids. They are the scaffolds to my heart, but every now and then I have to pay for their nappies, or their braces, or, God forbid, their college. I don’t mind doing that stuff. I like the people who I work with. I teach, I write screenplays, I do journalism. I’m the least pure fiction writer you’re ever going to meet. But I do it all in the service of fiction. That’s what I love.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

NYTBR 13 Dec. 2009: The 10 Best Books of 2009 Issue

Books self is interested in reading after perusing the 13 December 2009 issue of The New York Times Book Review:

1.    After reading the list of “10 Best Books of 2009″, the following books:

2.    After reading Virginia DeJohn Anderson’s review of Woody Holton’s Abigail Adams :

  • Woody Holton’s Abigail Adams

3.    After reading Marilyn Stasio’s Crime column, the following mysteries:

  • Joseph Wambaugh’s The New Centurions (1971), Hollywood Station, and Hollywood Crows (2008)
  • the newest in Charles Finch’s “beguiling Victorian mysteries”, The Fleet Street Murders
  • P. D. James’ Talking About Detective Fiction

4.    After reading Ruth Scurr’s review of novelist Louis Begley’s “retelling the story of the Dreyfus Affair”, Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters:

  • Louis Begley’s Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters

Think Like a Geisha

Presenting on flat-screen HDTV (which now sells at Best Buy for approximately half of what we paid for it three years ago) is 60s comedy series, “I Dream of Jeannie.” (How self used to love watching this show!  Oh, the hours self spent imagining herself in Barbara Eden’s genie get-up, wearing the diaphanous harem pants and floaty head scarf!).

Son has awoken! (She distinctly heard him talking to someone at 3 a.m.; he sounded extremely jolly)  With fear and trepidation, she proposes her plan for the day:  to see a movie.  If he agrees to come with her, self says, she can take him to the 3:45 screening of “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”  On the other hand, if he already has plans for the day, she will go by herself and see “Brothers,” showing at noon.  He hems and haws.  Self tells him that It’s OK, she’ll go see “Brothers.”  But then he changes his mind and says he will see “Fantastic Mr. Fox” with her after all!

So then self sits down to resume reading a most interesting article in a back issue of Condé Nast Traveler, “My Life as a Geisha.”  Self has seen an article about this woman before:  She’s a western woman who decided to enroll in Geisha training school.  Self saw her featured in Marie Claire, one of self’s favorite women’s mags.  But the article in Condé Nast Traveler is substantially longer, and begins this way:

I have come to Japan to learn about allure.  I’ve been married for seventeen years, and while my marriage isn’t falling apart, it is fraying at the edges:  a victim of minutiae like leaky taps, lost airline tickets, and PTA meetings.  Nowadays when I ask my husband a fairly innocuous question such as, “Does this green dress suit me?” he gets this deer-in-the-headlights expression.  I want Ram to look at me without fear and without adoration.  So I have come to Japan to learn about feminine allure from its acknowledged masters:  the geisha.

(What a very interesting name this woman’s husband has!  Self for the life of her cannot imagine what being married to a man named “Ram” might be like.  Is that an Indian name?  She knew someone at Stanford, a tall, statuesque blonde, who was married to a gorgeous but delicately built Indian man, about ten years her junior.  It seems to her this person was also named Ram, or perhaps that was just a nickname?  Why, self, are you now so obssessed by this name???)

The Condé Nast Traveler article reminds self of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love.  Also about a book self read a couple of years ago, about a woman who went to Kyoto to take classes on the niceties of the Japanese tea ceremony.  Self thinks a really good topic for another “women’s self-help” book might be (inspired by the Vera Farmiga character in “Up in the Air” of course)  “How to Hook Up with Men Like George Clooney and Still Keep Your Husband and Kids Happy.”  Self thinks that book would be a No. 1 best-seller, sold in all airport bookstores from here to New York City, and be especially pertinent to all women who log at least 50,000 flyer miles on business trips a year.

Stay tuned.

Currently Reading: Alexandra Fuller

It is three days before Christmas. Self is settled on the couch, reading Alexandra Fuller’s memoir of growing up in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight. This is a wonderful, exceedingly wonderful book. Self could lose herself in it all day.

It is cold. So cold that both li’l crits have their noses buried deep into their pillows.

Son says he is staying until right after New Year’s (Self prays he doesn’t change his mind!) Even if son did nothing but sleep at home, self would be happy, but last night he had dinner at home. Self was seized with energy and prepared a whole rack of marinated grilled pork spare ribs but noticed that son was eating with somewhat Read the rest of this entry »

End of Last Weekend Before Christmas (2009) Status Report

Self is finally home, after spending most of today elsewhere.  She plotted her course down to the last known traffic cam sighting (by doing time-consuming and obssessive google research), and in spite of all that, when she was finally heading home (It had gotten dark, pretty quickly!), she still passed through two unexpected “Photo Enforced Signal” signs, one at an intersection just a block from her friend’s place.  Another at the intersection of Edgewood Road and Alameda.  Eeeek!!!  Now self has to wait for two whole weeks before learning whether she gets a citation.  Oh, the anxiety!

When self arrived home, turned out son was not yet back from his trip to Sacramento.  Hubby proudly announced that he spent the whole afternoon blowering both front and backyards.  And self had to take a very deep breath, for she set out a lot of new bulb beds, and she wonders if hubby trampled them at all?  Guess self will have to wait until tomorrow to find out!

Then self decided to relax, so she picked up today’s San Francisco Chronicle.  On front page was this headline:

Fear Main Ingredient in Last 10 Grim Years

(Gulp!)  Article begins thus:  As the New Year approaches, glancing backward we see a decade of fear.  After the Y2K false alarm, the fear turned real  —  of terrorists, of global warming and, more recently, of economic collapse.

Okey-dokey!  That’s enough of the Chronicle for the moment!

Self next turns to her favorite “fluff” website, Buzzsugar.  And it turns out they are conducting a poll on “Who is the best dramatic actress of 2009?”  And since self loves polls, here are the choices:

  • Emily Blunt, “The Young Victoria”
  • Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
  • Abbie Cornish, “Bright Star”
  • Marion Cotillard, “Nine”
  • Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
  • Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
  • Julianne Moore, “A Single Man”
  • Mo’Nique, “Precious”
  • Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
  • Gabourey Sidlbe, “Precious”

Self puts in a vote for Anna Kendrick and then looks up the results.  Oh, Sandra Bullock wins, by a mile!   Second place goes to Gabourey Sidlbe, for “Precious.”  Lowest number of votes goes to Marion Cotillard, for “Nine”??!!  Go figure.

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