Last Saturday of March 2012: Recalling a Conversation with the Colonel’s Wife, “The Hunger Games,” and Robert Greene

One of the best things about self’s first trip to India was meeting the Colonel and his wife, the couple that run The Colonel’s Resort in Bir.

Oh, how self loved this couple. Their generosity and kindness were unmatched.

They always joined self for meals (and the food was always very good).  During one of her last meals in Bir, the Colonel’s wife said:  “You should treat people the way they deserve to be treated.”

Self thinks the conversation revolved around how the Colonel’s wife manages to run a resort, what are the difficulties, and so forth.  It can’t be easy, being a woman in India, which in many places still holds women to the traditional roles of helpmate, housekeeper, wife and mother.

When the Colonel’s wife said to self:  “You should treat people . . . ” self recognized immediately that this was a simple but profound statement.  Something, in other words, that self would remember to the end of her days.

Today, the husband and self went to see “The Hunger Games.”  This is a passable adaptation, and Jennifer Lawrence was right for her role.  But the men were pretty much (with the exception of Woody Harrelson, who plays Haymitch, mentor to District 12′s tributes Katniss and Peeta) generic wimps.  Self also didn’t understand why everyone looked so well-fed, when “hunger” seemed to be a crucial issue in the districts outside the Capitol.  For heaven’s sake, isn’t that the point? That the scarcity of food makes people willing to fight one another for it?  There’s a reason, dear blog readers, that the book and movie are called The Hunger Games!!!

Self deliberately kept herself from reading the last 50 pages of the book, because she wanted to feel some suspense while watching the movie.  Self would just like to say:  the last 15 minutes or so of the movie seem so rushed.  And the Elizabeth Banks character, who in the movie is so delicious to look at, practically disappears after the games begin.

Now, self is home.  She is still extremely jet-lagged.  She thinks she will just crawl into bed and try and catch some zzzz’s.  It just so happens that self was reading Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power in the wee hours of this morning, so it makes sense to pick up from where she left off.  Here’s an excerpt from p. 100:

Image:  A Cord That Binds

The cord of mercy and gratitude is threadbare, and will break at the first shock.  Do not throw such a lifeline.  The cord of mutual self-interest is woven of many fibers and cannot easily be severed.  It will serve you well for years.

Authority:  The shortest and best way to make your fortune is to let people see clearly that it is in their interests to promote yours.

Reversal:  Some people will see an appeal to their self-interest as ugly and ignoble.  They actually prefer to be able to exercise charity, mercy, and justice, which are their ways of feeling superior to you:  When you beg them for help, you emphasize their power and position.  They are strong enough to need nothing from you except the chance to feel superior.  This is the wine that intoxicates them.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

For These Gifts: Friday, 30 March 2012

Today, self could not believe her eyes:  was that really the husband walking in the house at 4 p.m.?

Indeed, it was!  Good thing self hadn’t yet started writing, or she would have been extremely cross!

Self had planned to cook frozen chorizo empanada (from Iberia, the fab Spanish restaurant in Menlo Park), but since the husband was home, self allowed him to take charge of this operation as he has a very special style of cooking.  For instance, he wanted to use the deep fat fryer.  And after emptying all of self’s vegetable cooking oil into the fryer, he declared that there wasn’t, after all, enough oil.  Then he had to pour all the oil back into the plastic container.  Then he sighed (many, many times) about how hard it was to cook empanada well.  Then he told self that we should eat out.  This was how we ended up at Formosa Read the rest of this entry »

Still Happy

Self is happy to be home.  Yes, in spite of the fact that the San Francisco Bay Area is still chilly, and a pesky cough seems to have returned.

Looking through more mail, self finds a rejection from The Alaska Quarterly Review that she chooses to read as cryptically encouraging (if that is not too much of an oxymoron):  “Many thanks” handwritten in the bottom of the rejection note, but no signature.  Still, would an editor have bothered to write “Many thanks” if self’s story had not had some redeeming qualities?  Wouldn’t the rejection note have been left alone if the work was simply un-interesting and un-involving?  You see how the addition of a hand-written “Many Thanks” throws self off completely, dear blog readers?

(Self, there you go again, continually parsing codes.  Not to mention, embarking on the xxxth digression of the year. Focus, self, focus!)

Other stuff in the backlog of mail:  the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal

It is already the end of March.  How quickly the time has flown!  Upcoming on the calendar are :

  • April Fool’s Day:  Sunday, April 1
  • Good Friday:  Friday, April 6
  • Easter Sunday:  April 8
  • Bataan Day (Philippines):  April 9 (commemorates the Fall of Bataan, April 1942, which culminated in the infamous Death March)
  • Tax Day:  April 17
  • Earth Day:  April 22
  • ANZAC Day (Australia and New Zealand):  April 25
  • Arbor Day; South African Freedom Day:  Friday, April 27

Self’s Zen Mind calendar has the following reflection for March:

To open your innate nature and to feel something from
the bottom of your heart, it is necessary to remain silent.

The accompanying illustration is a pen and ink painting of Mount Fuji by the artist Shogetsu, who was active in the latter part of the Meiji Era, from roughly 1880 to 1890.  There is a museum dedicated to his work in Wakakusa, Japan

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Returning: Adrienne Rich R.I.P. and Other News

The husband paid all of self’s bills while she was away.  Thanks much, honey!

Bella the Ancient One is visibly thinner, but still able to walk and wag her tail energetically.  Hooray!

Self found a rejection letter on the top of her pile of mail.  It was from The Paris Review.  She was about to toss when she noticed handwriting.  Actual black ink.

Oh my goodness!

The note said:

Dear Marianne,

We enjoyed xxxxx very much and would like to see more of your work.

Please keep us in mind for future submissions.

Yours,

(Undecipherable Scrawl)

It was her first submission to The Paris Review in about a decade.  She screwed up her courage because she knew she’d be leaving soon for Bacolod, and rejections sting much less when she gets them while she is there.

Happy happy joy joy.  Happy happy joy joy.

Self learned, somewhat later, that Adrienne Rich, feminist poet, has passed away, at the age of 82.

About the only other news was that Stanford men’s basketball team won the NIT, the tournament for all the teams that didn’t make it into the NCAA.  Yay!  Self has high hopes for the team next year.

The Hunger Games is showing.  Self made a valiant attempt to finish reading the McEwan novel on the plane home, but wound up spending most of her time reading the Asian Wall Street Journal and watching The Marine and The Golden Compass.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Bucket List,” a Joint Installation by Jun Jun Montelibano and Cindy Ballesteros, Orange Gallery, Mandalagan, Bacolod City

Self has just discovered the Orange Gallery in Mandalagan, next to Lopue’s.

This month’s exhibit is a collaboration between artists Jun Jun Montelibano and Cindy Ballesteros.  The name of the exhibit?  “Bucket List.”

The artists invited people to write in their “bucket list” (The Urban Dictionary defines a bucket list as “a list of things to do before you die.” Self does not understand the “bucket” imagery.  But, that’s neither here nor there.  The most important thing is that self knows what a bucket list is.  And that she will refrain from all further digressions, at least in the current post)

The more interesting items were written on stickies and tacked on a bulletin board at the entrance to the gallery.  Self could spend hours just reading these stickies, but here are a few that she managed to jot down in her handy all-purpose notebook:

  • Make fresh pasta
  • Meet Obama
  • Travel to Paris all expenses paid
  • Own a luxury car
  • Surf
  • To go to the Maldives and to be a billionaire
  • To exhibit in Australia!
  • Maging milyonaryo
  • To meet and greet Chuck Norris
  • Acquire cooking skills
  • Build a house in a resort or maski diin basta kilid baybay in the Philippines
  • Madaug award (Best PD)
  • Skydive!
  • Have intense sex for three days, with the one I love
  • Tour sa space
  • Be close friends with Mila Kunis
  • Lantaw the concert ni Michael Jackson

And here is self’s own personal “bucket list”:

  • Build a house in Bacolod
  • Write an award-winning crime thriller
  • Have her writing praised by Stephen King or Sherman Alexie
  • Eat Café 1925 sunny wafers all day without gaining a pound
  • Visit Siquijor at least once a year
  • Spend her birthday (July 14) in Paris

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Siquijor Redux

Self’s first trip to this magically beautiful island was in December 2010.

A little over a year later, self returned.

The wharf in Dumaguete, where self and Zack caught the 9 a.m. ferry to Siquijor

Self could not take her eyes off this fabulous Hello Kitty balloon, in the waiting area, prior to boarding the ferry.

Zack struck up a scintillating conversation with this young woman, while riding the jeep from Siquijor to Lassi.

It was pretty amazing: everyone getting on or off the jeepney had to climb over three sacks of rice that someone had thoughtfully placed right by the entrance. It made for some pretty awkward maneuvering, but no one complained.

Self found herself paying more attention to the interior of the Church of San Isidro Labrador in Lassi

Next to Rene Ontal’s beach house in Lassi

A private piece of the wonder that is Siquijor

Which Is It?

Today, it rained.  Rained yesterday, too.  And on the drive back from Dumaguete.

By the time we were in the mountains, it was full dark.  Joel refuses to drive through the mountains at night, but for Samuel it was no problem.  Self doesn’t remember when she decided to ask Samuel whether he believed in aswang.  Perhaps it was right after Binalbagan (Saw dense gray smoke issuing from the sugar central, even at 8 p.m.  Samuel said that the centrals run 24 hours a day, during milling season.  The men work in shifts).  Anyhoo, Samuel’s answer was most surprising:  Yes, he did believe in aswang.  In fact, in the town where he grew up, there were several.  Some fly and some walk, and one particularly bold aswang had even tried to eat his cousin.

At that very moment, we were driving through a deserted stretch of highway, only darkened fields on either side, and no more trucks, either in front or behind.  Self felt prickles all up and down her arms.

Samuel then went on to say that some people he knew had managed to take a picture of a kapre.  He was a gigantic, very hairy man, and there was a clear smell of cigar smoke around him.

To which self could only respond:  OMG!!!

She quickly decided to change the subject.

(Drivers are such an endless reservoir of fascinating stories, dear blog readers.  From Joel self learned about fish, since his father owned a punong.  One other driver, Archie, told self stories of his childhood in another sugar milling town, La Carlota)

So, yesterday, self was back to using Joel (She’ll keep switching drivers from now on, since it’s always nice to have different kinds of stories –  in fact, she might be up for trying a third driver, when she next visits Bacolod).  She and Zack asked Joel if the new Derek Ramsay (Oh, take self’s word for it, this guy is quite a dreamboat!  More dreamy than Channing Tatum, even!  Though Zack strenuously disagrees), “Corazon:  Ang Unang Aswang” was any good, and Joel replied in the firm affirmative, citing an interview in which Ramsay had said it was so much nicer to kiss with Erich (Mother’s name was probably Elena or something starting with an “E,” and the “rich” was added because everyone hopes to be rich, at least they do here in the Philippines) Gonzales.

So, since it was showing in Robinson’s, and we just so happened to be in front of Robinson’s that very moment, we told Joel to drop us off, and we then sat through two hours of

THE MOST EXCRUCIATINGLY CAMPY FILIPINO MOVIE SELF HAS EVER SEEN

And since self makes it a point to watch Filipino movies every time she visits home, that means she has seen a mountain of Filipino movies.

How bad was this movie?  It was so bad that it made self:

  • Forget periodically that the period was 1946.
  • Forget that Mark Gil used to be a good actor.
  • Forget that Erich Gonzales is a babe.
  • Forget that Derek Ramsay can act.
  • Forget what an aswang is.
  • Forget self’s all-time execrable movie of the past decade, Skyline.

Zack laughed from the first to the last frame, and self had to keep saying SHH!  (to no avail), for everyone else in the theater was completely silent, no doubt watching with rapt attention as the character played by Ms. Gonzales (Corazon, which stands for “heart”) developed the most awful eyebags and wild, Kabuki-like hair.  She also developed twitches, as if she were Edward Scissorhands.

Anyhoo, Zack remarked at one point, “I think I’m going to punch Joel.”  And since Zack is much taller and broad in the shoulder than Joel, she actually did fear for her driver’s life.

And now, to the ostensible reason for this post, which is:  an e-mail rejection self received today.

The rejection was from Agni, and the text in its entirety was this:

Dear MV:

Thank you for sending xxxxx.  Your work received careful consideration here.

We’ve decided this manuscript isn’t right for us, but we wish you luck placing it elsewhere.

Kind regards,

The Editors

P.S.  Without submissions like yours, we’d lose the sense of discovery that keeps Agni fresh.  Please click here for a discounted subscription rate offered as a thank-you to our submitters.

Now, what do dear blog readers think of the above?  Is it a standard (impersonally polite) rejection?  Or is it an encouraging rejection?

In other words, are the words “received careful consideration here” indicative of the fact that the story actually made it through the first round?  But perhaps they word all their rejections the same way, to make one think that one’s story has some saving qualities?

Now, self, are you going to obssess about this all day?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Road Trip: Dumaguete

South Sea Resort, just north of Dumaguete at Bantayan Beach. That's Zack, looking out at the ocean.

South Sea Resort served as the setting for self’s story, “Dumaguete,” published by the on-line journal White Whale Review and included in her most recent story collection, The Lost Language, published by Anvil Press of the Philippines.  (Frances Cabahug, on a bus to Dumaguete, posts on Facebook that she is reading “Dumaguete.”  Self thinks the picture she posted is trés cool!)

Early Morning, South Seas Resort, Bantayan Beach

A boat sails across a glassy sea, Bantayan Beach, just north of Dumaguete

In the open kitchen of South Seas Resort, Bantayan Beach, Dumaguete. Self brought son and niece Georgina here, many years ago. Fried fish for breakfast, anyone?

Niece G, self, and son stayed in a cottege facing the pool.  One night, while the children played in the water, the writer Cesar Ruiz Aquino came over.  Where is he now?  Self loved his story, the one that appeared in Manoa, many years ago.

Still early morning: a boat approaches the beach

Self has said it before, and she'll say it again: Nothing is as beautiful as a Philippine sea.

Self tried out a new driver:  Samuel.  He said he was born near Santa Fe Resort.  When self asked him how many times he’d been to Dumaguete, he said “Many times,” too many to count.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Relatives, Beaches, Islands

Manang Marilou

Footprints on a Negros Occidental beach: Magic


Somewhere south of Bacolod: The clarity of the water was nothing short of amazing.

A Dog and a Girl: Wakako Yamauchi’s “Dogs I Owe To” in ROSEBUD AND OTHER STORIES

“Dogs I Owe To” is a wonderful story from Wakako Yamauchi’s collection Rosebud and Other Stories (University of Hawai’i Press), edited by the fabulous Lillian Howan.  Here’s an excerpt from the Foreword:

Secret desires, unfulfilled longing and irrepressible humor flow through his stories, writings that depict the life of Nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans.  Through the medium of her storytelling, the reader enters the world of desert farmers, factory workers, gamblers, housewives, con artists and dreamers, the bitter and the ever-hopeful.

And an excerpt from “Dogs I Owe To” :

The Great American Depression was winding down, but there was little money on the average farm.  We recycled our clothes and ate off the land.  Meat was not a staple at our house.  We didn’t keep animals on the farm because it wasn’t practical.  At that time in America, noncitizens weren’t permitted to own land, and Japanese, by law, were denied citizenship.  Again, by law, land leases to Asian immigrants were limited to three years, so every two or three years, Japanese farmers loaded houses and farm gear on trucks to move to yet another barren patch of land.  We were nomads; there was no hunkering down with large animals.  It was too hard to herd them from place to place.  We even stopped keeping chickens.

It was also before the advent of dry or canned pet food –  not that we could have bought Dickie any.  He was happy to eat leftover rice drenched in soy sauce.  In spring he gnawed on yellow crookneck squash.  He didn’t like eggplant or tomatoes.  He had on occasion mutton or lamb discarded by shepherds who passed through.  He woke up happy to be alive, jumping and bounding in the sharp morning air.  I didn’t allow him to touch me with his dusty paws, especially when I was dressed for school, so he pranced parallel to me, leaping and dancing, happy with even this tiny space in the grand scheme of things.

It’s a beautiful collection.

*     *     *

And, three days after beginning the Yamauchi story, self still hasn’t gotten to the end.  Last night was big shebang at Tita Lily’s house on Sixth Street, in honor of Tita Lily’s 93rd birthday.  There was:

  • ballroom dancing
  • chicken relleno
  • father of execrable Ida, who delivered the biggest snub (to self) a few days ago at the  Balay Daku, which only serves to prove how fierce a father’s love can be (And self heard that he himself doesn’t even get along with Ida!  But blood is always thicker than water, even when that water belongs to the family that has hired not only this man, but his daughter, and his son, and kept them all well-fed for 50 years)
  • leche flan
  • lechon
  • live music
  • mass
  • seafood paella with black rice
  • Zack

Self left early and found that she missed the slide show.  There was a picture of her as a toddler, sitting on the lap of Dearest Mum.  If self had been there to see it, she might very well be in a different place this morning.  She might be at the Balay Daku, attending the annual meeting of the GV & Sons stockholders.

But, as she told cousin Baby Par last night, she is an outsider:  an annoying one, to be sure, yet in the end completely irrelevant.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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