On Top 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

As the week wears on, WordPress bloggers invariably start getting creative with the photo challenge.

Here are a few bloggers’ interpretations of this week’s theme:  ON TOP

Niece G lived and taught in San Francisco for five years.  She moved back to New York City last year. This was the last time self visited her at her apartment on Folsom Street.  Self really misses her.

Niece G lived and taught in San Francisco for five years. She moved back to New York City last year. On the day self took this picture, her niece was in the process of packing up her things. Self really misses her.

One of self's fondest memories of Summer 2013 was the picnic before the Cal Shakes production of "Romeo and Juliet." It was her birthday, July 14. Son spent his first summer home in almost 10 years.

One of self’s fondest memories of Summer 2013 was the picnic before the Cal Shakes production of “Romeo and Juliet.” It was her birthday, July 14. Son spent his first summer home in almost 10 years.  This year, she wants to see at least two Cal Shakes plays.

Wall Frieze Over a Door in the Daku Balay, Bacolod City

Wall Frieze Over a Door in the Daku Balay, Burgos Street Bacolod City.  Dear Departed Dad grew up in the Daku Balay (Literal Trans. “Big House”). At the time of the house’s construction (in the 1930s), it was the tallest structure in the whole of Bacolod City.

Tomorrow is a busy, busy day, as self will be traveling.  But she will have her laptop wherever she goes, so she’ll keep blogging.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

End of Life (Tuesday, 22 April 2014)

Regular readers of this blog know that self has been sending out her stories like crazy: at one point she had no less than 38 stories in circulation.  Right after she announced that figure on Twitter, however, rejections began coming thick and fast.  Now she only has about 21 stories wending their lonely way across editors’ desks, all across America.

Of all things, a few days ago she had one story picked up by two publications.  OK, egg on her face.  She absolutely lives for these two words: SIMULTANEOUS SUBMISSIONS.  It’s just never happened to her before:  two magazines wanting the same story.  She must be in some kind of zone.

Then there was a new message yesterday, from Café Irreal.  They’ve published her once before: that story was “Appetites.”

The one they will publish this August is “The Secret Room,” an odd little story which she wrote last year, and begins with these lines:

For years the Queen had tried to learn what was behind the locked door in the east tower of her husband’s castle.

The locks were intricate couplings of brass and silver.

Self loves writing fables.

And, in a last-ditch effort to storm through her Pile of Stuff, she picks out yet another New Yorker. Appropriately enough (given the subject matter of “The Secret Room”), it is an article on Death Certificates, written by Kathryn Schulz, from the April 7, 2014 issue.  Apparently, the Death Certificate had its start in “in early sixteenth-century England, in a form known as the Billy of Mortality.  The antecedent of the Bill of Mortality does not exist.  No earlier civilization we know of kept systemic track of its dead: not ancient Egyptians, for all their elaborate funerary customs; not the Greeks; not the Romans, those otherwise assiduous centralized bookkeepers.”

One would have thought the early Christian church would have stepped in here, but no:  “the church was interested in the fate of the soul, not the body.  If the goal of life is to gain access to heaven, and death is in God’s hands, there’s no point, and no grace, in dwelling on the particulars of how we die.”

Alas, self can blog no further.  7:46 a.m. and she’s still got to prepare a manuscript to send out today, to yet another literary contest.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Iconic Shades: A VANITY FAIR Post (February 2014 Issue)

Self probably hasn’t mentioned Vanity Fair in almost a year.  Strange how this year has gone.

She’s still on the same Jhumpa Lahiri short story, the one she began two weeks ago.  Ordinarily, she’d tear through this collection (Unaccustomed Earth) in a week or two.

Anyhoo, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.  Here she is this evening, perusing the February 2014 issue.

On p. 46, the Fanfair section, there’s a piece on sunglasses inspired by classic Hollywood looks.

You could go “Dark Thriller,” like Audrey Hepburn in Charade (1963).

You could go “Lolita Luxe,” like Sue Lyon in Lolita (1962).

You could go “Killer Glam,” like Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface (1983).

Or you could do “Riviera Chic,” like Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief (1955).

You could also go “Anonymous Cool,” like Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959).

You could do “Going Gonzo,” like Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).

Or you could go “Dapper Affair” like Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair.

Or you could go “Need for Speed” like Tom Cruise in Top Gun (1986).

These are the makers of the aforementioned sunglasses:  Dries Van Noten, Alexander McQueen, Linda Farrow, Balenciaga, Prism Portofino, Persol, Isabel Marant (for Oliver Peoples), Tom Ford, Warby Parker, and Saint Laurent.

The sunglasses start at $95 (Warby Parker) and go as high as $620 (the Linda Farrow cat-eye).

Three of the eight movies listed above star Cary Grant.  What does that tell you? He was the coolest, absolutely the coolest.  Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp don’t even come close.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Joan McGavin, Jenny Lewis, Stonehenge, and Lord Burton’s Collection of Trophy Skulls in the Royal College of Surgeons, London

Self was going through some folders in her closet (Every time she returns from a trip, she puts her trip mementos in its own folder in her closet).  In one folder, she discovered an index card on which was printed:  ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS, LONDON (BURTON’S COLLECTION OF TROPHY SKULLS)

!!!!

Is she ever glad she decided to go through her folders today!  Or she would completely have missed this index card.  And she would never have thought to include the Royal College of Surgeons on her list of London Must-See Museums!

She’s read nearly all of Burton’s books.  He was quite a writer, though of course very much of his age regards racial distinctions and manifest destiny and so forth. But since she has read his books, what a pity if she left London without even taking a glimpse at his trophy skulls!

She can’t help being a little bit giddy at the thought that she will soon be in the UK.

She decided to sign up for a tour of Stonehenge, the day after she arrives.  The tour starts from Salisbury.  Self doesn’t even know the train schedules, but she is determined she will get to Stonehenge, no matter what.

She’s meeting up with two former Hawthornden residents:  Joan McGavin and Jennie Lewis.

Jenny has a new poetry collection out, Taking Mesopotamia.  There’s a reading at the British Museum on April 27.  She and Joan are going.

Then self is spending a few days with Joan, who teaches at Winchester University.

Another writer whose work, incidentally, self loves, is Morag Joss (Self can never get over her Half-Broke Things.  Still one of her favorite mysteries).  Two years ago, at Hawthornden, Joan informed self that Ms. Joss teaches at Winchester University.  Self’s heart is thudding in excitement, just thinking about this.  She starts daydreaming about bumping unobtrusively into Morag, perhaps in the teachers’ lounge.  That is, if English university professors hang out in teachers’ lounges.

Then, Dublin and the Tyrone Guthrie Center.

Penny, too, will be in Dublin, the second week of May.  She wrote a play, and it’s being staged there.

After she’s done with her stay at Tyrone Guthrie, she’s taking the train to Cork and staying in a country home.

And –  GAAH, self is so excited.  She’s packing very light:  all jeans and sweaters and mebbe one pair of ballet flats.  She’s bought The Man gift certificates to Biancini’s and Trader Joe’s, and lavished presents from See’s and what-not. (Just think, she told The Man, if any of her applications for visiting writer positions become successful, she’ll be spending far longer than a month in another place:  most visiting writer residencies are for a year!  Subtext:  So quit griping!)

She’s decided to bring only two copies of her collections.  Because the point of this trip, she keeps telling herself, is more discovery than self-promotion.  (Although, perhaps self would do well to devote a little more time to marketing herself, as look where she is now:  agent-less and still joining literary contests in the vain hope that she can get a book contract by winning one of those)

Self and The Man watched Muppets: Most Wanted last Saturday, and aside from being the most gloriously FUN movie self has seen in a long while, she very much appreciated the fact that a bank heist involved the Irish National Bank and was to go down, supposedly, in Dublin.  Is that synchronicity, or what?  Because self, too, will be in Dublin, in a very short while!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

3rd Friday of April (2014): Still a Humongous Pile of Stuff (Sigh)

And here we are, another week gone, and yet another issue of The New Yorker pulled from the humongous Pile of Stuff, but this one’s from 2012.

What the — ???

She remembers the story, one by Said Sayrafiezadeh (and no, don’t ever expect her to remember how to spell that name).  That is, she remembers beginning it.  And googling the author.  In the two years between 2012 and now, he’s achieved some measure of success. Having a story published in The New Yorker can do that to you.

The story in this particular issue (January 16, 2012) is called “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy.”

A man volunteers for the army and gets shipped overseas (Country isn’t named. This might be science fiction, for all she knows).  The story begins with his platoon, marching towards a distant hill.  But the man’s mind keeps wandering (as self’s mind would keep wandering, too, if she was ever forced to take a protracted hike.  It wanders when she’s in yoga class, even.  Which is supposed to be pleasurable, with the cool wood floors and the dim lighting and the mood music and the fabulously toned teacher whispering encouragement in dulcet tones.  Where were we? Better get cracking, self, as you have to return a whole pile of books to the library, books you checked out months ago, which you never got around to reading, and probably never will because next week you are going to Ireland)

Anyhoo, if anyone is planning to read this story, then read no further because THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

As the narrator muddles on, he realizes

that I’d come here for all the wrong reasons.  Vanity and pride topped the list.  Girls, too — if I was being completely honest.  In other words, ideals were very low.  Staring at a hilltop that was getting closer and closer, I would have traded all of it never to have to see what was on the other side.

But the inevitable, ineffably boring future arrives:  they take the hill.  And, nothing.  No enemy soldiers, no fortifications.

After we’d discovered nothing is when the boredom set in.  Excruciating boredom.  We’d eat, we’d shower, we’d clean, we’d train.  In that order.  Then we stopped training, because there was no point.  That was about the fifth month.

This story is so good, it’s like Joseph Heller and Kafka, all mixed together.  There is not one instance of bonding between the narrator and his fellow platoon members, so no, this is not the second coming of Tim O’Brien.  But self likes it.  Maybe it’s a little bit like Kobo Abe.  The Woman in the Dunes?  That kind of perplexing (and hopefully never explained) mystery.

A Letter to a Member of Our Armed Forces (80% Redacted)

A Letter to a Member of Our Armed Forces (80% Redacted): In the Story “A Brief Encounter with the Enemy,” by Said Sayrafiezadeh, The New Yorker, January 16, 2012

This is probably the only New Yorker story she’s ever encountered that has an accompanying visual: a letter to our bored soldier, everything redacted except for the salutation and the “xoxo.”  Ha, good one!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

3rd Thursday of April 2014: Tired (But Not Overly So)

Hey, hey, people, it’s been a long day, and self is sitting in front of her computer, tired.

One thing she is so happy about, this year, is that her garden is so — fecund.  That’s the only way she can think to describe it.  Plants that haven’t thrown off a bloom in years — like her Sheila’s Perfume — suddenly have big, fat flowers.  Her oldest clematis, a montana rubens, suddenly has growth lower down on its gnarled, woody stem.  And the wisteria she thought she’d killed is luscious, winding over the falling-down trellis, almost choking off the old wood.

Self checked out a site called Grey Magazine, and loves it.  It seems to be a magazine about Italy, which is probably why she bookmarked it.  But as she scrolls to the bottom of the page, she sees other things, like an article about the Reykjavik Fashion Festival (There’s one country — Iceland — she’d love to visit one day) and a review of a production of Bohéme.  And there’s a fabulous, absolutely fabulous picture of the actress Charlotte Rampling (still a knockout).

Well, all this musing started because she sat down at her desk, read a new piece on fanfiction.net, thought of something, wrote it down, finished it — bam, bam, bam.  It’s just one page, but self thinks it is fabulous.

Self thinks all her pieces are fabulous.  That is, she thinks they are fabulous right after she finishes, or thinks she has finished.  The feeling doesn’t last long, so she might as well enjoy the right now.

This new one-page flash fiction takes place in a future universe.  It’s called “Memories of Trees” and is so angst-y and self loves it.

She remembered that when she spoke to Zack’s class last Monday, one of the students remarked that her story “Mayor of the Roses” and her story “Thing” — one set in a small town in Laguna and the other set in a dystopian future universe (Self swore she would never use the word dystopian again, especially after gazillions of reviewers used it when reviewing Hunger Games:  Catching Fire, but she is forced to admit that it certainly is a very effective word, and anyway her fiction really is DYSTOPIAN, she’s not trying to be clever or anything, just really really honest) — seemed to have similar themes.  Self’s first reaction was to go:  Oh no!  Because she hates thinking of herself as being so transparent and predictable.  Which was not a useful line of thought:  no one who’s predictable can be fabulous.

After much perusing of the newly re-designed Daily Post,self finally realized that it still has the links to other people’s blogs, a feature she thought had been lost.  With the old layout, she would click on “Post a Comment,” and all the people who had posted on the week’s photo challenge would then appear on a list of links.  Self would methodically move down this list, looking at each blog.

With the re-design, self couldn’t find a button for “Post a Comment.”  Only today did she realize that the links still exist, although in a very different form.  All self had to do was scroll down to the very bottom of the page, where there is a gallery of squares.  Clicking on one of these squares immediately brings one to a blog post on the week’s photo challenge.  In other words, the links are so much more visual now.

OK, so here’s what self has lined up for next week:  She will board a plane for London.  She will arrive in London.  She signed up for a tour of Stonehenge, which takes place the day after her arrival.  Jennie Lewis’s new poetry collection, Taking Mesopotamia, is having a reading at the British Museum on April 27, and self has tickets for that.  Then, she’s the guest of Joan McGavin for a few days.  Then she flies to Dublin.  Then she sees FATHER HASLAM, who she hasn’t seen in 20 years.  Father Haslam has asked a fellow priest, Father McCabe, to drive her to the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  She will then be in a self-catering cottage in the Tyrone Guthrie Center.  There is wi-fi, so she will really have to wean herself off Facebook.  Then Penny arrives in Dublin.  Then self clears out of her self-catering cottage and takes a long train trip to Cork, where she’s booked into a magnificent Irish country home that serves four-course dinners every night. Then she loses her passport so she can’t go home and will have to stay another couple of weeks until she gets a new passport.  She’ll live off Irish ale and get fat.  She won’t be able to squeeze into an Economy airplane seat, so she’ll just have to be bumped up to First Class.  She will live happily ever after.

THE END.

Monument 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Hong Kong, monument to the Chinese money-making instinct:  Summer 2006 (Last Trip to Asia with Sole Fruit of Her Loins)

Hong Kong, monument to the Chinese money-making instinct: Summer 2006 (Last Trip to Asia with Sole Fruit of Her Loins)

The Golden Gate Bridge:  View From Land's End, San Francisco:  December 2008

The Golden Gate Bridge: View From Land’s End, San Francisco: December 2008

The Layout of Stonehenge: Diagram From SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson. Self has always been fascinated by the abiding mystery of these stones.  She even used the monument in a short story that got published in Wigleaf ("Stonehenge/Pacifica")

The Layout of Stonehenge: Diagram From SOLVING STONEHENGE, by Anthony Johnson. Self has always been fascinated by the abiding mystery of these stones. She even used the monument in a short story that got published in Wigleaf in 2008:  “Stonehenge/Pacifica”

Excerpt, “Stonehenge/Pacifica” published in Wigleaf (1/11/2012):

It was a dream I had, some restless night.  One of those weeks or months or years when we were worried about money.

But when were we ever not worried?

First there was the mortgage, and then the two.

And then your mother got sick, and your father died.

You can read the story in its entirety, here.

Right after posting this, self decided to book herself a tour of Stonehenge.  An evening tour of Stonehenge, not one of the day tours that take in multiple sites, with Stonehenge thrown in.  That’s on April 26. She has to find a way to get to Salisbury, where the tour starts.  The tour starts in the evening, though, so she has almost the whole of the 26th to figure out how to get there.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

Spawn of THE HUNGER GAMES

Self can hardly wait for Sunday night, when she and The Man will be riveted to the HDTV for Game of Thrones 4.2  Mebbe Yara Greyjoy will put in an appearance, finally?  Could we have more of the Brienne/Jaime interaction, please?  Mebbe Tyrion and Joffrey do a little arm-wrestling?  Mebbe Jaime Lannister feels in the mood for another bath?  Mebbe Jon Snow undergoes an inititiation ceremony requiring — another bath?  Mebbe Khaleesi also feels in the mood for a bath, like the one last season where Daario surprised a malevolent intruder and offered his sword and everything that entails to naked-in-the-tub Khaleesi?  Does Sansa end up running away with Littlefinger?  When is the Purple Wedding?  Hopefully, not too soon.  The show would lose a tremendously rousing villain in Joffrey.

Anyhoo, self is as usual on her fanfiction.net site.  It’s just so great that there are also authors who do the Brienne/Jaime shipping and write fabulous fan fiction about this pair.

But nothing so far has dislodged her devotion to The Hunger Games match-ups.  Peeta/Katniss is still her favorite (Though, self must admit, Four as played by Theo James is pretty delectable. She’ll hunt up Divergent fan fiction shortly).

This morning, the fan fiction she’s reading has an arena:  Prim has volunteered to take Katniss’s place in the Reaping, because Katniss is preggers with Gale’s baby.  Peeta gets reaped per usual.

There is an eye-watering scene (Angst to the nth power) where Peeta swears (on national television) that he’ll do everything in his power to send Prim home.

So, from the very first scene in the arena, while everyone else starts running for cover away from the Careers and the Cornucopia, Peeta stops to pick up an exceedingly bulky backpack.  Then he follows Prim (and her ally Rue) to the shelter of the forest.  But the girls get separated from Peeta because even though they are using the four-note Mockingjay signal to alert him to where they are, Peeta doesn’t know how to whistle back.  That is, he is terribly out of tune.  So the girls and Peeta wander around, looking for each other.

Then the Game-makers start a huge forest fire.  Then Peeta gets horribly burned but still carries the bulky backpack.  Then the girls find Peeta, who’s passed out.  Then Prim attempts to heal his burns.  They open his backpack, and discover the following items:

  • several packs of dried beef and fruit
  • a few packs of hard crackers
  • three grain-and-nut bars
  • a bag of walnuts and a bag of almonds
  • several thin protein bars
  • two dried sausages
  • a hunk of cheese
  • three cans of soup with pull-tab lids
  • a box of tea (What need there would be for tea in the arena is — well, never mind)
  • a “largish” bag of rice
  • a blanket
  • some rope
  • a cooking pot
  • a sewing kit
  • and, at the very very bottom of the backpack, a medical kit

YAY!  YAY!  YAY!  Which means Peeta will live — for at least another day!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Doors, Entrances: Thresholds 4, WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

One more door beyond this is the door to the backyard.

One more door beyond this is the door to the backyard.

Filoli, early December 2013.

Entering Filoli, early December 2013.

Invitation to Enter Self's Humble Abode

Invitation to Enter Self’s Humble Abode

For those dear blog readers who’ve never heard of Filoli before, here’s a link to the historic estate and gardens (just a mile or so from self’s humble abode).  Every December, the place gets decorated to the nines for the Holiday Bazaar, and it is just glorious.

Stay tuned.

Game of Thrones 4.1 — The Hound Rules!

Dear blog readers, self accidentally threw the paper where she wrote all her quotes from Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 1, but take her word for it, it was bloodcurdling, it was vicious, Ygritte was scrawnier than self remembered her being (and rightfully so, as Jon Snow ditched her apparently), there’s a tribe on the hunt and they eat people, and The Hound was just GLO-RI-OUS!  Simply GLOR-RI-OUS!

Holy Cow, there he was bargaining with a short runt of a man over some chickens.  The man asked The Hound if he had any money.  Whereupon commenced the most glorious television dialogue EVER:

Hound:  Not a penny.  I’ll still take a chicken.

And it went on and on and on.  Somehow, it ended up being all about chickens.  One chicken, two chickens, heck, The Hound said he might as well have all of the available chickens.

To which the runt of course took exception.

Which resulted in a wild melee with The Hound slaying all, with a wee bit of help from Arya (Self was screaming from the beginning of the brawl:  GO AHEAD, ARYA!  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!  PLEASE DON’T JUST STAND THERE WATCHING THE HOUND ACCUMULATE MORE DISFIGURING FACIAL SCARS!)

She, it turns out, has a unique method of dispatching her victims.  She takes a sword, and gently pokes, as if debating, and then she — pushes the sword home, but OH. SO. SLOWLY.  Which makes the deed appear three times as brutal.  Take self’s word for it.  Arya sticking The Needle into the throat of the runt is an act so intimately personal it might as well be up there in self’s list of Ten Most Horrible Murders of All Time. Yes. Worse even than Hannibal Lecter chomping on a nurse’s eyeball.

Jaime Lannister has, inexplicably, decided to go short.  Why why why?  He looked so devilish and dirty with the long locks.

The guy who plays Joffrey — Jack Gleeson, self had to look it up — is so impeccably petulant and EVIL.

Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) has self’s second most favorite line of the night, something about hanging a necklace of dead sparrows around her neck.

Brienne puts in an appearance.  Alas, she and Ser Jaime are back to the platonic.

Where is Gendry?  Hope he surfaces soon!

Oh, the dragons got big!  And Daario is played by a completely different actor.  The old Daario was blonde.  This one is dark-haired (and also a lot more craggy-faced)

Khaleesi’s slave girl/companion/translator is still the second most beautiful woman in the series.

Self has yet to see another of her favorite characters:  Yara Greyjoy.  Who, at the end of last season, swore to take fifty of her best killers and sail up the narrow river to take her baby brother home.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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