Daily Horoscope 2

Today my horoscope says: “Try not to become irritable.” Pretty cryptic, that.

Need additional elaboration from Sage Master Shih Cheng-Yen.

Still Thought # 41 goes:

Many drops of water make a river, many grains of rice make a large basket; do not underestimate your own potential, and do not think of any good deed as too small to do.

Resolve to say nothing but these exact same words for the rest of the day. Anticipate having the following possible exchanges:

Possible Conversation # 1:

Hubby: “When are you going to sell a book so that I can quit this job that is making me so miserable?”

Self: “Many drops of water make a river.”

Possible Conversation # 2:

Son: “When are we going to the City to see the big Christmas tree in Union Square?”

Self: “Many grains of rice make a large basket.”

Fortunately, I had an opportunity to put this resoultion into practice this morning, shortly after hubby got up:

Actual Conversation # 1:

Hubby: “You fell asleep with the TV on last night. I had to come out to the living room to close it.”

Self: “Do not underestimate your own potential.”

Hubby: “What?”

Actual Conversation # 2:

Hubby: “Why is the remote not working?”

Self: “Do not think of any good deed as too small to do.”

Hubby: (snorting with disgust) What?


Sort of a “Blah” Post …

Today my hair is red. I never know what Erly of Shear Beauty will do to my hair; I pretty much leave it up to her. I haven’t been to see her in four months. She said, “Let’s go dark. With red highlights!”

OK, I said. I’m always up for anything.

Last time I saw her, I said I wanted to go dark, and I came out blonde.

So today she said, “We’ll go dark”, and I thought, we’ll see.

But — hey, I came out a redhead! Went home, neither son or hubby noticed, they were too busy watching Anchorman. I sat and watched with them for a little bit. Was lucky enough to catch Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, and assorted buddies in joint sing-along of Captain & Tennille song.

“Hey, that’s by Captain & Tennille!” I exclaimed.

Who?” son said.

I repeated, “Captain & Tennille. That’s from the 70s.” (Why do all my references these days seem to be from the 70s?)

Son left shortly after to take a friend visiting from Cal Poly to dinner at fave restaurant Juban, in Menlo Park.

I sat in front of his computer, absently rooted around in his bag of candy, and realized — I’d eaten all the Nestle’s Crunch, all the Butterfingers, and even all the Babe Ruths, which are probably only my fifth favorite candy. Son must be leaving soon. Which he is, in less than a week. Depression.

But, all is not lost. New Poets & Writers came yesterday, and I was able to highlight a gazillion things I can busy myself with applying for. Even though I never win, never even place, merely planning to apply makes me feel somehow like a “real” writer. And I end up with at least a dozen new subscriptions to magazines like Gulf Coast and the Bellingham Review.

Anyway, thanks be to God, hubby was so depressed (about his job) that he conked off early. I’d just been about to open a bottle of champagne (one of those we had left over from A’s baptism), but I left it unopened on the counter because it is just no fun having champagne by oneself. Instead, happy-happy joy-joy, got to watch two schmaltzy movies back-to-back on TNT (Is Dec. 30 the night for schmaltz? Who makes those decisions? The boss of TNT, probably.): City of Angels (Nic Cage, Meg Ryan) — at the end of which cried; and The Family Stone (Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Diane Keaton, Claire Danes), at the end of which also cried.


Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford

Position: Research Fellow
Salary: $30,000 to less than $70,000
Institution: Stanford University, California
Application deadline: 3/1/2007

Clayman Institute Research Fellowships in Gender and Science, 2007-2008

The Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University invites applications for residential fellowships for the academic year 2007-2008.

Applications will be considered from tenured and tenure-track faculty, and postdoctoral scholars from the U.S. and foreign universities; or from practitioners of women’s traditional knowledges. Candidates may apply as individuals or as small groups (e.g. 2-4 individuals).

Fellowships are offered in the following interdisciplinary areas: Gendered Innovations in Knowledge; Gender in the Physical and Technical Sciences, and Math; Gender in Engineering; Gender in Environmental Sciences; Gender in the Life Sciences; Clustering in Scientific Subfields; Dual-Career Academic Couples; Women and Gender in High-Tech; Technology Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley; and Women’s Traditional Knowledges.

Fellows must be in residence at Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for the duration of their fellowship. Fellowship stipends range from $36,000 for postdoctoral scholars to $60,000 for senior faculty and practitioners of women’s traditional knowledges. The award is calculated for a residency of three quarters (the equivalent of nine months), or it may be prorated for a commitment of less time.

Complete applications are to be received in our office by 5:00pm (PST) on Thursday, March 1, 2007. Applications may be mailed or faxed. No applications will be accepted by email.

Contact Information:

Ms. Jane Gruba-Chevalier
Program Manager
Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research
Serra House
589 Capistrano Way
Stanford, CA 94305

Maui Jim’s

I was so good yesterday that while the whole world went bananas and clogged the parking lots in front of Target and Best Buy and the Stanford Shopping Center, I spent $11 at Safeway (and that included a copy of the New York Times) and $12.95 at Peet’s Coffee (for a pound of Major Dickason’s Blend).

In Safeway I was standing in a check-out line when a woman who might have been Filipina — brown skin, pretty, in a red vest (So festive! So “with the season”! In contrast I was wearing a ratty old grey cardigan with a tiny little hole I’d discovered only that morning when I’d lifted it from the drawer.) started asking all the cashiers, “Did you see a pair of sunglasses lying around?”

The male cashiers all looked at her, she was so vibrant, so alive, so filled with the drama of having lost her sunglasses. You see, this is what makes Filipinas so attractive— they can turn even the most mundane situations into a scene from “The High Life”, and you’ll want to bask in that glow, you WILL want to participate in that life.

So, this woman comes around, and all the male cashiers shake their heads slowly, letting their eyes linger, and finally the woman goes away, saying, “Oh God, they were Maui Jim‘s, too.”

The female cashier in front of me — of course, I always end up with the female cashier — says, “What are those? I’d never heard of them before!”

And immediately I resolve to go home and google this “Maui Jim’s”. Hubby’s birthday is coming up next month, and he’s depressed about it. As I would be, too, if I were his age. Which I’m not.

So, I’m thinking, wow, just what any aging man needs — a really cool pair of Maui Jim’s!!

And I google the brand, and I come to a website for Sunglass Hut, and there are 11 choices for “full frames” (I could also have gone “half frame” if I’d wanted, and that would have given me 18 choices), and the cheapest pair of this brand is $299.

Oh. The question is: Do I love the man in my life enough to spend $300 — which I don’t have, I might add — for a really cool pair of shades that will rescue him from the hell of having to wear shades that make him look like Erik Estrada from CHIPS? (You are so pathetic! Isn’t that show from the 80s? No. To borrow a line from the just-out Rocky Balboa movie — I think it’s probably from the 70s.)

That is the question.

More Gifts of the Season

An unusual film/poem by Nick Carbo. Check it out here:


And a poem by Conchitina Cruz, whose work I featured in Going Home to a Landscape.

“Geography Lesson”
— by Conchitina Cruz, from her collection Dark Hours (The University of the Philippines Press)

Inside the story is a garden with a pear tree, the view of a house with a staircase and mahogany desks. Inside the house is a woman with her back against the windows, her body bent over her child inside a crib, her body leaning against a table as she fixes the fruit in a bowl.

From the back of the room, somebody mentions foreshadowing, somebody makes distinctions between image and symbol. The board is filled with words.

Inside the story is a dinner party the woman hosts, the idle talk of guests, the moment her husband leans toward the body of another woman. She watches her husband and his small gesture, the drawing room unable to contain her sudden knowledge. Inside the story, the woman turns away from the climax, turns to the windows and the pear tree outside, the symbol of her life, the tree in full bloom, the tree caught in shadows.

We talk about the tragedy of false notions, the link between discovery and despair, the joy of understatement. When there is a knock on the door, a request to take a minute of our time, I say sure. We are inside the story, and to the students outside, I say, sure, come on in.

What they pass around is a can, a sheet of paper, a request for loose change and volunteers to dig for bodies. A few miles away, the residents of a dumpsite are dead, their bodies buried in an avalanche of trash. Inside the story, the woman cries, what will happen to me now?

On the first day, the dying tried to raise their voices above the weight of their own tin roofs. The digging was slow, the voices stopped. Inside the story, the woman fixes fruit in a bowl — apples, oranges, and grapes. She arranges and rearranges the fruit, draping the grapes on the rim, balancing the oranges on apples.

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You: Phil Kafalas’s IN LIMPID DREAM

When I was in DC, a few weeks ago, I had a fascinating conversation with former classmate Phil Kafalas. I hadn’t seen him for 20 years, since he left Stanford after getting his Ph.D. in Chinese. He told me he’d written a book, and I can’t tell you how excited I was when he explained what the book was about:

Phil Kafalas’ In Limpid Dream, Nostalgia and Zhang Dai’s Reminiscences of the Ming

In Limpid Dream presents a group of seventeenth-century Chinese personal essays which explores how we perceive our existence in remembered fragments. It focuses on the Dream Reminiscences of Tao’an (Tao’an mengyi), written by Zhang Dai (1597–1648?). A wealthy literatus, historian, bon vivant, and Ming loyalist, Zhang composed 123 short essays (many translated in this book) after the Ming dynasty fell to the Manchus in 1644. These essays describe Zhang’s extravagant life in the prosperous Jiangnan region before the Ming collapse. Because they were written, assembled, and introduced by a single author, these essays give us a vivid glimpse of how shards of personal experience can, in effect, commemorate a personal side of existence normally not acknowledged in more conventional, public biographical forms.

Those canny old Chinese, I thought. Darn if they don’t sound as if they would have written blogs!

I did not, of course, mention such a thought to Phil.

Another thing the book does is examine “the mnemonic genre of nostalgia . . . in both Chinese and Western contexts.”


Phil, congratulations for being the only student in Prof. David Nivison’s Chinese Philosophy class — Did he not spend endless hours discussing the Dao of Nothingness, thereby inducing soporific slumber in almost all the students who’d pushed their desks waaaaay up close to his, practically touching, actually, in order to catch the faintest whiff of his dry, whispery voice? — to have absorbed any of his ideas! I know I left that class unable to even describe what it was that I had read in the required text.

I’m glad you were my classmate and can verify that at one time I did think about such topics as being and nothingness and the meaning of emptiness in the Dao, and I will buy your book so that I can read more about what I missed after I switched from East Asian Studies to Creative Writing.

And now, writing this post has unleashed a powerful current of nostalgia in myself — which, loyal blog reader, if you’ve been reading carefully since NOVEMBER you’ll know has been what this blog is all about (at least, for the last couple of weeks).

Though Phil is very shy, almost self-effacing, let me just tell you this: Philip A. Kafalas is Assistant Professor of Chinese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Georgetown University. He holds an AB in English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University.

AND his grandfather or grandmother, I forget which, was Filipino.

Kanlaon’s Top 10 Posts of the Year 2006 (Or, Who Am I Kidding?)

First of all, I’m in such a good mood these days, and I can’t explain it. Yesterday, I finally reached dearest Mum after seven or eight tries, and even though she came to the phone breathless and asked me, “What’s wrong?” as though she didn’t know it was Christmas, I was still in a good mood. But, as Daily Horoscope said this morning: “If a plate of good fortune gets handed to you, don’t send it out to be analyzed.” (Ha ha ha ha! That Yahoo Horoscope writer is such a clown!!!)

Or, as Master Shih Cheng-Yen might have said (if he had thought of it first): Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Yes, indeed-y, even though today marks the end of hubby’s four-day work break and he is throwing a tantrum — What? You say you didn’t know 50-plus-year-old men could throw tantrums? Let me tell you–

Just in the the nick of time I remember that I have pledged myself to practice the Still Thoughts of Sage Master Shih Cheng-Yen, specifically, Still Thought No. 47, to wit: In life, not all balls are good ones; only a seasoned batter can make a hit every time.

Here I go again, wasting time, dear blog reader, when what I really set out to do when I logged on to son’s computer was to tell you that today, I was in such an unshakably good mood (and had tons of time on my hands, TONS, since hubby resolutely refused to take me to see Blood Diamond) that I decided to tote up blog stats and figure out which posts were the top 10 of the year (or, at least, top 10 since this blog’s birthday, July 2006). And I came up with these 🙂

Best Travel Movies of 2005-2006, Thank you, niece G for giving me the “hook” that allowed me to post the list. Urban Memories: New York City, Early Eighties, Thank you to the CITY, I’ve had a love affair with you ever since I first met you.. Still Thoughts, Thank you, Mum, for priceless parrot outfit and for insisting that I wear it the day I visited Manila National Book Fair. For All You Lovers of Harney & Sons Pomegranate Oolong Tea, Thank you, McSweeney’s, for rejecting my piece! 2006 Book Round-Up, Thank you to self for being such an indefatigable reader and for obssessively listing everything that I read. Filipino American Studies at Skyline College, Thank you Liza E for being such a GREAT teacher! I thoroughly enjoyed visiting your class that day. Kapitan Tiago, Thank you, JR, for writing such a magnificent book! (Who really knew, all those decades ago, when you were stuck in exile in Dapitan, that you would become so HOT in 2006???) Some Signs That the Christmas Season Really Is Upon Us, Thank you, hubby, for performing manly annual ritual of putting up icicle lights! You cursed mightily but you did NOT fall down and neither did the lights! NYTBR, Dec. 3: The “Holiday Books” Issue, simply thank you to NYTBR for — well, for being YOU! Gifts of the Season: Two Poems, Thank you L and D for being such excellent, excellent writers!!!

How We Spent Christmas 2006

“Yes, we are overweight, but our food is just too damn good.” — letter from reader in Louisiana to Vanity Fair

In the spirit of “who gives a hoot how much I weigh?”, here is a run-down of what I’ve ingested so far:

Yesterday, dim sum

Since Sunday, 18 pieces of assorted polvoron, half a dozen “two-cheese” ensaymada

Scharffen Berger cocoa drinks — Actually managed to follow directions on the back and produce a drinkable product. (Hubby, after one sip: “Wow! Is this chocolate from Germany?” Me: “Lemme see. Nope, it’s from Berkeley, California.”)

(Approximate weight gain: 5 lbs.)

Lest you think the holidays are all about eating — which they aren’t, of course, loyal blog reader, though I wouldn’t complain if they were — let me add the following:

Sang “Come, All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” in wispy tremolo for first time in something like 10 years

Took pictures of all the Christmas ornaments on our tree (about 80 of them) using digital camera (which paid too much for in Hong Kong last summer), was so excited about having finally figured out how to take “close-up” pictures on “macro” setting mode, one of 15 options on the “Scene” menu (!!!)

Son gave me a journal! Best of all, it is BLANK! (Unwrapped beautiful maroon box, saw son’s eager shining face, was thinking deep down, Now if it’s LINED — but how would he know this — I can’t use it. But, never fear: son, aside from being a Psychology major, turns out to have been a pretty close observer of his mom’s journal-writing propensities — journal was satisfyingly BLANK.)

Gave hubby gift certificate to local business of choice, Peet’s Coffee, and the hugest, most terrifying bottle of Patron tequila it has ever been my privilege to lug home from K & L Liquors.

Gave son, in addition to said Barnes & Noble gift certificate, a surprise — a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant, which he can use TOMORROW (today we are having dimsum yet again, with old Sacred Heart chums Phil Y. and his mom) with his pals.

Bella and Gracie got nothing but an excellent walk.

Storm is coming, but have stocked up on DVDs — Gladiator (hubby’s fave movie of all time, will admit Russell is amazingly believable in it) and Miami Vice: the Movie (starring Colin Farrell, who I never liked in any movie before this).

So, happy-happy joy-joy, happy-happy joy-joy . . .

Gifts of the Season: Two Poems

By two poets I love: Luisa A. Igloria, from her collection TRILL & MORDENT (WordTech Editions); and D. A. Powell, from his collection COCKTAILS (Graywolf Press)

“Argument and Consolation”
— Luisa A. Igloria

The poet asks am I leading
the life that my soul wants to lead
am I desiring to be someplace else
other than where I am and thus being a thorn
in the side of the god who loves me and suffers
because there’s something he sees and I don’t —
presumably the lives ensuing from all the other
choices I haven’t but could have made at some
indeterminate moment in the past; the possibility
I might look better, be wealthier and more at ease
with my station in life : instead of a bank teller,
a lawyer; instead of a lawyer, a judge; instead of a scientist,
a CEO. This poet lists the usual examples, things
that have apprently little to do with a life of passion
or the imagination: jobs like selling real estate, jobs
that my colleague and former neighbor Tim refers to as
jobby jobs in a poem published recently by New Letters. Then
there’s the issue of who I’m with versus who I’ll find, after all,
I’m destined for. And what about those who’ve loved
more than once but, other than for this shortcoming,
have vented no more rancor on this life than the occasional
resistance at cleaning the bathroom or taking out the trash,
because they didn’t get a full night’s sleep and suffer
a kind of benign neglect at the hands of others?
Take for instance my generous friend, the salt of the earth to all
who know her: she confides there’s a man in England
she’s loved and who’s loved her all these years but isn’t the father
of her children. Given what could have led to that
Nietzschean second
chance, in her case a meeting between flights, she felt
the nervous pulse in her chest as she scanned airport crowds,
wondering if she would recognize him. How plainly she said it —
I knew him right away; I saw he did, too. Yet, knowing
what they did,
the most they shared was a look, hands held for less than an hour.
So much commotion pressed into the avenues of thought and feeling,
though to passersby they were only another silver-haired couple standing quiet by the railing. In the end, the poet I am reading
postulates that the god who loves me and suffers from his
omniscience and my ignorance, is really no wiser than I;
the life I’ve lived and witnessed is the only place I can claim
with some authority. He has no answer either when astrophysicists
ask about our material origins, the true nature of that primordial
cosmic fuck they call the Big Bang; years and years and years after,
we’re still bathed in the wake of invisible ripples, waves of gravity
that gave birth to us. How do you measure the wagging of a finger
from a distance of ten thousand light years? If the air we breathe
pulses with the energy of unseen atoms surviving from
a previous time, who knows for sure if what we’d thought of
all along as a chance encounter, is really a conclusion now
falling into place? Laborious solution, long-hand script
of an equation
written on the darkness of a slate, eons before it arrived;
an emanation
caused by objects colliding in space, producing a trillion
trillion trillion
watts of radiation, so bright it briefly outshines an entire galaxy

hope you like this new doctor: rachel says in hopeful tones
— D. A. Powell

hope you like this new doctor: rachel says in hopeful tones
and I: too early to tell. though hope does hover in my chest

certainly i’ve abandoned miss america-sized wishes:
world peace? an end to hunger? not while we consume, consume

I make hope the size of a bar of soap: hope-on-a-rope
like “hope there’s not a spider in the shower this morning”

“hope some broadway producer brings back starlight express
“maybe figs will be available fresh for a longer season

(without the global warming, i should add, in case god listens)”
and “maybe sheila e. will release a disc as good as the glamorous life

my pulse drums too: a scant crew of leukocytes raise their tiny oars
these few who have not mutinied. I want to lift their spirits

as we’re crossing the equator: showered with a fine warm mist
I sing them a dusty springfield song. soon the cabin’s steamy

and we’re wishin’ and hopin’ like there’s no tomorrow. but there is
already dawn: the passage safe: the mermaids beckon from the cape

for Rachel Zucker

The Grinch (Or, Perhaps the Bank) Stole my Christmas Spirit

Plan for the day:

I’m going to see Volver.

I’m going to throw all financial solicitations into the trash.

The most shameless:

Sacred Heart Prep School, which cost us almost $20K a year for four years for son’s tuition (At least, I think to myself, alma mater Stanford has never sent me direct solicitations, only annual invitations to join the Alumni Association for one-time fee of $450, which to date I haven’t had the nerve to cough up. Waiting until I’m a famous published author!).

The private Catholic school which hires me to teach part-time, charges students $28K a year for tuition alone, and pays me a measly $3K per course for one semester.

Oh my God, it’s Christmas? Why am I being so nasty?

Son emerges from bedroom, blithely informs me he’s going to partake of magnificent breakfast buffet at Sharon Heights Country Club, courtesy of friend Kramer. You know what, those are the kinds of friends a writer needs. How in the world do I get one of those? Maybe by not being a grinch — ha ha ha ha!

Just before he steps out the door, son turns to me and says, “Feel free to use my comp, at your own discretion.”

Oh my God!! What luck!!! Promise that I will not think like a grinch anymore, it is totally unproductive and, furthermore, counter to the season.

Thank you, son, for always showing me the way to a purer, higher plane and for always anticipating my needs! No wonder you switched majors to psychology. Dearest mum in the Philippines says it’s my fault that you’ve chosen a career path “with the highest suicide rate” among all professions. But this is what happens when a writer marries an engineer — your children turn into psychologists.

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